For alpacas it all happens fast, under 5 minutes from start to finish. While some will whine, most are very mild mannered while being tied down and sheared.Expert Brent Winslow travels across the country each year to shave thousands of alpacas. He says tying them down is the safest way for the animals and the crew.On Ann's farm the the crew includes her friends, and family. Some are first timers and other have years of experience like Ann's daughter-in law Kim.
â??It's physically demanding,â?? says Kim. As a helper in the shearing pen she moves quickly from place to place, holding down the animal at times.Kim's daughter Taylor moved from the lunch crew into the ring this year working quickly to gather and bag the fiber after it's sheared.
â??I collect the fiber at the right time and get out of the way,â?? says Taylor.
While the fiber looks like wool from a sheep, it has no lanolin and is hypoallergenic. The fiber is taken off following a pattern with great care to protect its value. The largest and best piece called the blanket comes off first.
â??Number 2 is the neck, number 3 the legs,â?? says Winslow as he describes the pattern of his work.
To make sure the animal's coat is as clean as possible before the fiber hits the ground, Ann grooms them with a toilet brush.
â??There are two types of alpacas,â?? describes Ann. Huacaya have fluffy coats and Suri's are more silky and stringy.
The beautiful bounty from these creatures is how Ann makes her money. The quality of the fiber depends on the age and breed of the animal. The finest fiber is made into sweaters, the rest can go to make rugs or dog beds.
Ann cleans, dyes and spins the fiber from her alpacas.
Sandy Kulash buys some of the fiber for her yarn store in St. Louis. Her customers will crochet and weave them into all sorts of beautiful garments. The hours she volunteers on shearing day will give her a wealth of stories to tell her customers about the experience and how the animals are treated.