Monday, April 11, 2011

Sheering Day 2011

We sheered 18 alpacas on Sunday.  Not exactly your day of rest, but we had to sheer when Eric, our expert was available.  Sunday was a great day for sheering, the temperature was cool, with a little breeze.  We started at and finished by .  Fast and efficient, that's the way we like it. 
Alpaca fleece is as prized today as it was when the animals were first domesticated 6,000 years ago. Huacaya fleece is dense and crimpy, and the suri alpaca has silky fleece that grow in long spirals.  At HomePlace Farm, after reducing our herd this spring, we have 18 animals, compared to last years 33.  We are excited to announce, we will be breeding this spring and expect to have several new crias on the ground next April. 
Springtime is shearing season. Much like a barn raising or a quilting bee, shearing day is a time for teamwork and sharing. Some farm owners shear their own animals, but at HomePlace Farm we hire a traveling expert.  Thanks to Pete of Pura Vida Shearing the day came off without a hitch. 
The key is to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible so there is minimal stress on the alpacas.  Front and hind feet are constrained by ropes anchored on a pivot. One person holds the animal's head at all times.  The shearer begins at the lower belly, moving front to back, and proceeds up to the spine. The alpaca is rotated as shearing proceeds down his back and over to the other side of the belly. This 'blanket' fleece is the prime fleece, and it is gathered into a bag and marked with the animals name.
Next, the neck is sheared, then the front legs and the back ones, rotating the animal over again as necessary. The secondary neck and leg fleece is gathered into another bag.
Samples of the blanket are taken and sent off to a lab for analysis.  This aids in breeding decisions.  One factor we look at is the fibers micron count and density, pairing a densely-fleeced animal to one less dense in order to improve the quality of the next generation.
After shearing, the alpacas check each other out, as if to make certain that these skinny creatures are their same buddies. A freshly sheared alpaca is always eager for her getaway and will gladly head back to the field.
After all the work the team sat down for a rest, an alpaca cookie and cool drink.  Spa day was over at last!  I think it is time for Linda and me to head to Atlanta for another spa day of our own.  

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