Can’t come to the blog right now, I’m shearing alpacas.
Didn’t expect to read that here, did you? I think I’ve mentioned before that I have some rather…odd…hobbies and now I can add “alpaca shearing” to my resume.
Why in the world would I be shearing alpacas? So happy you asked. The shearer charges $25 per head to come out and shear alpacas. If you have a large herd this quickly becomes a big chunk of change and alpaca ranchers start looking for ways to do it themselves on a more reasonable schedule. The animals must be confined in a catch pen and you need to have enough people to catch, restrain and release the shorn animals as well as people to collect and sort the fleece as it comes off the animal. Crazy as it probably sounds to you, hand spinners will pay $4.00 per ounce for clean, crimpy alpaca fleece. I won’t go into the details here, but if you have clean animals with long, crimpy fleece, you can make a few bucks if you can get it to your target audience. More on that on Starting Over Designs when this madness is concluded.
So. Shearing alpacas. How, you might be wondering, does one shear an alpaca? First of all, it requires at least three people – one to wield the shears, one to hold the head and one to manage the rest of the straps. The alpaca is walked quietly into the barn and positioned next to a special shearing table. A belly strap is then secured to both alpaca and table, the table is gently rotated to the horizontal position and the alpaca’s legs are secured using special straps, holding the legs out fore and aft to ensure the skin is stretched taut for ease of shearing and preventing cutting the animal. Shearing commences, starting with the belly and over to the spine, then hip, back leg, shoulder, front leg and neck. Scissors are used on the head and then the animal is turned over to do the other side. Easy-peasy.
Unless…you have a young, feisty boy who has never been sheared before. Maybe he hasn’t even spent time inside the barn. You then have a Dali-esque rodeo, the alpaca’s neck going every which way while his feet kick out in four directions at once. You can’t even imagine how freaky they look if you haven’t seen it. Strapping down this type of alpaca is an exercise in patience and perseverance. Generally speaking, once tied down they will lie quietly. Mostly.
Then there’s the big alpaca who knows he’s strong enough to resist the efforts of one person. He’s stronger than two people. He’s just as strong as three people and there is no fucking way he’s getting onto that table and where are the females, anyway? He was promised a female if he went into the barn and ain’t no fucking way anything else is gonna happen until he gets his female! He is not, however, stronger than four determined people and ends up strapped down like the rest.
The pregnant females have to be handled carefully because it turns out alpacas are quite delicate when preggers and can spontaneously abort if they get too stressed. Great. They spend a maximum of 20 minutes on the table and the shearing isn’t pretty – on, sheared, off.
As if those weren’t enough reasons to call me crazy for getting involved with this little project, there are the screamers. Oh, my! You know that sound your cat makes when you step on its tail? Take that sound, push it up an octave, turn the volume up to 117 and make each cry last 15 seconds. Punctuate screams with foul green slime projectiles and you have Mae West and Satin Doll. OMG. Those two screamed the entire time they were on the table and spit in all directions. We put a sock on their noses to contain the nasty mess, and they spent every ounce of energy they could trying to get the socks off. I think they would have made less noise if we’d actually eviscerated them. Their fleece is nice, but if they were mine they would be on the next trailer to the auction based solely on their attitudes! Here’s a little sample so you get the idea –
The girls were considerably more shrill than this, but that’s the basic sound.
All this to say I’ve been busy. Working full time. Trying to exercise Sabu enough that she doesn’t lose her mind. Shearing alpacas every spare moment. Not doing dishes or vacuuming, obviously.
27 down, 70 to go. Not even kidding. Posting will likely be sporadic until the end of the month.
June 2, 2014 at 9:51 am
Yikes! If you were closer I could send you child labor to help. Try not to get hurt and stay hydrated.
June 3, 2014 at 11:11 am
Child labor would be useless in this case – everyone has to be aware and ready to move out of the way in a hurry. Haven’t found a kid yet who could stay on task long enough to get the job done. No serious injuries so far. 30 down and 60-some-odd to go.
June 2, 2014 at 1:04 pm
Fascinating. Would you like to shear my cat next?
June 3, 2014 at 11:10 am
Yeeeeaaaahhhhh. I’ve done that job and it’s no fun at all. At least the alpacas don’t have sharp claws and are reluctant to bite. Not so with a cat. Joey was a long-haired gigantic beast who needed his belly shaved every Summer and I did not look forward to it. He was always grateful, though.
June 3, 2014 at 2:48 pm
Good grief. I knew there was a reason I bought wool from the shops! You take care out there.x
June 3, 2014 at 4:08 pm
Wool from the shops is looking better and better 🙂
June 4, 2014 at 1:47 pm
I have become the official “head holder”, however; have not passed foot strap” school and the Queen of Shearing has bopped me with her verbal scepter at least twice—people; Sofia is not to be trifled with. the would would be a better place if there were more Sofia’s in charge!!! Stuff would get done, and done correctly!!!!! (With minimal injury….she keeps telling me it is for my own good….)
June 4, 2014 at 1:59 pm
I’m tellin’ ya – crack your tailbone just once because an alpaca rushed a gate and knocked you on your ass and you’ll pay close attention to what I say. I speak with the Voice of Experience 🙂 The sailing through the air is fun, it’s the landing that sucks.
June 5, 2014 at 6:59 pm
How have I missed this about you– you have alpacas????
June 6, 2014 at 7:57 am
I have many strange hobbies that I don’t talk about here 🙂 I don’t have alpacas, but I have friends who do and I’ve been helping them with the shearing. 35 down 60+/- left to go. Hoping to have it wrapped up in a couple of weeks. It’s a long story…
June 7, 2014 at 11:01 am
That is so fascinating hahaha