Over 90 Alpacas Get Naked

White alpacas get shorn first

White alpacas get shorn first

Shearing alpacas kept us busy on St. Patrick’s Day at Fairhope Alpacas with 92 alpacas to shear. Shearing day is about working hard and working together towards a common goal.

Me and Jim - our first year shearing together

Me and Jim - our first year shearing together

Alpacas must be shorn once a year to keep them healthy. Shearing prevents heat stress in warmer temperatures.

Jim Carries Suzie Q Over to be Shorn

Jim Carries Suzie Q Over to be Shorn

First the alpacas are led to the shearing area where they are tied with ropes. This may look mean, but it keeps them still while the shearer takes off the fleece. If they wiggle they may get cut by the shears so keeping them from moving is essential.

Helping keep the cria calm

Helping keep the cria calm

While we have them “captive” we trim their toenails…

Jim gives an alpaca a pedicure

Jim gives an alpaca a pedicure

…and their teeth. (if they need it)

Dental work for alpacas who need a touch up

Dental work for alpacas who need a touch up

Did you know that alpacas’ teeth continually grow? For years alpacas lived in the Andes mountains and the rocky terrain wore their teeth down as they grazed. In the U.S. our pastures are so soft that sometimes their teeth need to be trimmed. Fortunately we have a tool called the Toothamatic that makes it easy to do.

Shorn Alpacas

Shorn Alpacas

This is what the fleece looks like right as it comes off the alpaca:

Fawn Alpaca Fleece

Fawn Alpaca Fleece

The whole family helps on shearing day. It’s definitely a team effort.

The girls helped put the fleece in bags

The girls help put the fleece in bags

Hey Girl...I got this. Why dont you just go get a drink?

"Hey Girl...I got this. Why don't you just go get a drink?"

Jim was amazing!  And when our sire Magnum kicked a hole in his pants (crotch area naturally), he just laughed.

This is only a small portion of what we sheared

Only a portion of what we sheared

By the time we were finished, we had harvested over 400 lbs. of luxurious alpaca fleece!

Ready for Summer

Ready for Summer

And the alpacas are cool and happy!

This year my pictures didn’t come out as well as I would have liked. To see more pictures of alpaca shearing check out:

We Sheared 97 Alpacas on Saturday!

Plants that are Toxic to Alpacas

Azaleas

Recently I was asked a question about whether or not alpacas would consume their owners’ bushes. I responded that alpacas will sample almost all the flora and fauna to which they are exposed. However, they are pickier than goats and will only eat lots of what they like. (Provided they have a good hay and/or forage source.)

With this in mind it is important to be aware of what plants you have in the areas where you do want to keep your alpacas.  Some plants are toxic to alpacas and you won’t want them around these.

When we first began raising alpacas our neighbor pointed out to us that we had the toxic weed, crotalaria, growing in our field. Newbies at the time, this was a surprise. When we had broken up the soil for planting our pasture grass, we scraped the crotalaria seeds (which HAD BEEN dormant!) and the crotalaria began to grow like crazy.

To rid the fields of the crotalaria we have to pull each plant up individually, by the root, and remove it from the field. Of course it grows in the heat of summer, making for some strenuous weeding work during the hottest part of year.

Crotalaria

Other toxic plants that we have on the farm are azaleas, acorns and pine needles. The azaleas are in the front yard, far removed from the alpacas. But our fields have oak and pine trees in them so we do get their little droppings of acorns and pine needles.

I have read that acorns and pine needles are poisonous. However, in thirteen years of raising alpacas, we have not had a problem with that. I have seen alpacas eat both acorns and pine needles. But since they have access to free choice hay and usually some pasture grass, the alpacas do not eat much of those things. I try to keep the pine needles raked up so that they don’t make a cover over the good forage.

Here is a reference for a comprehensive listing of plants that are toxic to alpacas. Once you read it you may feel like everything is toxic it has so many plants on it. Interestingly, when I read it I was surprised to learn that poinsettias are NOT toxic. I’ve always believed they were.

Always check with your veterinarian and/or your local agricultural agent to find out what plants in your area may be harmful to your animals. Some other resources on the subject:

Can Your Vegetable Garden Be Harmful to Your Alpacas?

The Alpaca Breeder’s Rough Guide to Poisonous Plants

Managing Your Ranch For Poisonous Plants

Have you had any experience with toxic plants? If so, leave a comment and tell us about it.

Transporting Alpacas

My husband, Jim Cocking, used to be a serious alpaca transporter. That is probably how we got to be such good friends. Jim hauled many an alpaca for me and my alpaca friends.

The life of a transporter is truly an adventure fraught with challenges of all sorts. I could listen to him tell stories about his transporting days for hours on end. (I think I will turn on a tape recorder next time so that I can write them down for you. They are fascinating!)

I ran across a post on the Myths of Transporting on Crystal Springs Alpacas’ website. It talks about a lot of the extra care good alpaca transporters use when hauling our precious paca babies. The author writes a lot about Jim’s transport business and tells a few of Jim’s stories. Read more here.

I know when we go to pick up our 30 new alpacas in Montana, I will be super glad I have Jim at the wheel!