Tuesday, 21 June 2011


June is the month for Alpaca shearing – an important annual event! Our Alpacas are sheared once a year, usually in June. We have an experienced Camelid shearer by the name of Bob, who comes down from Cumbria to shear our two boys (along with other Alpacas and Llamas on the Isle of Wight!) As would be the case for sheep, Alpaca shearing requires sharp hand clippers and specialist electric shears. The preferred method is to lay the animals on their side and restrain their legs with a tether at each end. This protects both the shearer and the Alpaca from being accidentally cut. Immediately after shearing, the fleece is separated into “the blanket” (the best quality part of the fleece that can be used for weaving), and other parts of the fleece (no good for weaving but excellent nesting material for various birds and animals here at the Park!)

The images above show shearer Bob and Keeper Jake having just caught (and then gently brought down), Garnet, ready for shearing.

Above left - Garnet tethered and ready to be sheared
Above right - The shearing process in full swing! Bob using electric shears, Jake holding Garnet's head steady and Hannah (work experience student) gathering up the fleece.

In addition to shearing Bob also trims hooves (left), checks teeth (above), and vaccinates and worms by injection (below left).

Image (right) shows Augustus in the midst of being sheared!

Alpaca fleece is highly sought after by hand-crafters and commercial markets alike because it is one of the finest natural fibres. The fleece can be made into any product that we would normally associate with wool – yet the end-product will be warmer, lighter, and softer. Many people who cannot wear wool because it is too ‘prickly’ can wear Alpaca fleece. Another interesting fact is that apparently Alpaca fleece doesn’t contain lanolin, so people it can be work by those who are allergic to the lanolin in wool. For people who are allergic to commercial dyes or have a preference for completely natural fibres Alpaca fleece is almost undoubtedly the answer – because it comes in over 20 natural colour variations!

Images above: the finished product - perhaps temporarily not quite as beautiful as with their full fleece – but shearing is an important way of allowing Alpacas to absorb sunlight (through their skin) – thereby boosting their vitamin D levels. If their ‘for-locks’ are left untrimmed for too long (resulting in insufficient natural sunlight into their eyes) and their fleece is left un-sheared (blocking sunlight from their bodies) this can cause vitamin deficiencies and often results in diseases such as rickets.

The last images (above) show Garnet pulling faces at Augustus – almost as though he’s saying something quite insulting about his new hairdo!!

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