Last month was farrier day for the horses and shearer day for the alpacas!
It was a very different scene this year, as opposed to two years ago, when I and had a broken ankle and had just bought the two alpacas.
Then, both Thelma and Louise had to be cornered using a rope and then caught, by Rick the shearer, and his helper. However, once they were caught and halters had been adjusted to fit their heads, they were very easy to handle. (I was so glad that I had bought two 2-way adjustable, extra-large sized alpaca halters at the alpaca show in Denver the week before. I didn't know what size to get, but I had read about the 2-way (nose and crown) adjustments and decided that was the way to go. (The halters I had been looking at locally were not adjustable). Best investment ever! The halter adjusts large enough to fit an unshaven adult and small enough to fit baby Sophie.)
They led surprisingly easily, after a short tug-of-war test, walking all the way over to the barn without incident. But when it came time for the shearing, each of them cushed, laying down with legs folded up. It took the helper, my son, and daughter to roll the alpacas around so that Rick could shave them on all sides. They kicked at us and spat at the horses when they were tied to the railing. Not happy!
But this year was much better overall.
I wanted to have them ready for shearing by combing out their coats so I 'captured' Thelma and made a makeshift halter out of a piece of rope around her head snugging it up high on the bridge of her nose. I have read that alpacas (and llamas) have a short bone structure in their nasal area so a halter cannot sit low on the nose like a horse because it cuts off the air intake which causes them to panic. Thelma is easier to handle than Louise so I figured she would be best behaved without a real halter. I tied her up and went after the other two. The part on her nose was actually tightened up so that it rode higher on her nose after I took this picture.
I cornered Louise and haltered her. Now I had all three tied up in the barn. I was ready to begin grooming them. I wanted their fleece to be clean for the shearing. I had purchased a dog comb and a detangler comb. I tried using them but the alpaca fleece was three-five inches thick and I decided it was just too much of a task. Rick told me he was bringing a blower and that combing was not necessary so I figured I'd just go with his way.
Rick came alone and my kids weren't available, so it was just the two of us handling them. And he forgot his blower.
We decided to do Thelma first because she is the easiest to handle, even with a makeshift halter. She did very well, standing the whole time. Rick also gave a booster shot because I am squeamish about sticking needles into living things. He also trimmed her toenails but by now she was getting really pissed off. I could smell the bile in her mouth as she prepared to spit. We decided that her uncut toenails didn't look too long, enough was enough, and let her go.
Sophie stood with her mother, Louise, and watched all the activity with Thelma, curious, but uncertain. Then it was her turn. I held her head up and she reluctantly stood for the shearing. She was very antsy so we missed a few spots on her legs and she also has long whiskers on her face. She didn't mind the shearing too much but she really didn't like having her toenails clipped. This was the second time she's had her toenails clipped. Once, I had the farrier trim her nails, because they were long and curled under and it was hard for her to walk. Both Louise and Sophie grow long, curled toenails whereas Thelma's break off regularly.
This was the only picture I got of the shearing process because I was so busy helping. That is not blood! It's dirt and hair.
Thelma looks so happy she looks like she's smiling. And Louise and Sophie look like miserable!
Notice how in the two previous photos, the alpacas all turn their heads the same way in synchronicity.
And Sophie "after". Doesn't she look so grown up now?
Ain't Got No Hair: song - Ashes to Ashes, artist- David Bowie, album- Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)