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Summers are More Comfortable Without an Alpaca Sweater

Not Kimaree's favorite day
Alpacas are shorn once a year, usually in the spring. In addition to harvesting their fleece, shearing is important in assisting the alpaca to tolerate the heat of summer. The proficiency of the shearer is of considerable importance.
  • Shearing can be frightening and stressful and therefore should be done with smooth efficiency.
  • Experience is needed to avoid injuring the animal while using sharp instruments.
  • The final appearance of the sheared alpaca is important when judging the alpaca's conformation, aesthetics and potential as breeding stock.
  • The blanket (or firsts) must conform to established standards when submitted for processing or judging at a show.
While some ranchers have developed the expertise to shear their own animals, most leave this job to a professional. With the help of many volunteers, shearing day is a day we look forward to with great joy - and are thrilled when the day is over! Some fleeces are set aside to be shown at competitions, the rest will be sent off to be processed into yarn, socks, and rugs.

On shearing day, we also trim toe nails, give the annual CDT shot (to keep their immune system in good condition) and trim the top knot (that's my job) .

The real work begins after shearing when the blankets and necks (also called firsts and seconds) are first skirted, picked free of vegetation, and then sorted. Skirting eliminates the part of the fleece that simply doesn't belong there. This is a skill easily learned. More time consuming is the "picking free of vegetation" part. If you want nice yarn, you better pick out - by hand - all the burrs, fox tails and other vegetation that doesn't belong there.

And then there's sorting. I send a small piece of the sample that the shearer took from the side, and send it to a lab. They tell me everything I need to know - fineness, uniformity and more- I need to know in order to combine fleeces before sending it to the mill to be spun. I combine white and black fleeces of the same fineness to get gray yarn, or add a white fleece to a medium fawn one to get a light fawn. I dye much of my yarn, because that's what most of our visitors buy.
Kimaree before hair cut

and after!

Artists and members of the Rogue Gallery and Art Center recently spent a day in the pastures plein air painting surrounded by alpacas. Perfect time to trim Kimaree's top knot, a week before shearing.

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