Sunday, May 4, 2008

Upcoming Alpaca Shear and 4-H Practice

John is leading Slammie (NS Orion) over a ramp practicing for the obstacle course at the 4-H Fair this summer. Some of the other possible "tricks" will be walking over plastic, side passing, pivoting on front feet in a circle, lifting a foot, going over a jump, - pretty much horsey trail class stuff.

We shear our alpacas this Thursday. I can hardly wait! You can see by the picture, Slammie really needs a haircut. Our "Alpaca Barber" is the same gentleman that sheared our sheep a few weeks ago. He says doing the alpacas is easier. We lay the alpaca down on its side as gently as possible, stretch out their legs, hobble them, shear one side, and roll them over. They tend to lay there quietly, although, we do have a mother (Lady Belita) and daughter (Celeste) who get quite verbal. As Dave shears he tells bag holders where the cut fiber goes (Prime, Seconds, and Thirds). This makes my life much easier when it comes time to screen and pick through the fleeces. Apparently this sorting doesn't happen with sheep shearing.
I don't save the Thirds at all and they frequently become garden mulch. This is the hairy (guard hair), coarse and short fiber from legs mainly. Each alpaca is different. I have a few older boys that the neck and chest fiber becomes Thirds and that the blanket, (usually prime from back and sides) becomes seconds.
We have 11 to shear so I need to prepare 22 bags with name, date, and lines for pounds/ounces sheared. I weigh it all when we are done and keep good records for each alpaca. Small samples of fiber are put into little baggies to be sent to a lab to get a micron/comfort level count. I only do this for some. As the alpaca ages, his/her fiber usually becomes more coarse and I think this info is important for breeding selections.