Annual shearing gets alpacas ready for summer

 

Delaware State News/Dave Chambers From right, volunteer Mike Mock of Rehoboth Beach gathers the shaved wool as Nathan Good of York, Pa., shears an alpaca with help from Justin Stuber, 19, also of York. (Delaware State News photos by Dave Chambers)

From right, volunteer Mike Mock of Rehoboth Beach gathers the shaved wool as Nathan Good of York, Pa., shears an alpaca with help from Justin Stuber, 19, also of York. (Delaware State News photos by Dave Chambers)

CAMDEN –– With warm weather settling in for the season, 10 alpacas at Push Me Pull Me Acres underwent their annual shearing Tuesday morning to shed about 10 pounds of fiber each.

“Their fiber grows continuously so they are sheared once a year, and especially with our climate, if they weren’t sheared, they would be at risk of overheating during the summer,” owner Robyn Bose said.

Before they get sheared and on especially hot days, the alpacas will cool off in their water basins, causing the owners to change the water two or more times per day during the warmer months.

Alpacas at Push Me Pull Me Acres farm in Camden received annual shearings Tuesday to help keep them cool for the upcoming summer. Above, professional shearer Nathan Good of York, Pa., grooms Sophie.

Alpacas at Push Me Pull Me Acres farm in Camden received annual shearings Tuesday to help keep them cool for the upcoming summer. Above, professional shearer Nathan Good of York, Pa., grooms Sophie.

Ms. Bose and her husband, David, were helped by a group of friends and family and most importantly a professional shearer to get the alpacas in summer shape.

Some of the alpacas weren’t very keen on being sheared with a couple needing to be dragged to the shearer, a service provided by Shear Perfection.

“Some of them can be pretty fussy about it, and it really depends on their individual personality,” Ms. Bose said, pointing out a particularly fussy alpaca, Sophie, who let out cries when getting positioned to be sheared.

“She really doesn’t like this because not only can she be uncooperative at times, but before we got her, she didn’t have much human contact. So it’s really uncomfortable for her to have people handling her like this.”

She added that Sophie has her good qualities too, such as being protective of the young in the herd and helping other moms with their motherly duties.

Before shearing, each alpaca is weighed and given its annual vaccinations. While the alpacas’ body and legs are sheared, an assistant cuts the nails and trims the head.

“We have to cut the nails about twice a year and their heads never get totally sheared because their fiber does a lot to keep bugs and the sun out of their eyes,” Ms. Bose said.

After it’s over, it’s quickly apparent that the alpacas feel better without their extra pounds of fiber. After having their bridles removed and placed back in their pasture, each relaxed, trotted around and socialized with the others.

After each alpaca is sheared, its fiber get bagged, labeled and weighed because nothing goes to waste. All the fiber from the farm is sent to the Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America where it is cleaned, spun and used for a variety of goods and garments.

Push Me Pull Me Acres owner David Bose prepares to give his alpaca Bob one of his routine vaccinations Tuesday before the animal gets sheared.

Push Me Pull Me Acres owner David Bose prepares to give his alpaca Bob one of his routine vaccinations Tuesday before the animal gets sheared.

Compared to sheep’s wool, alpaca fiber is soft (no barbs, allowing it to be worn directly on skin), warmer, more water-resistant and hypoallergenic, making it an ideal material for knitting blankets and garments.

Members of the Cooperative are able to buy back the yarn or products made from the fiber they collected at wholesale prices to sell at their shops. The Boses have a store on their farm that sells a variety of alpaca fiber items.

Alpaca fiber also comes in many different colors, ranging from pure black to snow white and a variety of browns and combination colors in between. It’s nearly impossible to predict what color an offspring will be regardless of its parents’ coloring.

Andy is the most docile alpaca on the farm, seeking human attention and enjoying a good pet. He is a fawn color, despite both his parents having black fiber.

“You never really know how they will turn out, but if we do get a color that we really like, we will breed the same two alpacas and try to get a similar result,” Ms. Bose said.

Although the Bose family only began their alpaca farm with five animals in 2010, they have become very familiar with nearly every aspect of alpaca farming.

“We’ve taken classes on most things and everything else, we have learned through reading or our relationships with other alpaca owners,” Ms. Bose said.

For the most part, Ms. Bose said alpacas are easy to care for. They eat specially formulated grain for alpacas, hay and also graze on grass. They only eat the top of the blades, never the roots, so their grazing doesn’t kill off the grass.

Alpacas remain a manageable size, never get larger than 200 pounds (the Boses heaviest one is 162 pounds) and they are a non-aggressive animal, although their curiosity could be mistaken for aggression at times.

 

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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