I was generously invited to the annual alpaca shearing event at Vashon Island Alpaca, which took place yesterday. I helped with fleece gathering and bagging, as well as animal handling.
The shearing itself is done by a three-man team of shearers: one man using the clippers, while the other two held the animal. Kind of like different cuts of beef, there are different parts of the fleece: "one" is the back, "two" is the neck and the upper parts of the legs, and "three" is the belly, the topknot and lower parts of the legs, if it's not very dirty. We who collected the fleece and bag it (one large plastic bag for each type) would scamper around the feet of the shearing team, pulling shorn fleece off and picking locks of it up off the floor, working as quickly as possible to keep it tidy, out from underfoot, and organized into the three types.
Jake, a farm regular, and I made a good fleece collecting team
most of the animals stood throughout the shearing, but not all of them.
Knitters: you know that baby alpaca yarn we all oooh and aaahh over? This is it.... baby.
After several rounds of that job, I helped fix some jagged wires in a fence of the holding pen, and then I helped prepare the animals for shearing. Each animal was identified by serial number and name, then rounded up by one person (basically by grabbing their head and neck--I let the pros do this bit), and then holding them--this is where I came in--for a blowdown with a high-powered hairdryer, and some fleece-picking, if necessary. And yes, I jumped right in when asked to pick twigs, lichen bits and.... other bits... out of the critters' fleece.
a little alpaca ass-grabin'
a good mix of befores and afters, for reference
I tell you though, there is just no end to how funny these guys look after they've been shorn....
this guy insisted that they leave his sideburns
...and they sure can bend!
I had an incredibly good time, and I sincerely hope I can come back and do it again next year.
Thanks to Bill and Lee for having me, to Nathan and Harlan for allowing me to help, and to Cohni and Josh, for inviting me, and for taking pictures!