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Annual haircut for our cudly friends the alpacas

Alpaca shearing takes place once a year and this year was the first time Kari-Helene was there to take part. This is her experiences from the weekend at the farm. 

Early mornings are usually not my strong point, but when my alarm went off at 6am this particular Friday I felt very excited and ready to go! After a quick breakfast, Tracy and I headed off on the 45 min drive from Cambridge to Houghton Hall Alpaca Farm were shearing was taking place this weekend. It was a stunning morning particularly after weeks of torrential rain!

When we got there Ben, the shearer, and his assistant, Ruth, were already in action and we hurried into our position at the skirting table. It was a glorious day, sunny and warm and the alpacas were probably glad to be rid of their heavy layer of fleece.
This photo is of the pen with the alpacas waiting for their turn; fleece intact. Dusty was amongst them and Tracy took the opportunity to say hello and feed her an apple.

Shearing is a highly necessary process for the alpacas to go through. It prevents the alpacas from getting flystrike and it stops them getting too hot when the real summer kicks in. They also get their toenails cut and have their teeth checked and if necessary filed. A proper alpaca MOT!

The alpacas are stretch out on a table with their feet fastened. This is to prevent the alpaca from moving whilst shearing and for the skin to be kept taught so it doesn’t get caught in the clippers. The shearing itself is so quick! Ben is a very experienced shearer, he is super busy in England all summer and then heads down to Australia for our winter, and he works really quickly. In a few minutes the whole fleece comes of!
Here is Tracy by the shearing table, and the little alpaca on the table is Havana. She is just about a year old and this is her first time. She was very cool with it all!

The best part of the fleece is the blanket, which is taken from the back and sides. These pieces are put on the skirting table where Tracy and I are standing ready to do our bit. Sometimes, the neck can also be of good quality and is brought over to us for skirting. The fleece from the legs and tail go into bags that we collect for Paul from Penrose products. He makes amazing alpaca duvets and cushions, so nothing goes to waste!

Tracy and I sort through the fleeces, taking off the edges where the fibre is usually coarse, and picking out any low quality fibre. Low quality can be short, coarse or straight fibre, and we don’t want any of that in our yarn! Sometimes there are good quality fibre that we for some reason can’t put in our first grade yarn production and that goes into separate bags. This year we are doing something with our second quality fibre and it is quite exciting. We can’t tell you what just yet, but we are hoping to have it ready to show you at Alexandra Palace in October.

After the alpaca has completed it’s make-over, it is let down from the table and runs out of the shed looking all scrawny and skinny and ready for another year of fleece growing. We are so grateful to these fabulous animals for producing such a lovely product for us to work with!

The day usually finishes around 7pm and we would just about have energy left to call the pizza take away to place an order on the way home in the car. Great fun – but very hard work!

On Friday 11th May, Catherine, Julie and team came to take video footage of the day’s proceedings so images can be added to our Create and Craft shows.  It won’t be ready for Sunday 27th of May, 2012, (at 8am) but will be for our June show.  We look forward to seeing it too.

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