25 May 2006

How to Shear a Pack of Alpacas

Alpaca shearing
Originally uploaded by Katherine H.
About a year ago, my co-worker Patrick started talking about alpacas. Sure, I’d seen the furry critters on occasion during drives through the countryside, but I knew relatively little about them. Smaller than a llama, native to the Andean mountain range, perhaps related to the camel? That was about the extent of my random knowledge.

Then last fall, Patrick bought four alpacas. I told him that when shearing time came around, I’d be interesting in seeing the process. The date was set, and off I went with my camera in hand to observe.

Monte Bella Ranch is located along a ridge of hills in Sherwood. As the name suggests, it is a beautiful area for both mountain and valley views. Due to typical Oregon spring rains, the animals had been sharing quarters in a neighbor’s barn for a couple of days in order to dry out their coats before shearing.

The crew was quick and efficient. They had an alternating system that allowed over 30 animals to be sheered in about 3 hours. Eddie, the shearer, hails from New Zealand. He spends six months of the year in Oregon working the circuit, and then returns to the southern hemisphere to continue through the shearing season there.

I spent some time bagging and labeling fleece with Mickie, a friend of the family that owns the farm, who had flown out from Florida for the event. She has a beautiful dark-haired alpaca named Hershey that has produced two equally striking offspring named Hugs and Special Dark.

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