Yesterday was a day spent with the alpacas, it was shearing day! Once a year in the spring the alpacas get all their winter “fluff” (fleece) shaved off just like sheep. The fleece can then be sent off to be cleaned, dyed, and spun into beautiful yarn. Alpaca fleece is the finest there is, unlike sheeps wool which is itchy, alpaca fleece is softer and warmer and does not itch like sheeps wool. It is also hypoallergenic because it lacks lanolin.
Shearing an alpaca is quite the task. Alpacas weigh around 200 pounds. It takes 2 men to wrangle them to the ground for their “haircuts” and they fight and scream and spit the whole way. Needless to say, they do not like to be sheared! Special measures must be taken to insure the animal stays safe as well as everyone involved in the process. The easiest way to get the job done is to tie off their feet and stretch them out using a pulley system. This way the animal becomes almost submissive and it can be easily rolled from side to side. The legs can also be sheared easily this way with no kicking. We use old socks (clean of course) to put over the animal’s mouth to avoid getting spit on, because I tell you, they spit like crazy and they can spit far too! If you’ve never been around a spitting camelid, you’re lucky, because it smells awful!
While the animal is tied down, they also get their teeth filed if need be, hooves clipped, and maybe a vaccination or a wound tended to. This is the perfect time to give each animal a thorough once over to check for anything abnormal.