Wondering what to expect on shearing day?
There are several things that can help shearing-day run smoothly. In no particular order, here are some tips to help you prepare:
*A dry, flat area is needed for a shearing station. This area for alpaca shearing should be about 12 feet long and 12 feet wide. This is the optimum space for our set-up, and for the people and animals to move around comfortably. Smaller areas are possible, but can get cramped when there are lots of animals and people working in the shearing station. A sheep, goat, or llama shearing station can be as small as 8 feet by 8 feet, but again, a little extra space is easier for everyone to move around in. Consider weather when selecting a shearing station. When possible, we prefer to be under some kind of shelter (a barn, garage, tent/canopy, or so forth) to avoid sunburn on the warm days, and rain and wind on the stormy ones.
*How many people are needed to help on shearing day can vary greatly. It is best to have at least 2 people to help. If you have more than 10 animals or so, you may find it worthwhile to have an extra helper or 2. Responsibilities of the farm-provided help can include the following: Animal Handling, including catching animals, holding heads, and returning animals to proper pens; Gathering, Labeling, and Bagging Fiber; and Sweeping between animals. Other jobs may include giving vaccines (by state law, shots must be administered by the owner or a certified vet), trimming toenails, dealing with show fleeces, and keeping things and people organized.
*Shearing day is dirty! Alpacas especially like to roll in dust, and may spit or pee when stressed. Some sheep are more inclined than others to poo while getting sheared. We occasionally find hidden injuries like skin infections and abscesses under all that long wool or fiber. And, no one is perfect all the time, Cuts or nicks can happen! Dress appropriately for handling animals and getting dirty, we recommend old clothes and shoes/boots including long pants and no polar-fleece or similar fabrics as fiber will collect to it like crazy. Sandals, flip-flops, and bare feet are not good ideas. Consider your jewelry choices and glasses to avoid possible damage (personally, I take off my wedding ring while in the barn for safety around the animals and equipment). For those with allergies, don't forget appropriate precautions, it can get pretty dusty at times! If possible, have a broom, rags or paper towels, a basic first-aide kit, and some fresh water on hand or nearby to clean up with. We usually have a broom, band-aides, and super glue with us, but being prepared is always the best bet.
*Please have the animals penned near-by in a small area to assist in easy catching. Catch or holding pens, inside a barn/shelter, or in a stall(s) generally work best. Some people also halter the animals prior to our arrival, which is helpful if the animals are not easily handled and/or need to be moved more than just a few steps from the catch pen to the shearing station. No one likes to have to chase and corral animals in the midst of shearing. It is stressful both for the people and animals and can be a huge waste of time. Granted, accidents happen, but not running through the "back forty" first thing is very helpful.
*Alpaca Barber does not provide containers for your fiber. We recommend using large clear trash bags on shearing day for short-term storage. You can label bags easily with a permanent marker, paper tags inside the bags, or stickers/masking tape. Remember, don't seal the bags up tightly for several days due to the animal's body heat and moisture within the fiber or wool. Better options for long-term fiber storage are cardboard boxes, paper bags, or cloth bags such as pillow cases. Expect to use one large bag per sheep/goat, and some extras for the combined 'trash' wool. Typically for alpacas/llamas you will need 2 bags per animal with some extras for combined 'trash' fiber or 'thirds'.
*Wet fiber is difficult if not impossible to shear and store! If rain is in the forecast with 24-48 hours prior to shearing day, please take precautions to keep your animals as dry as possible! This may mean moving them to shelter or shutting them in the barn for longer than normal. Trust us, the extra effort is well worth trouble of not having to deal with wet animals, a damp shearing station, soaked people, and the aftermath of trying to dry pounds and pounds of stinky, soggy fiber. A little surface dampness is ok and often expected in wet weather, but dripping wet is not going to be fun for anyone. Always make sure your fiber is completely dry before storing!
*Payment is due at time of services rendered. If you need to make other arrangements for payment we are happy to help, but you must notify us a minimum of 30 days before your confirmed shearing date. We accept cash and check. We do not accept cards at this time, sorry for any inconvenience.
*A note about guard dogs: First of all, we love dogs! We have our own very lovable, high energy 'pup'! However, shearing can be stressful on the herd and that can cause unpredictable behaviors, even from 'people friendly' guards. For everyone's safety, please keep guard dogs and all other potentially aggressive dogs as far away from the shearing station as possible! Many times 'farm dogs' will hang around during shearing and so long as they are not bothering the animals or people excessively, that's perfectly fine with us. We just want to avoid potential problems. Thanks for understanding!
Also, on extremely rare occasions our dog, Zoey, may travel with us. For instance, she came along with us when an emergency arose with one of our dog sitters and we were unable to get her to another sitter before leaving for a farm. It's also happened that a farm is geographically on our way to one of our dog sitters and we are dropping her off (or picking her up) during one of our shearing trips. These are exceptions and not the norm! Just so you are not surprised in the rare chance we have her with us, Zoey is an energetic boarder collie/black lab cross, weighs about 35lbs, and loves attention once she settles down from the excitement of traveling. We try to seek permission beforehand if she's going to be tagging along, but may not always get a chance.
Recap of Preparations: A dry and flat protected shearing station, Holding pen for animals, 1-2 able-bodied human helpers, Access to electricity, Bags for fiber, Lables & Markers, Broom, Basic First-aide Kit for humans and animals, Vaccines if giving, Toenail Trimmers if doing yourself, Paper towels or rags
-More to come, check back soon!-