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Alpaca Shearing Day
Old 04-23-2012, 07:46 AM   #1
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Alpaca Shearing Day

We spent a couple of days this week at the Alpaca farm where we bought our six animals helping with shearing. Over 100 alpacas were done in the two days, a lot of squealing, spitting, and screaming, the alpacas were loud too! Was a lot of fun and we learned a lot. Here are a few pictures to give you the idea. This alpaca is one of ours, his name is Tuxedo. Quite a difference in the before and after.

Shearing is done once per year, in the spring, so they won't have a heavy fleece during the summer. Tuxedo's fleece weighed about 4 pounds which I believe is about average. Will add a separate post to show what we're starting to do with the fleece, we have a lot to work through.










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Old 04-23-2012, 07:57 AM   #2
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Here are a few pictures of what we're starting to do with the fleece. First one shows the main blanket (sides and back) which is the best fiber. In the picture, we've picked out most of the bits of hay that were in there and washed it, it's on the table to dry.



Next picture shows a batt of fiber that has been run through a drum carder to align the fibers lengthwise to make it easy to spin. You can see there is still some hay in there, this batt is actually made from the fiber "seconds" and "thirds" which are the neck, belly, legs, etc. and tend to be a bit dirtier as the animals lay down, roll around and the like during the year they have fleece. Most washes out though.





Last picture is some yarn on the spinning wheel made from the batt in the picture above. My wife is the spinner, she has just learned a few weeks ago and all of this is new to us. Lot of fun so far but looking forward to being able to use the fleece. 4 of our guys are less than a year old (babies are called crias) so the first fleece is very fine and soft, haven't started trying to process it yet.



Our six alpacas will be brought here to the house in the next week or so, getting a lot of rain early this week so will most likely be here late in the week.

Thought there might be some interest in seeing the process.
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:30 AM   #3
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Fantastic ! As a "farmboy" I really appreciate this, having had to do it many times with sheep when I was young (wait, that didn't come out right ... ha)

Is this in West Virginia ? Are alpaca becoming an industry there ? is there a ready market for the wool, meat and breeding stock ? With only 6 animals are you doing it as a hobby or interested in commercializing it ?

Cheers.
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:37 AM   #4
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Very interesting...thanks for sharing!
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Old 04-23-2012, 08:58 AM   #5
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Thanks for shearing.
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Old 04-23-2012, 09:18 AM   #6
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Post shearing, they look like poodles after a trip to the stylist.
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Old 04-23-2012, 09:19 AM   #7
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Thanks for shearing.
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Old 04-23-2012, 09:58 AM   #8
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This is so cool! I have sheared sheep before, here and on a memorable trip to New Zealand. And we saw tons of Alpaca in Peru. Yours are adorable.
Thanks very much for sharing the process and the pictures!
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Old 04-23-2012, 11:03 AM   #9
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And then?

Seriously, soooo interesting for us knitters to see where how some of our yarn is made! Do you sell the yarn?
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Old 04-23-2012, 11:20 AM   #10
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I am amazed at how tiny Tuxedo is under all that fleece! Thank you so much for sharing the photos. Shearing any kind of animal is new territory for some of us (well, for me, anyway, being a city girl).

I would imagine that you could make a nice bit of extra money if you decide to sell that yarn.
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Old 04-23-2012, 12:47 PM   #11
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Thanks for the comments and questions! Sorry about the length of this note, feel free to ignore but happy to shear/share!

Koogie, we are in WV and there are a few alpaca farms around and a fiber mill nearby as well that specializes in alpaca. There isn't a market for alpaca meat that I know of although there are a few people I've come across that do eat the meat- probably tastes like chicken? Heard a story from an alpaca farmer the other day about a man who stopped at their farm and wanted to buy a baby alpaca and take them home right away, they were having a barbecue that weekend. She said she asked him to leave and not come back.

The local fiber mill is owned by four ladies who all have alpacas as well and like many other owners, they are really trying to encourage the growth of a fiber industry related to alpacas. Every study I've seen, says it will be a specialty market for many years. For now, most of the profit in the alpaca business is from the breeding and selling of the animals with the best genetics.

One of the ladies who is a partner in the mill owns the farm where our alpacas are from and she boards a lot of alpacas for owners who don't have their own farm. A lot of the fleece from the shearing will go to their mill to process. The'll do as much processing as you want, all the way to yarn or any step in between- some spinners will have the fleece prepped to roving (long strips of fleece) and then take it from there.

We're told that there are more people like us who are doing this for the fun/hobby aspects. Animals like ours are not considered breeding stock so sell as "fiber boys" at a pretty low price. We're happy with the fleece for our six animals and the breeder/owner of the farm we are working with has been fantastic teaching us what we need to know, being up front about the business, and explaining why so many animals don't make the cut for breeding. Some of the reasons are subtle and personal preference but some are more obvious. As an example, we have one animal that is a blue eyed white alpaca that is deaf, a fairly common trait for that combination. His fleece is wonderful but there is a genetic issue that comes out sometimes. One of the others has an ear that is not formed correctly so they don't want to take a chance with breeding him later.

The industry is trending towards creating strong stock of mostly white or light colored animals based on what I've read although, like everything, there is great debate among the alpaca community on the way that it's best to move forward. The white animals with good fiber could support a textile industry someday and the white could be dyed easily. Please don't take the above as gospel as we're very new to this and are really in it for the fun/hobby aspect. Our six boys are all different colors as we think we'd like to keep the yarn natural.

It will take months to process the fiber from our small herd so hopefully, we'll get enough completed that we can also use it for projects. My DW likes to crochet and is learning to knit- I've bought a small loom and will use some of the yarn to make some scarves, table runners, place mats and that kind of thing.

Bestwifeever/W2R, no real plans to try and sell any yarn but after seeing how much of it we will end up with, we may rethink that plan. There are a number of places to sell yarn or even raw fleece (etsy for one) so might end up giving that a try. I doubt you would be able to get a much for the yarn compared to the amount of time it takes to process. When we first got our processing equipment this winter, I bought 8 oz of assorted colors of raw fleece to test and figure out how it worked while waiting for our guys to be sheared. This is the alpaca fleece that my wife used to learn to spin as well. Will add a picture of the yarn at the end. She just mixed it together as she spun it and this is two ply yarn. The bobbins in the background have single plies of yarn before they are twisted together. Some people wash the fleece before processing to yarn and others will spin the fiber first, then wash the yarn to both get it clean and to set the twist, we're going to try some both ways to see how it goes.

We've been told that as you get better at spinning, your yarn will become much more consistent in size/twist and the sort of novelty yarn you make at first unintentionally is actually very hard to duplicate by hand?

Thanks again to all, will post some more pictures of all the boys when they get here.

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Old 04-23-2012, 02:22 PM   #12
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Very interesting post Dave, and as TAl says, thanks for shearing. Hope we can learn more about this and the animal in the future.
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Old 04-23-2012, 06:07 PM   #13
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Very cool pictures. We saw many alpacas in Peru, but none of them were shorn. They do look a lot like poodles.
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Old 04-23-2012, 06:31 PM   #14
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Very cool pictures. We saw many alpacas in Peru, but none of them were shorn. They do look a lot like poodles.
My wife and I both said that the alpacas reminded us of another animal after they were sheared but couldn't put our finger on it- I think Poodle is the answer. Four of our six are under one year old and really aren't any larger than a standard poodle- I see the resemblance!

The thing that struck me after they were sheared was how small their necks appear. Their necks are very strong and when their fleece is intact, they look much larger. It's odd, but if you want to get hold of one of them, it seems that if you can get hold of their neck, for the most part, they calm down. It's as if they think that if they can't move their neck, the rest of the body must be captured as well.

This isn't the case for all alpacas- one of the ones at the farm that we sheared is known to be a bit wild. Spits at anything that moves and you really have to get hold of her head once the halter is on to at least keep the spit pointed in a safe direction-not all alpacas spit but this one has it down. Of our six, we only have one that spits and his appears to be more air movement than anything else, hopefully he won't figure it out as he gets older. We haven't actually seen this but the folks who take care of them at the farm told us about it- guess we'll learn for ourselves next week.
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Old 04-28-2012, 11:12 AM   #15
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This is a great thread. I'm learning alot and that yarn looks fabulous !

(PS: Tuxedo is so cute ! I love alpacas)
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Old 05-05-2012, 04:54 PM   #16
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We brought five of our six alpacas to the house last night and they are settling in to their new surroundings. We kept them in the small area attached to the run in shed. We let them out in to the larger pasture a couple of times today to learn to herd them back in. First time took 30 minutes to get them in, second time 5 minutes using some ropes as temporary (soon to be made permanent) fencing. First picture shows them trying out the grass.



From left to right, Gold, Tuxedo, Hershey (dark color, mostly hidden), Toby (he's deaf and stays close to the pack), and Delorean. All are freshly sheared from a couple of weeks ago. Delorean looks like he is going to become the leader of the crew at this point but all seem to be getting along and sharing the hay feeder, etc.

Picture below shows Tuxedo taking a "dust bath" to really get the feel of the new digs. Soon after, the others did the same thing in nearly the same spot. Good news is that dirt will was out later more easily than bits of hay and grass that gets embedded in the fiber.



We've been out to visit them a few times today and all seems well so far. Introduced the dogs (through the fence), one could care less, one is attentive but seems fine, and the third, our smallest, thinks the alpacas need to be herded and chased. He was a bit better later in the day. At first, the alpacas started trying to run away when he barked at them but later, they realized he was on the other side of a fence and they seemed to ignore him. He didn't seem to be as excited when he wasn't getting a reaction so hope they will tolerate each other at worst case. We have no plans for the dogs and alpacas to mix but they will be on opposite sides of a fence from each other often.

We also had a lightning storm come through with heavy rain, nearby strike caused the GFCI circuit to the barn to trip and the lights were fine when the breaker was restored but the electric fence charger doesn't seem to want to come back on- will check it more tomorrow, hoping there was a fuse involved somewhere.

Just wanted to share the news the boys were here. Fleece processing still moving along, getting some spun and we bought a second spinning wheel that will arrive on Monday for me to try. I love gadgets and when I found out that they make a spinning wheel with an electric motor that you don't have to treadle, I had to give it a try- they get good reviews and are supposedly easy for a beginner to use because it lets you concentrate on drafting the yarn without having to treadle too and helps to be more consistent as you can control the speed easily as well, we'll see.

Thanks for reading.

Dave M.
Hidden Bend Retreat
Romney, WV
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Old 05-06-2012, 10:04 AM   #17
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Cool! They look like they are settling in well. Will you keep them in at night for protection from predators? Will you have grazing only or supplement with pellets and/or hay?
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Old 05-06-2012, 02:32 PM   #18
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Cool! They look like they are settling in well. Will you keep them in at night for protection from predators? Will you have grazing only or supplement with pellets and/or hay?
They will be inside a smaller pen at night, so,predators have to get through two layers of fencing. There are also two strands of electrified fence on the outside of the perimeter fence. Hoping to get the charger repaired that was taken out in the lightning strike but put in a backup charger today so fence is energized. Plan is for pasture and hay but will use some grain pellets once in a while as a treat. We also have a mineral supplement available and are told they will self dose on the minerals so can just keep them available. They seem to be doing well and are grazing machines!
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Old 05-11-2012, 10:12 AM   #19
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Great thread. Are alpacas susceptible to any routine livestock ailments (like brucellosis in cattle or pinkeye in sheep) ? If so, are they expensive to keep (vet bills, injections, etc..)
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Old 05-11-2012, 01:16 PM   #20
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Great thread. Are alpacas susceptible to any routine livestock ailments (like brucellosis in cattle or pinkeye in sheep) ? If so, are they expensive to keep (vet bills, injections, etc..)
We're told and our research indicates that alpaca are pretty hardy. A number of people,we've met with alpacas either have or used to have horses andmthe costs are much lower. I also understand that the males are easier as well since you don't have breeding issues, pregnancy ipproblems, or crias (baby alpacas) to deal with. If you live where there are white tailed deer, there is a disease that alpacas can pick up from them, don't remember the name of the parasite off the top of my head. Given this is most of the eastern US, we have to give each alpaca an injection every 45 days or so, I did the first one of ours this week and it was a non event once I got hold of him. Injection is just under the skin and had learned to do them from the people we bought from.

Thanks for the comments.

Will have to get back to you in a year or so to see if the upkeep is as low as we think, they are popping and eating machines though! Wont take long to get a good compost pile working although the manure is safe to use right away according to what we've read. We know of a few gardeners in the area who use the manure from the local farms.
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