Shearing alpacas should be done once a year and can seem like a daunting task due to their height and long neck. However, there are a few options available.
Firstly for the alpaca owner that has only a few alpacas the easiest option is to engage the services of a contract shearer. There are several specialist contract shearers that will travel to properties with alpacas, bringing all the required equipment and complete the task efficiently. Contract shearers will charge a fee per alpaca, sometimes reducing their rate per alpaca as the number of alpacas to be shorn increases. Other shearers have a set rate and charge a call out fee.
If wanting to shear your own alpacas there is video available to show you how and are a few basic pieces of equipment that are required. Although shearing can be done on any clean flat surface, most shearers use shearing table with leg shackles each end so that the alpaca is restrained at waist height. Some tables have a top that pivots for ease of loading and unloading the alpaca. Shearing can be done with normal sheep shearing gear with a flexible down tube but often is carried out with portable 240 volt hand held units.
Steve and Hedley have loaded an alpaca onto a tilting table and have started shearing the wool from lower legs.
It is recommended that all alpacas are shorn once per year about spring just before grass seeds set to avoid having fleeces contaminated with vegetable matter. Fine fleeced white alpacas should be shorn first to avoid contamination from darker, course fibres. The best fleece is taken from the saddle which includes the back, sides, shoulder and rump. A premium is paid for fine fleece without contamination so the saddle fleece should be skirted carefully. The neck fleece is usually slightly shorter and should be packaged separately. Fleece from the belly and legs is courser and should also be collected separately. The Australian Alpaca Association regularly run fleece workshops for breeders within their local region.
Steve is removing the saddle wool in one piece. The fleece is rolled back as it is shorn from the alpaca as she waits patiently for her new lighter weight summer outfit.