Shearing Day!

#alpaca fiber #alpacas #americancountryessentials #Country Fiber #Judo #natural loofah #shearing

I didn’t realize how much work went into having the alpacas sheared so I was incredibly grateful for the previous owners teaching us how to have a successful shearing day.

The alpacas need to be sheared once summer rolls around. In Colorado, it can sometimes be difficult because it has snowed in May so usually shearing happens at the end of May. There is a balance though because you don’t want to shear them too early (in case Colorado decides to have a late snow storm) but you also don’t want to shear them too late. Their fibers are incredibly warm so you don’t want them to get too hot and you also need them to have enough time to grow back their coats for the upcoming winter.

Another obstacle we ran into was the guys that sheared the alpacas last year, were not coming to Colorado this year so we needed to find a shearer and quick. The great thing about small towns is everyone talks so you mention to one person you are looking for someone to shear your alpacas, and they usually know someone who knows someone. That is exactly what happened with us. Thank goodness!

Our shearing date was set for June 20, 2017. That was a few weeks later than we wanted but with short notice, we were lucky we even found someone. Next year, we will shear at the end of May (I already have my appointment).

Mark and I are incredibly blessed with family that is always up for a challenge and willing to help whenever we ask. My niece and nephew love coming up to the ranch and completing different ranch chores so we thought shearing day would be a great experience for them. My older sister is a teacher so she is incredibly organized and I knew that she would keep us all on task and help me organize the different moving parts. My dad and brother-in-law also said that they would help us (like they had a choice).  

The shearers were going to be at our property at 12pm so everything had to be ready for them when they arrived.

When alpacas get sheared there are three different “sections” to their fibers. The “blanket”, which is the first area that is shorn, is basically the back of the alpaca. This is the most desirable part as the fibers are longer. The blanket is usually used for spinning into yarn. The “seconds”, which include the neck, shoulders, and rump area, are shorter than the blanket and is usually used for felting. The “thirds” is everything left on the alpaca, the lower legs, head, and tail. These fibers are much shorter and are usually used for stuffing, garden mulch, and birds love it for nesting!

The night before shearing day, my sister and I got everything ready for the following day. We took individual trash bags and labeled them with the alpacas name and the section of fiber (blanket and seconds). All of the thirds went into one big bag.

The next morning we all woke up early, had a gigantic breakfast and set out to herd the alpacas.

Our alpacas spend most of their time in one of our larger pastures so we knew getting them into the barn area was going to be a group effort.   The alpacas do not herd like normal livestock and they can make sharp turns as fast as a jackrabbit. The last time Mark and I tried to herd the alpacas it took FOREVER so we were giving ourselves plenty of time to get this task done.

This morning the alpacas were close to the house so finding them was pretty easy. Mark hopped in the truck while the rest of the family surrounded the alpacas. The goal was to make a human fence and push them into our barn area (remember, they respect fencing so as long as we could block them, we knew they would move). Now, we thought this would have taken at least an hour (based on our previous attempt) but for some reason, the alpacas wanted to cooperate. We surrounded them, started to walk forward, and they just walked right into the barn. I told Mark, “they are probably hot so they are ready for shearing day!”

We got all of the alpacas in the barn area, haltered, and ready to get brushed. Before the shearers get there we wanted to get them all brushed to get any loose vegetable matter off. I wash each part of the fiber but the process is a lot easier when you brush off any loose matter. Most of the alpacas don’t mind the brushing, they just stand humming but one, Judo, is not a fan. See the video below as to why we named him “Judo.”

American Country Essentials Anabel with BambiWe were all ready! We had a tarp down for the alpacas to be laid on when they get sheared, the alpacas were brushed and ready to go, our bags were labeled and spread out in the barn for easy access, we had bottles of water ready; lets get this party started! Well, remember when I said we gave ourselves plenty of time? Yeah well, we started at 8am and the shearers were going to be there at 12pm. We finished everything by 930am. So now, we needed to keep the alpacas occupied so they wouldn’t roll around in the dirt and keep my niece and nephew entertained long enough so they didn’t loose interest in what we were doing. Luckily, alpacas are extremely entertaining so we just rolled with the punches, talked, and laughed at the alpacas while we waited.

Once the shearers got there it was like a whirlwind. These guys are fast and our herd is small compared to what they are used to. The alpacas were laid on the tarp and the shearer does his thing! The blanket is taken off first. The goal is to go fast enough that the shearer never stops shearing. You are bagging as he is going so once the blanket is off, you put it in the appropriate bag and he moves onto the seconds. Once the thirds are off and bagged, the alpaca is done and put back into pasture where they usually roll around and enjoy their lighter figures.American Country Essentials Brady with Bambi

The alpacas don’t seem to mind this process at all, in fact, I think they like it because it is so much cooler when they are done. Plus, it only takes minutes so they blink and the process is done.

The tarp is swept clean so fibers from the previous alpaca do not get mixed with the next one. This process is so fast and everyone has a job that is crucial to making sure shearing day is a success. All eight alpacas took about an hour and a half with only one break for everyone to get some water.

Once shearing is completed, all the bags are brought up to the house and the fiber can start to be processed immediately.

Shearing day was something I never thought I would experience (I didn’t know I would even own alpacas) but it is a day I so look forward to. I love that my niece and nephew get to experience something that they would never be able to experience in school, I love that the entire family gets together and laughs, and I love that I am able to now share the amazingness of alpaca fiber with everyone!

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  • Debbie Underhill on

    I was not able to participate this year but did last year. It is a lot of work and does go very fast. In watching the video, I am surprised Erin got “Judo” brushed for once she starts laughing, it is all over. Watch for the new products coming out using the fibers from these funny looking animals. You will not want to pass these up.

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