Learning the Health Benefits of Shearing Alpacas and How To Find a Good Shearer

Shearing Alpacas and How To Find a Good Shearer


Introduction


Since the beginning of time, alpacas have been a valuable investment for farmers, investors and animal lovers. These animals are treasured for their soft fleece which is a very valuable raw material in the textile industry.  Alpaca clothing is made as an option for high-end designer outfits, which are popular today. This silky natural fiber can either be light or heavy in weight, depending on how it’s spun. Although the material you get from shearing alpacas is similar to wool that is obtained from sheep, it is much warmer, smoother and has no lanolin, causing consumers to have fewer allergic reactions than other animal materials. Also, the fleece is naturally water-repellent. Because of these qualities, this material is highly valuable and dealing in it can be a lucrative investment for everyone.


”Shearing Alpacas”: Health Benefits for Your Animals


Cutting off all that extra hair1) Shearing Makes It Easier To Detect Diseases or Any Other Problem Early Enough

Shearing provides an easier way for you to assess your animals’ body condition. Most farmers don’t think about this, but when your alpacas have all of their fleece on, it is very hard to visibly inspect their body condition. Shearing allows for easier inspection with just a visible check and this enables you to detect any problem any one of your animals may have before it turns into something very severe.

2) Shearing Makes It Easier for the Animals to See Properly

Cutting shorter the topknot of alpacas makes it easier for the animals to see well. If left unchecked, this fur may grow over the eyes to the point where you are forced to cut it back with perhaps scissors on your own. A shearer is able to cut the top knot back and make it easier for your animals to see where they are going

3) Removal of the Heavy ‘Coat’ which Rests On the Backs of Alpacas.

Alpacas generally grow a massive fur coat. This coat, just like a jacket or sweater keeps them warm during cold season. Come hot season, we are able to take off our sweaters but alpacas can’t remove their heavy coats on their own and they don’t even shed the coat like other animals do. Shearing them removes the heavy coat and prepares them for the warmer spring and summer months.

4) Shearing Makes Alpacas Feel Much More Comfortable

Shearing alpacas takes off any fiber that may have been irritating to the animals. By having your flock sheared, you will remove the tufts of fleece that have been bugging them. Removing these mats will provide welcome relief to the alpaca. In other words, shearing alpacas just makes them more comfortable!


How to Obtain the Fleece: “Shearing Alpacas”


Looking good after thier fresh new haircutAlpaca Shearing is an annual event for those who keep these harmless mammals and several shearing techniques have been developed over time. Like sheep, alpacas need to be shorn to keep them healthy as you have seen. As mentioned before, the alpaca’s “wool” is a valuable commodity and good cutting is vital for being able to market your fleece as the highest quality. While the procedure may look simple, it is actually not.

There are people who specialize in ”shearing alpacas’’; and hiring them to do the job is usually quite helpful. A good shearer will shear your flock the way you want, do a great job, be dependable and quote a competitive price. You can expect them to do the following:

  • Not ask for additional tips but instead let you decide whether or not to give this depending on how satisfactory their work is.
  • Inform you early enough if they are going to be late. Sometimes a previous shearing job may take longer than expected. If so, a good professional should be polite enough to notify you in time so you don’t spend the better part of your day, worrying that they are not going to show up.
  • Be extremely careful not to infect your healthy flock with diseases from other farms.
  • Avoid serious cuts, especially on the delicate areas such as penis, ears, and so on.
  • Handle your stock safely, especially pregnant females.

If a professional doesn’t live up to your expectations, make a note not to rehire them. However, most shearers are good professionals and work hard.


Tips for Finding a Shearer


  • Finding someone who knows how to shear well can be quite daunting. This calls for planning beforehand so as to avoid last minute disappointments. Be sure to contact one early enough to get on their schedule.
  • Bear in mind that some professionals only work in certain seasons whereas others shear all seasons. Some will travel from one place to another to offer their services whereas others will not agree to go beyond their hometown. Because of this, it is imperative that you contact as many professionals as possible to find the right one for your needs.
  • If you keep a small number of animals,the cost of shearing will be high. It may be higher if you have uncontrollable animals, a mixture of breeds or inadequate facilities. When setting a budget,do not forget to consider these factors in order to avoid last minute disappointment.Once the job is done, ensure they are fully compensated for set-up times, travel costs as well as any inconvenience so that they will come back next time.

Control of your animals is essential while shearing because this provides efficiency and safety for them and the person who is shearing them. The more familiar they are with human interaction, the less likely they are to be scared and fight the process so be sure to train them to get used to human beings.

  • Coordinate with other farmers near you to get a professional in your area.
  • Be flexible. For instance,are you able to spare a day in your routine for shearing? Will you not be inconvenienced if the shearer shows up earlier than expected? Provide your shearer with several options.

Alpaca Facts and FAQ

Is An Alpaca A Good Pet?
What do Alpacas Eat?
Do Alpacas Need to Be Fenced In??
Do Alpacas Need Shelter?
How Much Room Does An Alpaca Need?
How Much Do Alpacas Weigh?
How Much Does An Alpaca Cost?
Do Alpacas Spit?

Is An Alpaca A Good Pet?

It depends on your definition of a pet. If you are looking for an animal that hangs out in the backyard without needing much care other than a feeding twice a day, than yes. They will be perfectly happy with you feeding them, going to work, and then feeding them again when you get home.

If you are looking for a pet that is going to come running to be pet when you pull in the driveway, then you don’t want an Alpaca. Alpacas are prey animals and are used to running away from anything that is not an Alpaca. They may get used to you enough that you can get a quick stroke in, but they will not come up and brush against you seeking attention. Read over our Alpaca Facts and then you can decide that answer for yourself.

What do Alpacas Eat?

What do Alpacas Eat?Alpacas are ruminants, or mammals that are able to acquire nutrients from plant-based food. They eat vegetation all day and then regurgitate it so that it can be chewed again. This allows them to be very efficient digesters since they eat vegetation with very low protein and mineral count.

They are best fed with pasture grown grasses and whatever else they find. They will mow the grass for you without ripping up the roots, allowing the grass to grow back if you rotate pastures. They are best suited for low protein grasses and high protein foods will disrupt fiber production.

During winter months, and in areas without pastures, the answer to “what do Alpaca’s eat” is a little different. They will need to be fed with hay purchased from your local farming store. Second cut hay is almost always best for an Alpaca and supplemental grain may need to be added to balance the diet.

Do Alpacas Need Shelter?

Yes, Alpacas need shelter to shed them from natural elements and protect them from overheating. It is also a good idea to shelter them so that they can stay out of the rain and keep their fleece protected.

Depending on where you live, you might just need a run in shelter, or maybe a full blown barn. A run in shelter is perfect for areas that do not get too cold in the winter. Keep in mind that Alpaca are native to cold environments, but Antarctica might be a little much for them!

Do Alpacas Need to Be Fenced In?

If you have a large enough pasture area, a fence may not be absolutely necessary but it is always a good idea. Half of the reason for a fence is to keep your animals in but the other half is keep predators out. A good fence will keep the Coyotes, or whatever local predators you encounter, out of your farm.

Check with local farms to see what size fence is common in your area. They will be able to give you some good insight on what you need to be able to protect yourself so that you know what kind of fencing to purchase. We also have other great Alpaca facts on this page for your to check out.

How Much Room Does An Alpaca Need?

How Much Room Does An Alpaca Need?This depends largely on what you are trying to achieve. If you are trying to keep your costs low and feed strictly on pasture foods, then you will need to stay below 5-6 Alpacas per acre of land. If you are ok with purchasing hay and feeding them that way, then you can safely fit 15-20 Alpaca on a single acre of land.

Alpaca do not need much room and will mostly stick in a group with the rest of the heard. They need enough room to walk around and that’s just about it. As long as they can get away from each other if a fight erupts, then you should be all set.

How Much Do Alpacas Weigh?

A full grown Alpaca can range between 130 and 170 pounds. Full grown males will be on the high end of that range, while females are on the low end. They are large animals, but about half the size of a llama.

How Much Does An Alpaca Cost?

Alpaca prices vary greatly in price. If you are just looking for a pet or fiber producing Alpaca that is not going to breed or expand your farm, then you are looking to spend about $400 an animal. If you are looking to purchase animals that will breed and grow your farm, then you are going to spend a whole lot more.

Alpaca that are Proven (have breed successfully) are worth more money because they are known to have had a live birth and provide properly for their young. If they are unproven, they are still going to be higher in price than a pet, but you are taking a chance on whether or not they will breed.

Most people looking to start their own heard will purchase the best quality females that they can afford. The farm that sells them to you will typically get them pregnant for you as well. This way you are really purchasing 6 Alpaca instead of the 3 that you are bringing home. That farm will also help you get on your feet by providing answers to simple questions like “what to Alpacas eat” and “do Alpacas spit”.

Once you have read all of our Alpaca facts, head over to how much does an Alpaca costs for more great information on this topic.

Do Alpacas Spit?

Yes, Alpacas do spit when they feel threatened. Unlike Llamas though, Alpacas are not like to spit on humans unless you really make them mad. If you get spit on, you most likely got caught in the crossfire between two Alpacas that are arguing.

Thanks for Reading our list of Alpaca Facts, we hope to see you again sometime soon!

How To Care For An Alpaca Cria

How To Care For An Alpaca Cria

A Cria is a baby Alpaca or an Alpaca that is less than one year old. If you have ever had an Alpaca Cria on your farm, you will know how much care they need. From wondering away from the pack to getting stuck in places that the large Alpacas wouldn’t even think about going.

Your Cria will typically arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Mothers do not want to welcome their young by dropping them into the hottest part of the day. If your Alpaca Cria arrives outside of that window, it tends to point to a complication. That is not a rule, just an observance we have made in our experience.

The fun is just beginning when they get out into the scary world. You will need to make sure that they are getting plenty of food and developing as they should. It is a good idea to check on them at least twice a day to see how they are doing.

Feeding Your New Cria

so many to chose fromCria’s should feed off of milk from the mother, but some may not know to do that. Your Alpaca Cria should be drinking mother’s milk within 4 hours of birth at the most. If they are not drinking within 5 hours then you should call a doctor immediately.

This can be a sign of a few things that a Cria might run into. Some don’t know how to get the milk from their mother or are scared of their surroundings. Put them in their own pen or enclosure so that the newborn feels more secure.

This can also mean that there is something going on with the mother. Young mothers may not know that they should make the new Cria drink milk right away and may need a quick lesson. They could also be lacking in the ability to produce enough milk to keep up with what the new Cria needs.

Behavior of Your New Alpaca Cria

Your new Cria should be in the kush position and alert within 5 or 10 minutes of entering the world. Within 30 minutes, they should be at least making an attempt to stand up and start exploring. They should be standing safely within about 3 hours of birth.

Keep an eye on the progress and make sure that the mother is helping and encouraging the process. If they are obstructing the process, you may need to step in or even separate them. Some young mothers just don’t want to have anything to do with the new alpaca Cria.

What To Watch Out For

Breeding Alpaca is essentialWhen you get a hold of the new Cria to do a quick checkup, you want to make sure that you see some teeth starting to poke through. It shouldn’t take long for the teeth to start developing. If you don’t see any progress in growing teeth within the first week, contact your vet.

Another sign that something is wrong is if the Alpaca Cria displays an overall lack of energy. They should be a little ball of energy, running in circles around anyone who will watch. If they are laying down in the barn all day then you should notify a vet as soon as possible.

If your Cria is born during a cold part of the year, it is important to make sure that they stay plenty warm. Their internal organs need warmth in order to do what they are meant to do. Cover your Alpaca with a thick blanket and throw some warm water bottles under the blanket as well.

Most people put their Alpaca Cria in a Cria jacket shortly after it is born. This helps them stay warm while also protecting the fleece from all the playing. Keeping a new Cria warm is one of the keys to survival and without this they will not have a great chance of surviving.

When You Can Relax

The first 4 days are the most critical times in the Alpaca Cria’s life. Most Alpaca breeders will check on their newborns hourly during this period. You will need to make sure that they stay warm and that the bond with their mom.

Their mom should keep them warm at night unless they are sick. If the mom senses that the young Cria is a liability when it comes to predators, they will stay away in an attempt to stay alive themselves. If they do not cuddle with the Cria at night, you will need to provide blankets and maybe even cuddle them yourself.

Once the mom takes over and is responsible for the Alpaca Cria, you can spread your checkups out a little more. Still keep a close eye on progress, but you can check a little less often. Once you hit a week, you should be in the clear. Don’t stop checking all together, but you are less likely to run into problems before you have time to react.

 

Picking The Right Alpaca Herdsire

Picking the right Alpaca herdsire for this generation of your herd can make or break the entire generation at your farm. Choosing a champion Alpaca as your main herdsire can take your herd to the next level instantly. On the opposite spectrum, choosing the wrong one can send you in a downward spiral FAST.

What is a Herdsire?

Picking The Right Alpaca HerdsireA Herdsire is a male Alpaca that you keep primarily for Sir’ing your farm. He is meant to be the daddy to as many females as possible to produce high quality Cria’s and expand the herd. Most large farms have a handful of herdsire’s so that they can continually expand without crossing bloodlines. If your herdsire produces quality offspring that other breeders will even pay a stud fee to have your herdsire breed with their females.

A herdsire should be one of, if not the, best quality male you have on your farm. In order to continually improve the quality of your herd, you need two parents with the best genetic qualities possible. If your herdsire has produces top quality fiber, then most of his offspring will produce the same.

Spare no expense when acquiring your herdsire. If you start with a low quality herdsire, you will need to continually find better quality to improve the quality of your herd. Starting with a top of the line herdsire will allow you to skip a lot of that process and start you at the top.

What to look for

so many to chose fromThe most important thing to look for when selecting a herdsire is to be sure that he does not have any conformation faults. Make sure that the legs are as straight as can be and the bones are thick. If you have a crooked legged herdsire, then you are going to end up with a herd of crooked legged Alpaca.

The second most important thing to look for is the quality and quantity of the fiber. Which herdsire you select will vary greatly depending on your preference here. Most high quality Alpaca will either be producers of a large amount of fiber or producers of the highest quality fiber, but rarely both.

If your entire business is centered on your farm producing as much fiber as possible, then you want to start with a herdsire that produces as much fiber as possible. It’s important to look at more than just how much fiber he produced, but how much was produced in his bloodline.

You should also pay attention to how long they produce this amount of fiber as they age. If they produce 10 lbs. of fiber a year for the first 5 years and then drop to 3 lbs. a year, you should probably look for a different herdsire. You don’t want to bet the farm on something that could turn out like that.

Some farms would rather focus their energy on the quality of the fiber produced. Some farms have been known to have adult Alpaca fiber classified as baby Alpaca grade, which fetches a high premium. If you can get your herd to produce fiber of this quality, you will produce more income.

The last thing to look for in a herdsire is overall “proudness”. You want him to walk up on a hill with his head held high looking like he owns that hill. Good posture and overall proudness will help keep the quality of your Alpaca heard strong.

How to Pick The Right One

Good posture and overall proudness are keyDon’t bet your farm on a young boy that may or may not grow up to be a champion. While he may look like he is going to grow up and be one of the best herdsires of the land, he may not even be able to reproduce when it comes time. You want to have as many potential suitors as you can to begin selecting from.

Many breeders use a process of elimination in order to select the perfect herdsire for their Alpaca herd. They will start with a group of Alpaca and eliminate them from the running as they do not make the standards. When they are “eliminated” from the running, they will be castrated so that they can be kept in the large pack with the females.

The first test for most breeders is how much fiber they produce in their first year. The first year fiber is the softest and worth the most money, but it is the hardest to get as well. Most will suggest that an Alpaca herdsire should produce at least 6 lbs. of fiber with its first cut.

The next test for your young potential herdsire is the results of the second year cut. This is where you will start to see how much fiber they are going to produce over the long haul. You are looking to see over 10 lbs. of fiber here if you want to get your herd producing like the best of them.

As the years go by, you want to make sure that they keep producing a large amount of fiber. As we mentioned earlier, they aren’t a good Alpaca herdsire if they produce a quarter of what they are producing now in a Few years. Keep track of this information so that you can showcase the herdsire as a stud to other Alpaca farms that are looking to create their own head Alpacas.