Tag Archives: shearing

Spring Cleaning

Every year the barn gets a spring cleaning.  All the straw and hay used for bedding gets swept out, the hay around the hay bunks outside gets raked up and an effort is made to get the area clean and dry and keep it that way until after shearing. This year we are challenged by lots of snow and weather not warm or sunny enough to melt that snow and ice.

alpaca pen

Inside pen – before

alpaca pen

Another inside pen – before

There was plenty to be removed inside and out.

ice along the barn

Ice along the barn

And the ice was piled up on the side of the barn. 

hay under hay bunks

Hay bunks – before

There was plenty of hay on top of and frozen into the ice around the hay bunks.  There is always a trade off between leaving the hay on the ice for traction and removing it for speedier melting.  When we had warm temperatures and sun, we opted to scrape off all the hay we could and send it to the compost pile!  This meant opening the pasture gate to bring the tractor in.  The alpacas got to play while we worked.

alpacas playing

Annie and Rolly jumping

alpacas running

Spotsie, Annie and Georgie

They all thought it was great fun until….

alpaca in snow

Carley in the deep snow

Leave it to Carley to jump into the deep snow!  She was quite surprised by the effort it took to jump her way back to dry land!  Silly girl. 

alpaca pen

Inside pens – after

The inside pens were all swept pretty clean.  As the snow and ice dries up, the floors will be swept over and over to keep the floor as clean as possible until shearing day.

hay bunk

Outside hay bunk

It may not look like it, but we raked up all the loose hay.  As the ice melts more hay will be freed, and raking will continue! 

hay bunk

Hay bunk – after

hay bunk

Hay bunk on dryer ground

This hay bunk we moved to dryer ground so the alpacas don’t have to stand on the ice and it will be easier to rake up the hay they drop on the ground.

So if we can get a few more days of sunny and warm (although the weather man says it’s not to be) things will start to dry up and the alpacas will be able to roll in sand.  I don’t know why they like to roll, but they always start rolling in the spring.  If they roll in hay, it sticks in their fiber.  If they roll in sand, the sand and/or rolling action seems to remove vegetable matter from their fiber.  And clean fiber BEFORE shearing is so much better than cleanING fiber after shearing!

Cria pictures

Technically, they are now weanlings, but they are still my babies!  Nearly a week ago, the four crias born in 2012 spent their first night separated from their mothers!  They are doing fine, but still cry after evening chores when they don’t get to go back with their moms!  Normally, the mothers would wean the crias themselves, but since I didn’t re-breed them, they have less interest in weaning. 

I’m already thinking about shearing and took some pictures of the crias who be shorn for the first time this spring.  I created a poster of these pictures to put in the Anoka Fiber Arts Co-op to give spinners a chance to snag one of these fleeces come shearing day.  Here is your chance!

This was the first born:

brown alpaca

Francine

 

This is Francine.  Her fiber is lovely.  Warm dark brown.  But this photo is just to tempt you.  Her fleece is already spoken for! 

Up next:

white alpaca

Maximus

Max has shiny white fiber.  It is quite fine and by spring will have a really long staple.  Either left white or dyed, this would spin into wonderful yarn. 

Number 3:

fawn cria

Stellar

Stellar’s fiber has a nice crimp and is a little darker than Johnny’s.   This will be a nice fleece for spinning, too.

And our last:

fawn cria

Johnny B

Johnny B has the best fiber of the four crias.  It is very crimpy and an even light fawn in color.  His fiber seems to be quite dense, so should shear a good amount of fiber despite being smaller than the others.

And there they are.  My babies are growing up!  If you are interested in reserving one of the boys’ fleeces, just let me know.  We’ll be shearing the end of April.

Shearing 2 more crias

A few weeks ago, we sheared the older 2 crias.  With the heat wave still coming on strong and the youngest cria reaching a month old, it was time to shear the younger crias. 

alpaca cria

Before

 Sorry for the blurriness – this guy didn’t want to stand still.  First up was Stellar – the older of the fawn boys.  (yes, they are all named and will be properly introduced soon) 

cria nursing

After

The shearing process must have been traumatic, as he went right to his mama for a little comfort food.  His fiber was pretty long and he was really warm underneath.

cria

Before

Next was Johnny B.  He is such a friendly, funny little guy. 

cria nursing

After

He, too, went to Mom for comfort after shearing.  His fiber was shorter, but crimpier and denser.  I think he got the best shearing job!  Figures that I get it right at the end!  The ripples you see, are not skin but fiber that is a little longer between snips of the shears. 

dirty hand

My hand!

This is my hand after the shearings.  My other hand held the shearers and stayed clean, but this one held the fiber and brushed off hot and damp little bodies so I could see where I needed to trim more.  They did their share of rolling in the sand!

alpaca

Francie

The fiber on the oldest cria and only female is growing out and looking good.

alpaca cria

Maximus

The fiber on our oldest male is growing out too.  By spring, their fleeces will have evened out and they will have lovely fiber for spinning. 

 

3 crias

Three out of four

 

I was lucky to get three of the crias to be still and close enough for a picture.  I am glad to have all four crias sheared.  It is good for them to stay cooler and will improve the fiber that will be shorn off in the spring.

Heat wave!

How do you stay cool in a heat wave?  Take off your coat, of course!

We usually shear our crias at around a month old.  I just use a hand shears and snip off the fiber on their blanket – sort of a barrel cut like is often done on llamas.  The fiber on crias tends to collect all the ‘stuff’ in the world!  If left on until the following spring, it seems to tangle together holding all the dirt and vegetable matter in the inches of fiber next to their body.   And on spring-born crias, they have a hot summer to go through with their coat on. 

Today was the day to take the coats off of the two older crias.

cria before shearing

Before shearing

Up first is our white boy.  Five weeks old and over 40 pounds, he was a hand full to keep still.

shearing

On the table

His feet are tied, so one person can do a pretty good job of keeping him still.

shearing

Half done

He gets rolled over, just like the big alpacas on the shearing table.  His tail is on the right of the picture, and his neck is under the hand on the left side of the photo.  It was still nearly 70 degrees at about 7AM, and the heat was just radiated from his little cria body. 

sheared cria

Standing by Mom

I admit the shearing is not the greatest look and it appears Spotsie agrees! 

sheared

It’s cooler

If I can, I’ll try to trim a bit more on the legs and neck to have it blend in more.  Today the goal was just to get cooler.

fiber

What came off

His fiber was almost 2 inches long.  No wonder he was so warm under that coat!  I save the fiber.  It is so very soft.  I may try adding bits of it into roving as I spin. 

before shearing

Before, with Mom

Next up was the little female cria.  At six weeks old, she is just about 30 pounds and less feisty.

after

Much cooler

She seems a little happier with her new look.  Again, I will try to trim it a bit more later, but it all seems to grow out and look okay.  I guess bad haircuts don’t last forever.

fiber

Pretty fiber

Her fiber was much denser, maybe not quite as long, but she still was really warm under the fiber, almost damp at the skin.  I’m glad we could help them be a little cooler during this heat wave.

2 crias

Fawn boys

Here are the younger males.  I think the younger is in front.  Already I can barely tell them apart!

cria

So cute

This the older of the fawn boys.  He’ll be two weeks old tomorrow.

cria and mom

Cria and Carley

This is our baby – 8 days old today – with his Mom.  They will get sheared in a few more weeks. 

Still no names, but we have been doing some brainstorming!  Stellar, Maximillian, Hanky, Sophia, Juan.  Nothing seems quite right yet.

Shearing Day 2012

Last Saturday (4/28) was cold and spitting rain, but we were scheduled to shear and so we did.  

on shearing table

Here's Rolly

This is Rolly waiting for the shearing to start.

shearing alpaca

In progress

His fiber is rolling off as it is sheared into my waiting hands.

Alpaca fleece

One side done

This is one half of the fleece on the skirting table for a little skirting.  Then I’ll bag them up for more thorough skirting and they’ll be ready for sale at Shepherd’s Harvest.

alpaca fleece

Another fleece

This is half of Vagabond’s fleece.  Lovely fawn color and still soft for an ‘old guy’. 

shorn alpaca

Another done

I think this is Carley sporting her new look. 

alpaca

Georgie - before

Georgie was the last to be sheared.  Here she is waiting inside the closed pen all by herself as the others have been shorn and allowed to go in and outside.

shorn alpaca

Free at last

And now Georgie is done too and ready to join the others. 

It is always great to have the shearing done each year.  I love getting the big bundles of warm fiber off each alpaca, skirting it a little and bagging it for later.  Thanks to my helpers and my shearer – you guys and gals are awesome.  My fleeces will be for sale at Shepherd’s Harvest on May 12 – 13.  If you like fiber, you will not want to miss it.  Who’s going to Shepherd’s Harvest?

Shearing table complete

While Adam was here, he painted our shearing table

shearing table

Ready for Shearing Day 2012

Here is the finished and dried table.  Check out the ingenious method of holding the strap to the wall.  This is the strap that goes around the alpaca while standing up to hold them in place while being laid on their side.  The strap is chained to the wall, so it didn’t get full of paint. 

And just for fun.

humming bird

Which is real?

This little humming bird has taken to sitting on top of my whirly-loon-thingy.  I took this while sitting in my office, through the window.   I have a hum-bird feeder on the window.  This little female would sit there and watch for others and chase them away from the feeder.

Cleaning fiber

Today was the final step in a process that started over a month ago.  In May, we got this from Kinney Valley Alpacas.

bags of alpaca fiber

Many bags

Each bag is the blanket fleece from one alpaca.   They sat in our barn for a few weeks before I started cleaning the fiber. 

alpaca fleece blanket

A blanket

First it gets spread out on my skirting table.   This is one half spread in front and the other side still rolled up in back.

alpaca fiber

Yummy fiber

When washed it will all be as shiny white as in the center.  Isn’t this pretty, though?  Soft and crimpy.

course fiber

Perhaps from the legs

But then my job starts.  Above is probably some leg fiber that got mixed into the blanket by mistake.  Can you see how much courser it is than the fiber under my hand?  It goes on the floor.

second cuts

Second cuts

While these little pieces are soft, they are short, sometimes only a fraction of an inch.  These are caused by a second pass made with the shears.  They make a mess in yarn.   Onto t

junk in fiber

Misc 'stuff'

These are some smart alpacas as I found several scraps of paper from the newspapers that they must have read!  And there is hay, weed seeds, mud clumps and the occasional ‘alpaca bean’.

dirty fiber

Too much VM

Sometimes there is just too much vegetable matter to save a chunk of fiber.   Especially crias first shearing have a tendency to hold onto lots of stuff in their fiber.

fluffy fiber

All shook up

Lastly, I vigorously shake the fiber to loosen more dirt, dust and VM.  The result is a big fluffy mess of fiber. 

bags of clean fiber

Ready to go

The clean fiber is stuffed into a bag.  These three bags comprise over 25 pounds of fiber, which went to be spun into sport weight yarn today.

fiber on the floor

Fiber refuse

The very last step is to clean up the mess of dirty fiber left under my skirting table.  That is a job for the weekend! 

While I was at Rach-Al-Paca’s, I picked up my roving from Carley, Annie, and Georgie.  Anyone ready to spin?