Shearing Day

The perfect combination of weather, time, and Grandmama to care for infant finally arrived and it was shearing day. We have six fiber animals - two Angora rabbits, an alpaca, a llama and two sheep. We're about to acquire a few more sheep, having gone through winter with these two and sharpened the learning curve regarding their needs.

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There is a decision-making triangle for farming - time, effort, money - pick two sides because you don't get all three. If it will save time or effort, if will cost you money; if it will save money, it will cost you in either time or effort and so on. In the case of shearing, we opted for the extra time and effort required to hand shear the animals. A $30 pair of hand shears beat the cost of buying electric clippers, plus the cost of having the blades professionally sharpened (Frank loves to sharpen things and assures me that clipper blades is NOT something you want to tackle).

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The additional benefits to hand shearing are 1) we love doing things the "old timey" way, and 2) it leaves about a two-week hair growth on the animals, reducing the shock of the clip, as well as the whole experience being less emotional/traumatizing.

Although, Maddrey was traumatized by concerns that she would either slice the sheep open with the hand shears (they're SHARP), or that the process would take forever (it didn't). She's got 10,000 hours experience with electric clippers from clipping horses, but hand shears and leaping, kicking alpaca and young sheep being sheared the first time is a horse of a different color.

The llama had been clipped earlier in the month, so Frank just had to run down and rope the alpaca. Quite a sight to watch my son lope across the pasture, swinging his cowboy rope, outrunning an alpaca. Apparently, it's his favorite part of the process. After watching him wrestle a few times, holding Sunny still, I could see why. You want a nice strong animal handler to get a nice clip. It's certainly possible to hand shear sheep with one person, but life is easier with two. And Frank was pretty busy managing Sunny, the alpaca, so I'm not sure one person could do that without getting kicked or stomped a bit. Although the sheep were so relaxed, they were lying in the yard, eating grass during the process.

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