Whilst the alpaca shearing process can look nasty and forceful, not only does it need to be done for the fibre, but it's for their own health and well being too.
The reasons for Alpaca shearing, whilst done differently, are not too different from shearing sheep. It's done once a year and is both for profitable means i.e to sell the fleece, but also for the health of the animal to stop it over heating during the spring and summer months. Shearing day gives you the opportunity to do other husbandry tasks and important health checks too.
For shearing they are laid on their side with the feet tied to stop them moving, and their head is supported so that they don't thrash it around in retaliation. To shear an alpaca whilst it's stood can be risky for both alpaca and shearer as unsurprisingly the alpacas don't stand still so at least one party would be at risk of injury. This method is much safer and allows the shearer to do their work more quickly, therefore not putting the alpaca under stress for as long.
Their fleece is then removed in a matter of minutes and stored in bags individual to each animal. Some places sort the fibre as it come off of the alpaca, and others do it later. By sorting we mean sorting which area the fleece has come from. The blanket is the main body of the fleece and this is likely to be the best part for profitable activities. The fleece can then sold for fibre, to make wool products, for the arts and crafts industry, and whole host of other profitable avenues. Samples are also sent away so that the quality of fleece can also be tested and examined. This helps to determine the quality of the fleece and in turn the value of both the fibre and the animal in the sales market.
Once the alpacas are shorn they tend to look a bit funny and a little poodle-esk depending on the shearer's style. Their bodies look slim with fluffy heads and fluffy ankles. It is however a good time to look at their true colour (without all the dirt and debris), and their body shape normally hidden by the thick fleece.
Our alpacas at Meadow Valley Farm were recently sheared just as the weather was becoming warmer and sunnier. Whilst they didn't enjoy it at the time, we're sure they are very grateful to us now with this hot weather we're having. See in the pictures our fawn girl Gretal, who's colour is much clearer where she was shorn, and Jill our bright white girl.