Yesterday, we spent the day at Rainbow Mountain Alpacas, experiencing our very first alpaca shearing day. We attempted to help out as much as we could (we are pretty green so our ability to be helpful is somewhat limited), but we learned so much more than we ever could just reading books on raising alpacas.
Brad helped a lot assisting in the actual shearing of the animals, mostly helping to keep the mats cleaned up and herding animals back and forth to pens. Alpacas are very different than sheep when it comes to shearing. If their fleece is not sheared a particular way, it completely messes up the fiber rendering it pretty much useless. And so there are very few alpaca raisers that actually shear their own animals. Particularly if they are interested in showing their fleece or having it processed into yarn. Hence enter the guys that sheared all the animals today. They are, ahem, professional alpaca shearers.
I helped more with the skirting of the fleeces once they were sheared. The blanket of the alpaca (which is the fleece from the sides and back) is the best quality and the desired fiber. All the rest, the legs, neck, belly, etc., are considered seconds. And they can have their uses, but they are not the best portion of the fleece and are, therefore, not used to produce a high quality yarn.
Skirting a fleece consists of laying the big fluffy blanket out on a frame and picking out all of the undesired and coarse fiber as well as picking out large pieces of debris. This may sound like an easy task, but there is a science behind it. And I will admit that I was quite nervous assisting in this task.
Brad and I learned so much from everyone yesterday. So not only did we come home with two more alpacas, but we also came home with a headful of information and new contacts and resources to assist us in our journey as alpaca farmers. And I think we also came home with a case of alpaca fever, especially after seeing all of the adorable crias running around. There is such a thing, you know.