Spring Shearing

Spring shearing is bigger than fall shearing.  The goats, all four of them, get sheared twice a year - spring and fall.  I've done this myself for as long as I've owned goats, although I started off poorly.  The first time It took me several hours per goat and I only had the stamina to do one a day.  Even with as few goats as I have, it took me a week or more to get them all sheared.  And they all looked like a four year old had gotten a hold of the scissors.  I'm sure they went back to their shelter and laughed at each other's hair cut.  And probably laughed at me.  But I've gotten better over the years.  I still only do one a day but even the worst of them only takes me an hour now and they actually look pretty good.  And Bernadette, who has wavy hair instead of curly dreadlocks, only takes me about 20 minutes.

The llamas and alpacas are a whole different story.  They are sheared only in the spring so we only have to fight the battle once a year.  Last spring, when they needed to be sheared for the first time in my care, I had never seen it done.  I decided I should hire a really good shearer.  My intention was to learn from an expert and then shear them myself after that.  Enter Sean Price.  He is part owner of Figment Ranch in Cypress, TX and has been shearing llamas for over 17 years.  Sean is wonderful.  He's young and strong and has a great hand with the animals.  His version of "tough love" is delightful to watch.  He expects the animals to stand up and stand still and put up with this once a year procedure without complaining.  He's not rough or abrupt but his expectations are high and amazingly, the animals always seem to rise to the occasion.  He's efficient and calm.  Two things I'm not when it comes to shearing.  And he knows the animals well enough to know when to back off and let them rest and when to push through and get them done.

Notice that Tucker, in the first picture, has very little hair on his head.  It's a llama thing.  Llamas also don't have much hair on their lower legs.  Scamp, on the other hand has a very fluffy head and the fluff on his legs goes all the way to the ground.  This lead to three very funny looking alpacas last year.  It was my first camelid shearing so when Sean said they don't shear the heads or lower legs of llamas, I said that was fine for the alpacas too.  I ended up with fuzzy headed, fuzzy legged bobble head dolls when he was finished with the alpacas.  They were cool and comfortable for the summer heat but they looked pretty funny. 

This year I requested that we shear the alpacas heads and lower legs so I would get more fiber and so they would look like the pictures of sheared alpacas I'd seen.  No problem.

Llamas and alpacas really do look odd after their sheared.  Their bodies, neck and legs are long and thin.... really long and really thin.  They have a concentration camp look to them.  You really get used to seeing them fluffy for almost the entire year and it's startling to see them nearly hairless.  Regardless of how they look, you can hear the big sigh of relief when they finally get a chance to take off that fur coat!  As much as I want the wonderful fiber they produce, shearing is more important for their comfort and health, particularly in our hot and humid climate.

So the llama and all the alpacas got sheared.  I have wonderful fleeces to pick through and send off to be processed.  They all got their annual shots and had their toenails trimmed.  Sean charged me a very reasonable price.  And the whole thing took about 2 hours!  I've watched Sean shear my animals twice now and have decided not to try and learn how to do it myself.  He's good and he's fast and he's charming and he's reasonably priced.  What's not to love?