Alpaca Fleece Harvest Planning
aka: Shearing Day
Quarry Critters Alpaca Ranch
All year long we offer fiber arts classes and a gift shop fill with products and apparel made with alpaca fiber.
Where does all that alpaca fiber come from?
The answer is it comes from alpaca fleece.
Here at Quarry Critters Alpaca Ranch, we breed and raise quality alpacas to produce soft, dense, crimpy fleeces so we can use their fleece to make these things.
We shear our alpacas once a year at our harvest, known as “Shearing Day”. On shearing day all our alpacas get a haircut, this is where we collect alpaca fleece. This is a very big day. It requires many hands. To make light work and include alpaca enthusiast, we rely on volunteers. It’s a long day and a dirty job but we try to always have fun. We keep our volunteers fed and hydrated with a quick grab of coffee and breakfast snack, a sit down -all you can eat- luncheon, plenty of water, tea, sodas and conversation. Once we find that very special alpaca, (the last one), we open the bar and celebrate with a “Naked Alpaca Happy Hour”.
Our shearing day harvest has run successfully every year because of our wonderful volunteers and good planning. Throughout the years we have tried to improve on how to make our shearing day run smoother. We have developed stations with specific roles and responsibilities.
Let’s take a look at these stations.
#1 Greatest shearer of all times
~ Nathan Good~
Nathan is our shearer. On shearing day he is the master.
Let’s make sure to respect the most important job of all.
Without him the work stops.
1. Pull fiber away from alpaca as it gets shorn off alpaca.
2. Fiber is placed in bags, according to location from where it was removed.
Prime Blanket is often “noodled”. Noodling is placing plastic on the mat near the alpaca. As fiber is gently pulled away from the alpaca it is placed on the plastic. When directed that all the “blanket” or 1st has been removed by Nathan, then the plastic is “noodled”, (to noodle is to rolled up like a sleeping bag. Make sure not to overlap fiber on fiber. Use extra plastic if needed)
Side Sample- Nathan will cut a small sample of fiber from the blanket location. This sample will go in the labeled baggy.
Seconds- comes from neck and belly, if unsure ask.
Thirds- comes from the legs and tail location.
Pictured here are shearing day fiber locations.
3. After alpaca leaves the area the floor, it is swept clean for next alpaca. It is very important to keep same colors together without allowing different color contamination.
Alpaca Handlers :
Halter, lead, snuggle, comfort alpacas, talk to them, then return alpaca to their home stall, after shearing on the mat.
Handler 1: Halter and lead alpacas to the gooming area
Handler 2: Hold alpacas until shearer is ready to put on mat.
Handler 3: Walk alpaca back to their stalls/fields after shearing.
Use tools provided to rid the alpaca of all unwanted waste material, dung, hay, food stuff
Tools: Vacuum, wands, hand patting
Handlers: needed to hold alpacas while being groomed.
Keep in constant contact with alpaca handlers to control the alpaca shearing order.
Writes names on all 3-4 bags
Banket- large clear 55 drum bag
Side Sample- gallon zip lock baggy
Seconds-blue tall kitchen bags
Thirds - white tall kitchen bags
Make sure the alpaca chip number matches the name on fleece bags.
Call out any special instructions such as: sock, towel, teeth, toenails, show coat or noodle
Help roll noodle or educate mat volunteer.
Weigh on scale:
A) prime blanket then record on spreadsheet
B) second & thirds can weigh together then record on spreadsheet
C) Weigh all together, 1st, 2nds, 3rds then record on spreadsheet
Pass 2nds and thirds to skirting stall
Prime blankets will stay in fiber room until collected and driven up to the processing room at the house.
Fiber - working with 2nds and 3rds.
Clean any unwanted fibers, stiff hairs, dung, hay or short cuts. This would be trash, throw on floor.
Separate colors. Use large drum size cans, labeled
Lights - White, beige included in this can
Fawns- light tan to light brown included in this can
Browns- dark browns, bay black included in this can
Blacks - black black included in this can
2nds- are 2 inches (about the length of your thumb) or longer
3rds- are shorter than 2 inches (shorter than your thumb).
Clear plastic 55 gallon drum liners should be placed in each can and labeled to match label on drum can. As drum liner gets filled up take out drum liner bag and tie up and place in a corner. (Be sure it has a label)
All fiber will be collected and driven up to processing room for later processing.
Updated February 09, 2018