items - View Cart
Faith and Fleece Alpacas - Logo
Facebook

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

The Harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few

Zendaya about 9 months old

Zendaya about 9 months old

Nearly every shearing season we feel the harvest is plentiful and there could probably not be such thing as too many laborers. Shearing season, which may be different times of the year depending on location & temperatures, etc., in Southern California we are some of the earliest to shear. Alpaca fleece is extremely warm - I've heard references to it being second in thermal properties to polar bears. I've also heard references that at 60 degrees in full fleece they are uncomfortable. Postponing shearing this year due to Covid 19 was not deemed a good option for the herd. With unknown status of Covid-19 restrictions to keep down the spread of the virus, shearers may not have been able to travel and/or accommodate us in their schedule to make a "later" trip to us. In a typical year our temperatures could heat up considerably any day. I can tell you those fleeces felt warm coming off each animal at a cool 60 degrees. With a stay home order for those not deemed essential, caring for livestock and animals is considered essential. Scripture says a Good shepherd will lay down his life for his sheep - this year felt a little bit like that. Risking social distancing to care for the herd to avoid the chance of over heating was deemed necessary care. We did limit the amount of harvest helpers, we had sanitizer, masks & gloves available and we got the job done the best we could.

These animals are so uniquely adorable that we often want to treat them like pets. If I could, I might "groom" quite a few animals & give way to some creative cuts or keep just the right look for their type. There have been years where I feel so sad that some beautiful, long eyelashes got buzzed off or facial hair was removed that I had hoped to keep. However when maintaining a larger herd and the amount of work it is, gathering them all, cleaning/grooming and record keeping - labeling their fleece bags and getting on your knees and scooping up the harvest off the shears, you have to keep the momentum going to get the job done. On a typical year even with a slew of helpers this is a daunting & exhausting task. Add Covid 19 precautions and then rain in the forecast and the need for "over drive" arrived. It felt like we utilized every ounce of energy and muscle in each body present. Farmers that do labor day in, and day out, have my utmost respect!

The shearers worked to keep the mats clean to keep the fiber from one animal seperate from the next. Thankfully, not only did we get it done, it was accomplished safely & effectively. We were blessed with the least amount of any nicks or sores. Some alpacas may have sebaceous cysts that accidentally get opened or a sudden jerk from an animal results in a slight wound. Most of shearing I was back and forth to both shearing stations and honestly didn't see one wound this year. Truly an astounding shearing performance that we are so grateful to our shearers for.

While my amateur videos and photos don't do justice to the fleeces being "harvested". To describe the billowing cloud of a beautiful huacaya fleece coming off, or the shine of a suri with twisty locks would be too difficult. To see the process in person is a sight to behold. (Mind you sometimes it comes with noise and other alpaca bodily odors lol). The photos are of the one and only I fussed with the shearers just a little over. It really did hold up the shearers to take additional time and effort to keep the fuller face on her. Year prior we kept too much facial fleece and not only did they get labeled cake pops, the judges pointed out it was hard to assess their conformation. While some fleece faces grow back, most often their fleece thins out over the next year or so and that looks even more odd having a fluffy ring around their neck.

Either way, we finished just before rain. Well actually it was raining but we had numbers down enough that we could halter them up under shelter to save those fleeces. Once again grateful to all those who labored in the harvest. Maybe even moreso this year than others. Meanwhile, we have quite a few fleeces to organize and get to their respectful owners. We plan at some point to get around to utlizing the harvest. Will they be designer scarves, blankets, rugs or just cozy warm wear, dryer balls or something new! We wish a happy, safe harvest to the rest of the alpaca owners. Stay healthy, we will likely never forget the virus shear year.
about 8 months growth

about 8 months growth

just sheared

just sheared

crimpy, bright & fine fleece

crimpy, bright & fine fleece

blanket across the dining room table lol

blanket across the dining room table lol