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Alpaca Shearing Techniques

Alpaca shearers have developed a number of techniques. Four approaches to alpaca shearing are illustrated here. Control of the alpaca is essential while shearing, providing efficiency and safety for the animal and the shearer.

Hensforth1 Hensforth2 Hensforth3 Hensforth4

 

Shearing an alpaca in the standing position can be done. Note how the alpaca's head is secured in a stanchion prior to shearing. The wall prevents the alpaca from swinging its body from side to side while being sheared. Note that the shearing area is free of obstructions, and that there is nothing on which the alpaca can snag its legs.

A tarp has been placed on the floor to collect fleece that falls away from the alpaca as it is being sheared. You will also note containers handy to collect the fleece as it is removed.

It is common for alpacas sheared this way to cush as is seen in the last photo. If you look closely, you will see that the shearer is wearing special "shearing shoes" designed for increased traction and to diminish back strain during shearing.

Photos courtesy of Hensforth Farms Alpacas


shearing2 The "Australian Restrained" system of alpaca shearing is pictured above. The alpaca is stretched out between two anchor points, its feet restrained by ropes. Note the "spreader board" on the front feet, which gives the shearer access to the brisket of the alpaca. Though this appears uncomfortable, the shearing procedure moves quickly once the alpaca is restrained. Few alpacas will actively resist being restrained, being happy to stoically endure the ordeal of having their fleece removed.

Again note that a tarp has been placed under the alpaca to collect fleece as it is removed from the alpaca.

Many shearers now use this technique without the spreader board.  This is probably the most efficient method developed to date. 

(Photos courtesy of alpaca.net.au)


sheep1 sheep2 sheep3 sheep4

This series of photos illustrates an alpaca being sheared in the same manner as a sheep. This technique would require a great deal of experience and physical strength due to the difference in size, strength and disposition. Note the assistants who are collecting and bagging the fleece.

(Photos courtesy of Fire Horse Ranch Alpacas)


Shearing Table

This series of photos demonstrates an alpaca being sheared using a specially constructed tilting table with restraints. Note in the bottom picture that the alpaca has only one front leg restrained. One side of the alpaca is sheared, and it is then turned over so that the other side can be sheared.

Shearing Table

This system is similar to the Australian restrained method, but offers the advantages of a quick, safe and easy way to bring the alpaca into shearing position. It is also easier on the back, since the shearer does not have to hunch over or squat while shearing.

The main disadvantage to this system is getting the alpaca on the table, which can sometimes take three people to accomplish.

Shearing Table STable3

Photos courtesy of Totara Grove Alpaca


These are the main techniques used in shearing an alpaca. Our preference is to use a table since it facilitates restraint. Some people have constructed a table out of wood and simply "tip" their alpacas onto it prior to shearing. This may provide an economical alternative for those unwilling to purchase an expensive custom made table. We have also encountered tables constructed similar to a "cow table," having straps to secure the alpaca prior to tilting into the horizontal position.

With a little experience and practice, an alpaca can be sheared in less than ten minutes. Some experienced shearers can tally as many as 15 alpacas in an hour - averaging 4 minutes per alpaca.

 
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"When near the buildings I met a white man, in such an unexpected elegance of get-up that in the first moment I took him for a sort of vision. I saw a high starched collar, white cuffs, a light alpaca jacket, snowy trousers, a clean necktie, and varnished boots. No hat. Hair parted, brushed, oiled, under a green-lined parasol held in a big white hand. He was amazing, and had a pen holder behind his ear..."

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Heart of Darkness
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