Jeremy and I were invited out to Golden Willow Farm, owned by Sharon & Lloyd (Golden Willow Natural Fibre) to help with shearing. As some of you may know, Jeremy and I had looked into owning alpacas of our own when we were first looking to buy a house. I am hoping that this wish will come true some day.
We started with all the males and they seemed relatively calm.
The way alpacas are shorn is quite interesting. The shearer is ready standing at his table which looks like it has been turned on its side. The alpaca is lead to the table and stands over a couple straps which are then picked up and wrapped under the belly. The shearer then pulls the straps up and brings the alpaca right against the table. Then it takes the muscles of several others to help flip the table upright so the alpaca is laying on top of it. The front and hind legs are then put in harnesses which ensures the safety of the animal and everyone helping. Jeremy then takes off their headgear and holds their ears tight. This makes them wiggle around less. Alpacas are really drawn to Jeremy. At other farms we have been at, they are always very interested in him and come over to check him out (while humming). He was the perfect man for the ear holding job. Lloyd then cut the nails and looked at their teeth.
Once one side is finished, the alpaca is flipped over and the other side is sheared. With this set up, when the alpaca is finished the table is then turned in the other direction and the alpaca is lowered in the same way with straps under its belly. They were quite glad to be finished and promptly ran outside to roll in the dirt and hay.
Sharon's daughter made a really amazing lunch with ham, fruit, buns, salads and wine. I found this handsome guy outside. He looked just like Rider.
The ladies were next and they weren't too happy. They had all morning to watch the action so they knew what they were in for.
The males kept seeking peaks at the females every chance they got.
A couple of the females were spitters and Lloyd had a good idea to help with this issue. Whenever they had stray socks come out of the laundry they put them in a bag, the socks work great to put over the mouths of the alpacas and collect the spit. I did feel bad though, some of the ladies were making some pretty sad sounds.
The females were pretty smart trying so show their displeasure and were being difficult when it was their turn.
I'm sure they felt better when it was all over. Right when the last alpaca was finished, it started to rain and they all seemed to like it.
The fibre.... the fibre was just gorgeous! Sharon was showing myself and two other ladies (Carole & Mararet) how to sort alpaca fibre. It was also interesting how one fleece was split up, if it had a grade of 3, we would go through the fibre and skirt out all the guard hair and junky areas and throw them away. What was left was either sorted as a Grade 3 or rug fibre. Each colour had its own bag as well. Just look at the fibre colours and the crimp. Sharon also let the three of us split up a fleece with a grade of 1 (very fine) in a warm caramel colour.
After all the shearing we had the bags all sorted and ready to be shipped off for processing.