Shearing Day! And new webmaster
Firstly, I should clarify that this post is from the perspective of the farm's owner's son, also known as Nathaniel, or that nocturnal creature in the basement. I'm hoping to help out the site in other ways, but yesterday, I was lending my two hands for shearing day.
It's a yearly occurrence when you have alpacas: they grow a LOT of fur. It's incredibly fluffy--also, it's not good to have to wear that much during a midwestern summer. It's a win-win situation for us and them, since we get lots of excellent fiber, and they get to be super cool just in time for the hot and humid season.
Of course, it's hard to convince the alpacas of your gracious intent in the matter. They are flighty beasts, and would often rather run than be hugged. Like Fozzy here, who ran out of the barn and into the peach orchard when nobody was watching a gate. Of course, he couldn't stand to be away from the herd (the pack? do alpacas come in packs, or is that too glib?) for long, so it was simple enough to reunite him with the rest. Fozzy, despite being the littlest of the collective, was determined not to be easy to handle. Fozzy is also the noisiest of the group, and we can tell how nervous he is because he is very often humming. In this event, however, all of the alpacas got to humming their own tunes. It's a stress response and/or a call for the rest of the pack, so I should feel bad for laughing at how squeaky some of the boys sound, but at the same time, it's adorable.
They really don't like being cooped up inside. Or being alone. Or being forced to stand on the scale so we can measure their weight. It's possibly the hardest part of our process, in fact! Of the four beasties we handled, only one was cooperative in the slightest. It's strangely difficult to encourage them to stand on a slightly raised platform with all of their feet--getting 3/4 feet is simple enough, but the fourth one was always tricky. Moving the alpacas onto the scale was often a 3-person (or more!) job.
Ivan (foreground) was the alpaca who was best-behaved throughout the whole adventure. He hardly struggled, and he didn't ever dead-weight on us. This is in stark contrast to Yuri (background, shorn), who squirmed, dragged, kicked, and spat relentlessly until he was finished. Ivan was a breeze to handle. If any of these alpacas was going to be a show animal, it would, without a doubt, be Ivan.
This guy was also troublesome in his own way. Balthazar is often cantankerous when crammed in with other alpacas in a small space. He also likes kicking with his hind legs. He has also mastered the art of the Dead Weight Defense, keeping his struggling motions to a minimum while maximizing our frustration. He was still unexpectedly calm at times, unlike Yuri! That doesn't mean handling him was easy. To shear him, we had our helper Levi lift his forelegs off the ground so he couldn't balance for kicking, and to weigh him post-shearing, we... couldn't. He's a drama king, and would rather flop around on the floor than stand still on a slightly raised platform for all of 3 seconds.
Here's Winnie the guardian dog, sleeping in a side-pen. She acts quite soft and benign during the day, but if we let her roam she would surely be an agent of chaos. She still got lots of pets and treats while she was awake though!
Ivan entering the waiting room, fully shorn, while Fozzy waits in terror for his turn. You can really see just how much FLUFF they grow in a year by comparing the necks! Also, there was extreme contrast in their temperaments, as I explained earlier.
Yuri being held close by Brian, almost done being shorn. My role in this was often to help gather any of their fleece which fell, or preferably, before it fell. But I was also leading the beasties around, herding them into the barn, holding them still, or vacuuming their fur to make it smoother. It's pretty fun to have a lot of minor roles, and it worked out well since we had about 1.5 extra people on the job, so anyone could take a break and find a substitute.
I'd like to thank my siblings, Brian, Justin, and Heather, for turning out, and Heather again for bringing in Levi, and the cutters for not malfunctioning badly until Fozzy's cut. I'd also like to thank the alpacas for having the courtesy, or at least the serendipity, to not spit on me.
The alpacas were definitely excited to be released back into the pasture! They had some energy to let out. Ivan, Yuri, and Balthazar are seen here on the left chasing each other while Fozzy wanders aimlessly and nervously. I find him relatable in that regard.
When all was completed, and the alpacas were released and the barn cleaned up, I washed up and took a nap.