Alpacas and humans have lived and worked together for thousands of years and this unique relationship has always relied on one factor—the alpaca's wool. These camel relatives might be hardy animals, but they don't have the natural ability to shed their hair. Without human help, an alpaca's coat turns into a breeding ground for bugs and skin bacteria. If you have a pet alpaca, you'll need to hire someone to do yearly shearing or handle it yourself. With a little research and the right tools, shearing your alpaca can be a quick and easy job.
Alpaca owners often wash their animals before shearing them as cleaning the hair first makes the process easier and leaves you with a cleaner product. Washing your pet ahead of time is fine, but it's important that their fleece is dry before you try to remove it. Wet hair will get tangled in your tools, stressing out your alpaca and making the job much harder than it needs to be. If your pet loves getting into mud, puddles, or other water on your property, keep them in a sheltered area two to three days in advance.
You've taken the time to wash your alpaca's hair. Do you really want to shear that freshly washed wool on a dirty floor? No. If you're shearing your pet in a covered barn, sweep the area where you'll be working to clear it of straw, grain, and other small debris. If you're shearing outside, lay your alpaca on a mattress. It's comfortable for your pet and helps keep everything clean. Whether shearing indoors or out, make sure that you have plenty of light in your work area.
Look, we know this sounds silly. Who uses a household tool meant for cleaning up messes on their beloved pet? Think of a time when you've tried to remove a piece of dry grass or tangled string from wool socks. Now imagine trying to remove all the small pieces of hay and dirt in your alpaca's wool after shearing. Vacuuming your pet before shearing gets rid of debris, leaving you with a cleaner product.
The shearing process and the steps leading up to it can be stressful for alpacas. Help your pet calm down by rounding them up a few hours before shearing and placing them in a small, enclosed yard. You should also keep other pets, young children, and loud equipment away from the shearing area. The calmer you are during the process, the more secure your pet will feel.
Wool from alpacas is sorted into three different categories: the blanket, the neck and underbelly, and the seat and legs. Clean and label three large containers to sort the wool as you work. Sorting the fleece is important because different parts of your pet's hair can be used for different purposes. It is also an essential step if you plan on selling your alpaca's wool to an outside party.
Your alpaca doesn't like getting shots—who does? However, regular immunization and deworming are essential to your pet's health. You can cut down on your animal's stress level by taking care of shearing, immunizations, and other necessary treatments at the same time. Try giving immunizations and dewormers when your pet is distracted and in a small, secure area. Then, take care of hoof trimming or dental cleaning that your alpaca may require before moving on to shearing.
Tying an alpaca down is one of the hardest parts of shearing for many pet owners. No one wants to make their pet uncomfortable, and tying an animal on the ground might sound cruel. However, restraining your alpaca is the best way to keep them safe during shearing. You can tie your pet down with ropes on the ground or on a special table made for shearing. You should buy special restraints made for alpacas online or in a feed and tack store.
You'll use a pair of electric alpaca or sheep shears to remove your pet's hair. While these shears are easy to use, shearing an alpaca from the top of the head to the tip of its tail all in one go won't work. Instead, tackle the job in sections. First, you'll remove the blanket. Then, remove hair on the feet, legs, head, and any other unshaved area of your pet.
Once your pet is sheared, sort the wool by bin. If you have helpers, you can ask them to sort your pet's fleece and put the fiber in the correct bins as you work. It doesn't matter when you sort the fibers, but know that you won't be able to use or sell them until you do.
As soon as all shearing and care activities are done, remove the restraints as quickly as possible and let your pet get up. You might want to give them extra attention or a reward for enduring the shearing process. If you have more than one alpaca, they will likely stick close to each other for a few hours after shearing.
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