Friday, 15 June 2012
Alpaca Shearing Time 2012!
June is the time of year when our Alpacas are due for their annual shearing!
Once again we were joined by experienced Camelid shearer Bob, who travels down from Cumbria each year to shear our two boys (along with other Alpacas and Llamas on the Isle of Wight!).
It is very important that the alpacas are sheared every year as it allows them to absorb sunlight (through their skin), which helps to boost 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 preferred method for shearing, is to first 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.
As would be the case for sheep, Alpaca shearing requires sharp hand clippers and specialist electric shears.
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!).
As you can see from the photos there was a lot of interest from the public during the shearing! Luckily, Animal Keepers Jake and Becci were on hand to help Bob throughout the process.
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!
And here we are with the finished product……