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Alpaca Shearing Blow Diagrams

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Alpaca shearing is most efficient when the shearer uses a consistent approach to getting the fleece off of the alpaca. With practice the pattern of blows comes automatically.

This diagram shows the various parts of the fleece on a "stretched" alpaca. The blanket is the prime fleece on an alpaca, and is usually finer, more consistent and of a longer staple length.

FiberQualDiag

The neck and upper legs of an alpaca may be a bit coarser than the blanket, may have some guard hair present, and often is of a shorter staple length.

The lower legs, brisket and belly of an alpaca usually have a large amount of guard hair and may be very soiled. The fleece in these areas should usually be discarded.

The following diagrams illustrate the "blow by blow" method of shearing and alpaca. Remember, in alpaca shearing you will get your best results using long, even blows, and at the end of the blow pull the shears straight back. Do not end a blow by lifting the shears as your hand continues to move forward, or you will surely produce second cuts!

STEP 1 - Pull the skin of the hind legs slightly around toward the rear. Shear up the front of the leg, and forward along the line of belly hair. Finish shearing the belly in long horizontal strokes. Bag as "remainder." Blow1
STEP 2 - Pull the sin of the front leg around to the front. Shear up the side of the front leg. Shear the coarse hair from the area of the chest and armpit. Be careful around the armpit as there is loose skin here and it is easy to knick the alpaca. You can use your free hand, positioned behind the shear, to pull the skin taught. Bag as "remainder." Blow2
STEP 3 - Start on back of hind leg, shearing from bottom to where blanket begins and advance to the back of the hind leg. For the last blow, pull the skin slightly forward and make the final blow to just below the tail. Be careful of the genitals! Make one blow across the front leg at the transition of leg and blanket fiber. Bag as "seconds," or neck. Blow3
STEP 4 - Shear a couple of blows up the front leg into the blanket. Then, starting at the rear of the blanket above where the middle leg cuts ended, shear a few strokes to finish out the top leg. Make long blows from tail to belly and up towards the front. At the spine try to make one blow on the opposite side. Bag as "blanket," or prime. (The dark circle in the diagram at left is the area to obtain a sample for a histogram.) Blow4
STEP 5 - Shear up the neck, stopping just behind the ears. You can fold the ear forward to prevent knicking it. Your final blow should be straight up the throat and out the chin. This blow is a scary one for beginners, but the skin is taught and it is difficult to cut the alpaca here. However, never cut down the neck and into the brisket, or apron, area between the front legs. Here the skin is loose and it is VERY easy to cut the alpaca! Bag as "seconds," or neck. Blow5
STEP 6 - Trim the apron away with diagonal blows. DO NOT cut downwards between the legs or you may cut the alpaca. Taper the fleece from the upper to lower legs to maintain an attractive appearance. Trim the fleece from the alpaca's face. (Some may feel more comfortable using hand shears or scissors around the face.) Pin the ears forward against the skull with your free hand. Now is the time to trim up the alpaca's tail, being careful of the reproductive organs. Bag as "remainder." Blow6

You have just sheared half an alpaca! Turn the alpaca over and repeat these steps on the other side. Let the animal up. Now is the time to trim up the bangs if necessary. Hand shears or scissors can be used to trim any "tags" or long pieces of fleece that you might have missed here and there. Allow the alpaca to go enjoy its new haircut. The first thing it will probably want to do is go roll in the dirt, but then all the other alpacas will want to come and check out the new "hair-do." Wonderful and intelligent animals are alpacas!

Before releasing your alpaca from the restrained position, you may want to finish up with some other basic grooming. Now is a good time to trim nails, give shots or trim teeth if the alpaca needs it.

Be sure to clean up before shearing the next alpaca. In general, it is best to shear from light to dark and from fine to coarse. This will keep the contamination of fleeces to a minimum.

Figure about 10 to 15 minutes per alpaca, but expect your first couple to take 30 to 45 minutes each. Above all, approach it in fun. your alpacas will sense your mood. If you are calm and in control all will go smooth. If you are tense and nervous, so to will your alpacas be.

We would like to express our special appreciation for Bill Watkins who graciously allowed us to use his diagrams and shearing instructions.

 
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