We have been waiting on the shearer to come and shear our 4 alpacas for a while now, and he hasn't turned up. Not anything new there, shearers can make life difficult, and can turn up with little notice. Its been hot (on and off thank goodness) and 2 of our alpacas have alot of fleece around the eyes, so they were essentially blind (wool blind).
So, after a friend dropped off some fleece that he had shorn himself with the old fashioned handshears, we got to thinking.... So for the cost of shearing the alpacas once, we got a reasonable set of handshears. But the real advantage is in the satisfaction of doing it ourselves! From 'back to back' the process is all done by us by hand, and that is a good feeling. Although I think Brad gets the easier end of the deal!!! He does the shearing, and my job then is to spin and knit the fibre into clothes.
So far only 1 and a half are done. It takes much longer to shear by hand and with 2 young children sitting patiently while we shear, we just can't do them all in one sitting. I would estimate between 1 and 2 hours per animal, most of that time being spent on the 'rubbish' parts of the fleece - the legs, belly, neck, tail, and around the head. All fiddly and the fleece is shorter and often very guard hairy and coarse. The 'saddle' or 'blanket' is the prime fleece, and its fairly easy and quick to shear.
If you haven't seen alpacas shorn before, you lie them down on their side and tie the front and back legs to posts so the animal is stretched out and can't move much (no action photos - we are too busy holding the animal and getting on with the work!). They are much stronger than sheep, and I don't think it would be a safe thing to try and shear them the way sheep are shorn!!! This time I administered a little 'rescue remedy', and the animal was so calm we both stopped to check if he was still alive!!!! I can't say for sure if it was the rescue remedy or whether it was just how he was going to behave, but he sure did fight before we got him on the ground, and actually dragged Brad about 10m along the ground!!!
So, another step forward, a new skill obtained, and its only January!!! I think there will be many things to learn this year, probably not all will be as easy or fun, but knowledge and skills are invaluable.