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  Article Authored by: Chris & Susan Lehner, Champion Alpacas
Article Submitted: January 2002



It's Shearing Time Again!


The season for alpaca shearing is upon us once again. If you want to ensure a happy bunch of alpacas, then a proactive mindset is necessary. It will make the task a simpler one, and your four-legged critters will love you for it. Whether you take on the role of hairdresser yourself or hire a professional to do the shearing, a few simple tips will help create the best experience. 

Prep Your Alpacas For a Good Shearing

With that proactive mindset in gear, settle the alpacas in a clean pasture one month prior to shearing. If you're pressed for time, two to three weeks should be adequate. It's also important to keep animals away from areas that are contaminated with excessive vegetation, such as weeds, and also to avoid a lot of water and mud. 

The alpacas must be dry a few days before-and on-shearing day. Avoid feeding the alpacas loose hay or pellets on the morning of shearing-a little dieting is helpful here. If they are on pasture, however, that's okay. 

Excess dirt and debris also need to be removed. If a blower is used to do the job (and this is particularly important if it's done just prior to shearing) blow gently. For starters, you don't want to frighten the alpacas. More important, you don't want to disturb the fleece, so treat the architecture, the alpaca's crimp and lock structure, with care. 

On shearing day, make the job easier by penning all the alpacas near the area where they will be sheared. Sort them by color-starting with white or your lightest shade, and ending with your darkest. Create a written ledger to catalog the shearing order by color. 

First Things First

Before the actual shearing begins, remember to gather histogram samples. Clip a two-inch square section from the side of the alpaca (he won't even know it's missing) and place the fibers in a small plastic sandwich bag. Use a small label to record the following information: 

· Name of alpaca 
· Registration number 
· Breed 
· Sex 
· Age 
· Date sample was taken 

These samples can be sent to Yocum-McColl in Colorado. 

Get The Shears Out

When you're ready to get the real work underway, the following tips will create a more effective shearing process: 

Keep the floor or tarp if you're using one-clean. Use 110V for the shears, and be sure to sweep up all debris after each shearing. Remember, a clean environment fosters a positive attitude. It's okay to work on a concrete floor, but keep in mind that such a surface increases the risk of an alpaca losing its footing and slipping. Pay close attention to ensure that there are no accidents. 

Be sure to have adequate shade and ventilation with good lighting and clean surface areas to place fleece for skirting and sorting. If you do not have a skirting table, one can be made easily and inexpensively. Sweeping up excess fiber in between shearings is essential. 

Keep all alpacas waiting to be shorn in their holding pen. Don't forget to chat with them, after all, nobody likes being jailed.

Pictured from left to right: 
1) Heiniger ICON Mechanical Shearing Handpiece.  2) Heiniger XTRA Electric Shearing Machine - 320 Watts with a cutting speed of 2,300 double strokes per minute.  3) Heiniger Winter Comb (TwinBevel and 77mm wide), suitable for shearing alpacas, llamas, vicunas, guanacos and camels.

To view more information about Heiniger and their shearing products visit their web site at

Supplies to Facilitate a Smooth Shearing

Using a sorting table will save you time. If you don't have a table, find adequate space to use for sorting and cataloguing your alpacas' fleece. You will need three large, clear plastic garbage bags for each alpaca. Prior to shearing, mark each bag with the animal's name and the area sheared-blanket, neck, and legs. The proactive mindset comes into play again here, suggesting that you keep extra bags and a marker on hand-just in case. 

Use a scale and record book to archive the weight of the fiber for each alpaca. Weigh blanket, neck, and leg fiber separately, and then combine the three weights to tally a total weight. 

If you have a large number of alpacas, it's wise to hire workers or volunteers to facilitate the shearing process. For example, 20 alpacas would ideally require two animal handlers plus two helpers to sort and record information. 

For all those who attend and participate at your shearing day, be sure to provide tables, chairs, refreshments, snacks and perhaps some "tall cold ones" to close the day. Have a great shearing day!

About the Author:
Champion Alpacas provides a variety of personalized services to alpaca buyers to assist them with their marketing efforts. We are self-driven, success-oriented alpaca breeders who help meet the needs of our clients. Visit us online to learn more.




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