Shearing

shearingIt is almost impossible to reverse the effects of poor shearing technique. Your alpaca has spent 12 months growing fleece for you so take good care of harvesting your crop. Prepare your tools and equipment – service the shearing machine, sharpen the blade properly – there is some research that indicates that hot blades causes damage to the hair follicle and this causes an increase in micron grown by these follicles. Have a clean area to do the shearing. Have everything on hand – correctly labelled bags, a sample bag, shearing oil, antiseptic spray in case of nicks and good quality ropes as well as a shearing mat.

Take the time to blow as much dust and dirt from your alpaca before you start. This will help keep the blades sharp for longer which in turn will facilitate efficient shearing. The longer the alpaca is restrained, the more stress is likely to be experienced. Properly restrain the animal and then proceed to examine the fleece in order to assess the various grades of fibre and how it is distributed on the body. You will notice hard course hair (known as guard hair or primary fibres) on the belly, lower legs and to some extent on the chest and neck. It is also to some degree or other, distributed throughout the blanket and is the main cause of "itch" in the yarn and therefore garments made from this yarn. This will determine how you separate and grade the fleece as it is removed from the animal.

Carefully and systematically remove the fleece from your alpaca according to the various grades which you originally assessed. Sort as you shear and take every care possible to prevent the course fibres from contaminating prime fleece. All this care and preparation will make the task of pre-process sorting much easier. Weigh the fleece – fleece weights are valuable and will help you determine the effectiveness of your breeding programme. Leave the bags open in a clean dry place so that the sweat in the fibre can evaporate. This prevents damage and deterioration during storage.