Kokopele Alpaca just finished our 8th shearing. The first shearing was definitely a nerve wracking but learning experience. Knowing there are some who will be shearing for the first time soon, we thought a bit of advice to prepare would be helpful.
You should confine your alpacas several hours before the shearers arrive to ensure ease in catching them and to keep them dry; try to remove large amounts of debris from their fiber if possible. Make sure there is electricity available nearby for the clippers.
The shearers/shearer will lay down mats, secure tie downs and then bring one alpaca in at a time. The shearers will lay the alpaca down on the mat and tie front and back feet, stretching them out in order to shear. This looks harsh to some, but it is essential to stretch them out tightly in order to prevent any creases in the skin. Creases can cause injury if caught in the clippers. Every alpaca reacts differently to shearing, some will scream, some spit, some try to thrash and some will be peaceful and calm, it’s all normal so don’t let it stress you. It is not painful to them.
Once they begin to shear, it’s your job to pick up the fiber quickly and start to clean up around them. When gathering fiber try not to pull, let the fiber fall naturally and let the shearer push it toward you. Nails can be trimmed, teeth trimmed and shots given during the time they are tied down.
Supplies you will need:
Large clear garbage bags: We purchase 50-gallon clear bags from Home Depot. We put the bags in laundry baskets to make it easier to scoop the fiber into the basket while the shearing proceeds.
Index cards (2 for each animal): We write the animal name, date, and the number 1 or 2 on each card. The first cuts go in bag 1 (this would be the barrel of the alpaca) and 2nd cuts go in bag 2 (this would be neck fiber and hip fiber). The shearer can help you in identifying the difference. Some save 3rds, which would be leg and tail fiber; we don’t.
Small sandwich bags: If you would like an analysis of your alpaca’s fiber, you can obtain a 4″x 4″ sample of fiber and put into this small bag, which will also need an index card to identify them. That sample is taken about midway down and across the barrel. Your shearer should be able to help you with this also.
Brooms/shop vac: It’s important to keep the area well swept between each animal so as to not mix fibers (or colors) and to make sure no stray fiber gets into your barn or fields. Alpacas will sometimes eat this stray fiber and it can cause serious problems and even death.
Paper towels: Sometimes nervous animals will urinate while being sheared. Cleaning this up quickly is recommended in order to keep fiber from being contaminated.
Old dish towels: Some alpacas spit during shearing. We use old towels to cover their faces to prevent spit from getting everywhere. It’s not too pleasant when that happens.
Water and snacks are appreciated by those doing the work. Good lighting is also very beneficial.
Enjoy shearing. Even though it is hard work, it can be an enjoyable experience.