A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

May 9, 2008

A Shearer’s Industry

Shearing days often bring with them a mixture of interesting thoughts and opinions as the alpaca owner, shearer and helpers work together throughout the day.  As different alpacas are shorn, comments are often made about each alpaca’s fleece and various stories of different experiences are shared.  Not that we just sit back and chat on shearing day, that is definitely not the case, but it would be somewhat boring to work in total silence for the whole time and so the conversation gently flows throughout the day.


We were at a shearing the other day when the conversation drifted toward how to keep your fleeces clean.  This year with the extreme dryness and high winds it has been nearly impossible to keep the alpaca fleeces as clean as we would like them.  We did put Matilda sheep covers on some of the alpacas and hopefully those fleeces will be reasonable clean, but those alpacas that have been out in the wind and the dust will undoubtedly have a lot of dirt hidden in their fleeces.


The Matilda sheep covers do a great job of keeping your fleeces clean, but there are some alpaca owners who are reluctant to use them as they feel that the show judges mark alpacas down if they have been wearing a fleece cover.  Under the current show rules judges are not supposed to mark down alpacas that have been wearing fleece covers, but the covers do give the fleeces a different appearance and the judge might find it difficult to look past that different appearance and judge the alpaca equally.  Having said that since we have been using fleece covers we have not experienced any sort of adverse affect in our show records, although I have had a couple of judges ask why we use the covers.


During the conversation about fleece cleanliness I said that I would be continuing to use the fleece covers for, after all, the alpaca industry is a fleece industry and the covers considerably reduce the amount of time I have to spend on skirting fleeces for processing.  At that point the shearer replied that not only is the alpaca industry a fleece industry it is also a shearer’s industry.


I have never thought of the alpaca industry from that point of view before, but I could see where the shearer was coming from with his comment.  This particular shearer specializes in shearing alpacas and without an alpaca industry he would not have a business.  To him it is important that our alpaca fleeces are clean as if the alpaca fleece is dirty the dirt and vegetable matter dulls his blades as he shears, causing him to have to have more blades and cutters available and having to stop more to maintain his equipment.  Dull blades will not cut the fleece as well and I suspect that even sharp blades will not give as good a result if they are constantly fighting against dirt and debris.


It is always good to look at something from someone else’s perspective, and the shearer’s comments have given me food for thought.  Shearing is an important part of an alpaca breeders business and it should be important to us to have our alpaca fleeces as clean as possible not only for good processing but also to help ensure a good shearing job.  Having said that with the weather conditions this year it has been a real challenge to keep our fleeces clean, and I am glad that I have fleece covers for at least some of our herd.



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