Alpacas must be sheared annually, usually in mid summer. It is typical to shear the animal lying down on its side, and it usually takes two people to pick the alpaca up and lay it on a tarp or on a table. So exactly how to shear an alpaca?
After you have the alpaca lying on its side, you must secure its hind legs and front legs by stretching them out away from the body and tying them in place in such a way that the animal can be flipped when it’s time to move to the other side.
What You'll Learn Today
- Is It Hard To Shear An Alpaca?
- How Long Does It Take To Shear An Alpaca?
- What Happens If You Don’t Shear An Alpaca?
- Is Alpaca Shearing Cruel?
- How Do You Prepare Alpaca Fleece For Shearing?
- Be Prepared For Efficient Shearing
- Take Care Of Your Helpers
- Get Organized
- Take Care Of Your Alpacas
- Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Hard To Shear An Alpaca?
If you don’t know what you’re doing, it can be very hard to shear an alpaca. You need to be sure that you have two people to work with the animal. You also need one person to hold the animal’s head while the other person shears.
How Long Does It Take To Shear An Alpaca?
It could take quite a while to shear an alpaca the first few times, but once you are skilled and practiced, and if you have the right equipment and enough people, you can get it down to about six minutes.
Knowing how to shear alpacas is not something that comes naturally. Even if you plan to do it yourself, you should start out by hiring a professional shearer and observing him or her. You may be able to find someone who shears sheep who also shears alpacas.
Watch your professional shearer closely and ask questions as needed so that you can learn how to do it yourself.
What Happens If You Don’t Shear An Alpaca?
It is absolutely essential that you shear your alpacas every year because their fleece continues to grow as long as it is left uncut. Overgrown fleece can cause your animal a great deal of distress, skin problems and illness.
Sometimes particular types of alpaca are allowed to grow their fleece for two years, but when this is done, special steps have to be taken keep the fleece clean and to protect the animal from becoming too hot during the summer months.
Is Alpaca Shearing Cruel?
It is not at all cruel to shear an alpaca correctly. When done properly, it takes just a few minutes, causes very little distress and relieves the animal of its heavy coat in the middle of the summer.
How Do You Prepare Alpaca Fleece For Shearing?
It’s important to remember that you need to keep your alpacas’ fleece clean and contamination free prior to shearing. You want to keep the animal away from vegetation that might get tangled up in the fleece.
Before shearing, you may wish to brush the fleece out. Some people bathe the animal the day before shearing; however, this can be problematic as it takes a long time for the fleece to dry. The coat must be completely dry before shearing.
When you clean your animals’ fleece first, clipping will go faster and easier. Additionally, the clippers will continue to stay sharp and work better throughout the clipping.
Be Prepared For Efficient Shearing
When you set up to shear your alpacas, make a checklist of everything that you will need and make sure you have everything in place before you begin. Items you may wish to have on your checklist include:
- Fiber sample bags
- Preprinted labels
- Antibiotic spray
- Marking pens
- Paper towels
- Sorting bins
- Poly bags
- Bail bags
- Fly spray
You can use sheep shearing scissors to shear alpaca, or you can use electric clippers. Generally speaking, electric clippers are quicker and easier and more appropriate for alpaca.
Take Care Of Your Helpers
You’ll also need to have supplies on hand for your helpers. For example, people helping you will need to have access to bathroom facilities and a place to wash their hands. They’ll need plenty of fresh, clean water to drink, and they may need some snacks and lunch.
When you begin shearing, you’ll want to put your animals in order. You should shear white animals first and then move through darker colors to black.
Also, younger animal should go before older animals. Taking care to sort your animals out in advance helps prevent problems with cross-contamination of the fleece.
You’ll also need to figure out how you want to sort the fleece. You can’t just put the entire fleece into a single container. Instead, you’ll put the top part, which is called the blanket, into one container or bag. Other parts of the fleece will go into a separate container.
Additionally, you should not mix up the fleece by color or age of the animal. White fleece should go in one container, and black or dark fleece should go in another. Fleece from younger animals should be separated from that of more mature animals.
When you switch from shearing pale colored animals to dark-colored, you should clean up the area so that you don’t accidentally get pale fleece mixed in with dark fleece.
Take care to cut the fleece at the length that you want with the first pass. Multiple cuttings wind up leaving short bits of fiber mixed in with the fleece, and this is undesirable.
Take Care Of Your Alpacas
You’ll have to keep an eye on your animals for a while after shearing. If the temperature drops, you’ll need to be sure to bring them inside or give them a blanket.
Frequently Asked Questions
Annual shearing is plenty. To shear more than once a year could be harmful to your alpaca’s skin.
Soak the wool for about half an hour in a basin of very warm water with a bit of Dawn dish soap. Move it into another basin filled with lukewarm water to rinse. Allow it to soak for half an hour and then pour the water off. If the water is very dirty, rinse again. You can repeat this until the rinse water stays clean. Remove the wool from the water and press out (don’t wring) excess water. Lay the wool on a mesh surface or place it loosely into large mesh bags to air dry.
If you shear too early, and a cold snap comes, your alpacas will definitely feel cold. Even in warm weather, an alpaca whose health is compromised in some way (e. g. underweight, ill, aged or nursing animals) may take a chill after shearing. Take all of these variables into account, and provide shelter for animals in need of protection after shearing.
It’s important that the fleece be absolutely dry when shearing. Even morning dew or very humid weather could cause problems. If it’s damp or rainy out, keep your animals under cover to be sure their coats remain dry.
It is fine to shear crias between the ages of one and three months. This is especially true if the weather is very warm as it will help the animals feel more comfortable. Additionally, an early shearing helps ensure that the first shearing for profit will be a cleaner one.