I Got to Shear an Alpaca

Back in November I went to an alpaca farm to help out with shearing. Shearing serves two purposes: to prepare the alpacas for the summer heat and to harvest the fleece. The fleece is graded as it is collected with higher quality fleece being set aside for making yarn. I spent most of the time picking up and sorting the fleece as it was being sheared, but near the end of the second shearing day I got to shear one myself!

They let me shear Fahrenheit because he’s one of the more laid back animals and he has a coarse fleece that the owners didn’t care to about, which was good because protecting the fleece while shearing is quite challenging. The good fleece comes from the back of the alpaca, known as the blanket. The blanket should be sheared without second cuts which are caused by going over the same area twice.

The process starts by getting the alpaca on the ground and tied down. Not all shearers tie animals down while shearing (eg. sheep shearing) but alpacas are on the bigger side and don’t hold still. Securing the alpaca makes it easier for the shearer to handle and reduces the chances of cutting the animal. Once the alpaca is ready, shearing starts with the blanket which is carefully removed to be skirted (process by which coarse hair, vegetation, and other blemishes in the fleece are removed). The shearer then moves on to the back legs, neck, then head. The remaining fleece is swept up, the alpaca untied, and the next one brought in.

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I did pretty well for a first time, but Fahrenheit definitely got a bit of an odd haircut out of the deal. Hopefully the other alpacas didn’t make too much fun of him 🙂

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