Saturday, August 8, 2015

Alpaca madness


Just getting started.
Today was the day we were going to bust out the shearing on eight alpaca.  We had a plan, I had attempted to recruit help but it failed miserably so it was just Annmarie and I.  I had to stop and pickup some tent stakes and a wire saw at D and B store before coming home.  When I got home I went upstairs to change but could not find any work pants.  I like the cargo pants as you can fill them up with various handy small tools.  I just grabbed a pair of blue jeans out of the drawer.  All blue jeans are work pants!  I then went down to the dining room and watched a you tube video on how to install cutter heads onto the electric shear we purchased off of Craigslist several months ago.  After 6 minutes I had the head on and adjusted correctly per the video with the understanding that when in use I would need to "find the sweet spot" of tightness to get the cutters at their optimum performance, I love technical terms.  I then went out and put out four flakes of hay in the barn lot and opened up the gates so I could run the alpacas from the orchard into the ram pasture then into the back barn lot then into the front barn lot then into the corral.  It sounded simple enough, we do it all the time with the sheep.  I had strung an extension cord from the front yard up to the corral and gotten some tools and the dremel.  I went over and started to gently coax the alpaca toward the gate into the ram pasture.  Now mind you I was not ready to shear yet as I needed to stake out the canvas tarp and get the hoof trimmers and a hacksaw and install a eye ring into the top of the one of the corral posts.  Annmarie spotted me and asked me if maybe I should be ready to shear the alpaca before getting them all riled up. 

When all else fails, this stops forward movement.
So I went back and got everything ready.  We both then went to get the alpaca.  We managed to get them right in front of the open gate into the ram pasture and they simply would not go through it!  So I went back to the barn and got some sticks.  We use them as arm extensions.  We got them all balled up near the gate opening again and they would not go through, no matter how much poking and prodding we did, until they started escaping.  So the plan to shear does not work if you cannot catch an animal.  We followed them and ended up with five of them on the hillside with fence on one side and front spring ditch on the other side.  Annmarie asked me if they would jump the ditch.  I said "sure, I see them on both sides of the ditch all the time", after further questioning it was determined that I may have not actually seen them jump the ditch. I jumped the ditch and we cornered them near the end of the fence.  I had a brand new five foot wooden neck crook and was going to hook one then grab it.  This did not work for me earlier as I was staring intently at said alpaca every time I got close to one.  They can smell a predator from fifty feet away!  This time Annmarie told me not to stare and maybe just go with the trusty two handed hair grab technique I had perfected this winter.  The tried and true sounded good after several failures.  I waded in slowly not looking at any beast and then leaped on the nearest victim.  I had two handfuls of hair on the first grab and quickly worked my way up to the neck and head to control the lucky volunteer.  Annmarie put a harness on it and started to "lead", drag it toward the barn.  I opened the gate and of course half the alpaca wanted to sneak out with us.  We thought they would follow.  Nope, they ran away the opposite direction.  Zeke and I went and chased them back while Annmarie led the volunteer.  He decided at one point that pulling on the lead was not working so sitting on the ground does stop forward momentum.  She managed to get him going again and into the barn lot. I just pointed the other four alpaca in that direction and they followed the volunteer right into the barn lot.  I closed the gate and now we had the first five participants in our little learning exercise. 
Those are my pants! Only about 2.5 hours into the first alpaca shearing.

We kept trading off the shearing.
We tied him up to the ring and started shearing.  It is not easy and we were pretty timid to start out as we did not want to cut him with the shears.  That "sweet spot" on the shears is very hard to find.  I spent a lot of time screwing around with the shears.  We were trying to save the fleece, after the first 30 minutes we decided that just getting the old fleece off was the most important task and salvaging any thing was not going to happen.  I trimmed two feet somewhere in the middle of all this with minimum trouble.  I nicked the blood vessel on the third foot and made his toenail bleed a little.  I did the final foot with no blood.  I noticed Annmarie wearing my favorite work pants about one hour into the process.  It took us three hours!  It is hard work and the sun was beating down.  Annmarie ended up with sun burns to both upper arms.  We had to continuously go back over our cuts to get a better cut.  It is a very hard skill and one I am not sure I will be able to master.  That $30/animal they were charging to shear is looking like a better deal.  We expected the hair to get cleaner closer to the skin but the alpaca just kept getting dirtier.  He really needed a bath by the time we were all done.  I still need to cut off his front teeth and check his fighting teeth but I was unsure how to do that.  I had to go watch more you tube videos!!  I locked all five animals in the barn lot and opened it up so they can get to the back barn lot and the front spring.  I hope to start shearing again on Tuesday. 
As an added bonus, Annmarie spotted another set of new twin baby sheep they are less than five days old and I walked over to them and there are no ear tags.  So they are definitely new since we tagged last.  One more thing to catch up on.  I need to get the animals sheared then I can go back to the irrigation pump. 
I think it is a crazed rabbit!! A Giant Filthy JackRabbit!!