Good Morning from Fallengrund Alpacas!
I have to much that I have experienced in the last few weeks since MOPACA. To top off this post is our wild Mid-western weather! Mother nature must be having a great laugh lately, giving us 70 degrees one day, thunder storms and flooding the next, and the possibility of snow on the third day. I’ve had to hold back on doing a lot of work outside because of this roller coaster, and plan quickly when the weather decides to play nicely.
We were recently at Stone Bluffs Alpacas Farm for shearing day, and What a day it was! This was my first time experiencing this waltz of fiber flying, alpaca wrangling and happy exhaustion.
Mom, Dad, and I went to Missouri the day before so that we could be at the farm early the next morning. We arrived and began to set up tables as well as clean up the paddocks and lay mats down for the process. Carol had invited others to join and watch the process, and we were all designated a job. Mine…..Alpaca Wrangler. I was excited and ready to go, knowing several of the girls are pregnant ( some due in just a few short weeks) and knew that these were the girls who would give me the most grief.
Once the shearing team arrived, it began like a well oiled machine. These guys are honestly AMAZING, completely set up and ready to go in just a few moments, so we began with the gelded males and the yearling males. All these boys were so extremely easy going and easy to catch, halter and move to the pads for shearing. Ace of Hearts, of course, was left alone as we at Fallengrund were planing on showing him in Kansas City at the Small Breeders Challenge.
I would wrangle and halter, then hand over a boy, then find another, as the fiber flew! Carol had some of her friends gathering bags of 1sts with slips of paper in their bags with their name, and date, as well as a 4 inch section to be sent off and analyzed. After the 1sts were collected, then another bag was set down and the 2nds were gathered in this quick process, teeth being trimmed, nails being trimmed, and suddenly they were done! The boys quickly returned NAKED of fiber the next was done.
It all moved so fluidly with the boys, and I was quickly in the pen and paddock area with the girls and cria. We moved from lightest to darkest with the girls. Athena, being one of the lightest, was fairly easy to catch given all the other girls around her. I was shocked when she stood with me, unconcerned and at ease for being pregnant. The last time I had seen her pregnant, she was none to happy with me, and Carol for catching her and placing the halter on her. As soon as she was sheared, and mom had collected the square of her fiber, she was set free to another paddock and Bridget was placed on the mat for her first shearing.
I swear to you now, it was the sweetest thing I have ever seen. This little girl of ours laying on the mat, so quietly ( unlike some of the others who would cry and spit) The sheerer leaned down and moved the fiber from her eyes and she had them CLOSED! LOL!!! In the well know ” If I can’t see you, you can’t see me” move, classically used by small children everywhere. Everyone had stopped what they were doing just to watch the youngest and smallest of the Alpacas be sheared. Lots of “Awe’s” and ” Oh’s” as her fiber was gathered, quickly she was handed back to me, where I carried her out to her mom and laughed at this tiny, stick figure of an alpaca rush away from me humming to find Athena.
We continued moving through the morning this way. Shearing a number of the females before we reached the other babies and then pregnant girls. April put me through a work out, not wanting to be haltered nor did she want to be around me, but I held tight. If this is remotely close to being a bull rider, I think I would have gotten a trophy LOL!
While this is going on, I see Mom is gathering fiber and bagging with 3 other women, and Dad was helping with rotating and moving them while they were tied, and then I realized….Reina was next. At this point the pen had thinned out greatly and Reina had that look in her eyes…she knew she was next. I don’t know what else she was thinking as I took the halter and lead over to her. I caught her and haltered her as quickly as possible. She wasn’t spitting at me, she was blowing air at me, ears back, body tense, but she stopped moving. I had no idea that this would be the calm before the storm! I got the halter secure to her, when she suddenly shifted and tossed me into the barn wall, another shift again and I was into the fence, my hand holding on to the halter and lead for dear life. I was NOT letting go of her, because she was NOT going to allow me to catch her again. She pulled, so I pulled. There was a moment, when our eyes met and we came to a very unhappy understanding. She knew she could toss me around all she wanted, but I was not going to let go. I spoke softly to her, though she wasn’t having any of it. I think she is going to remember this, hold it against me, and until the cria she carries arrives….she will have nothing to do with me.
Since we had moved on to the dark females, Mousse was taken from the pen with the remaining girls, and put into what I proclaimed as ” Freedom Paddock” getting sniffed by all of the other girls. They couldn’t understand why they were standing naked of all their fiber, and she was still a fluffy teddy bear. There were glares from some girls to her because she hadn’t suffered the same injustice of being wrangled, haltered, and led to lay down and be shaved naked. How dare she stand before them all in such glory! Little did the other girls know, she would be taken to Kansas City to be surrounded by other Alpacas and judged! ( this is almost a fate worse than death for Mousse since she has experienced all the people, lights, noise, travel and the annoyance of a yearling male who thinks she has a nice crimp 😉 )
Finally all of the females and babies were finished, all moved to Freedom Paddock and it was time for the Herd Sires. These Males are AMAZING. Big, Strong, beautiful, testosterone filled boys who would sooner roll in beans then be caught. I can tell you that Don Juan has a kick hard enough that I thought for certain he had fractured my leg. It sent a white hot, sharp pain down and out my toes. What Don Juan didn’t know, is I have little fear, and a whole lot of chutzpah. I haltered him and handed him off to the amazing shearing team who was still moving at the same quick pace as they started with. Then it was Zane’s turn, and finally….Stewart St.John. I was in total awe of these males, watching the fiber come off them, their total male stud attitude and power of these boys! After all Carol’s ( and our) Herd was finished, we rounded out the day, having 2 others Alpacas from a friend of Carol’s done, and suddenly all was quiet.
Out of breath, exhausted, and hungry as ever, I realized the pinkie on my left hand was throbbing and extremely bruised. I had to think back to when I would have caused harm to myself ( I have to do this a lot, I am accident prone) and realized it took place when I had wrangled Reina. Ah….a dislocated finger.( It has since been…put back in it’s place)
Mom and Dad stayed the night at the hotel, to worn out to drive home, and I changed clothes and headed back here to the farm filled with a sense of pride and happy exhaustion from the days events. The Alpacas were in such better moods the next day, Mom and Dad took pictures of them all sunning themselves and laying out in the sun, blissfully naked of all that heavy wonderful fiber. I will admit I am glad that shearing is only once a year. I couldn’t imagine having to orchestrate all of it twice or three times a year. Next shearing will be done here, on our farm, so it will be our machine that is to be well oiled and move fluidly with the process.