Saturday, May 11, 2013

Shearing A Llama: Kara's 1st Haircut!

FINALLY I'm back in the land of camera-computer cords, and can update the blog!  I spent the past week back home in Indiana on the farm, and took lots of pictures as I was busy grooming, washing, and shearing llamas, but I somehow managed to forget the cord that connects the camera to the computer, and thus I couldn't share any of them!  But I'm back in New York now, and want to show off my naked llamas!

But first, the story of a baby llama's first haircut...

In case you don't remember her from previous posts, this is Kara (aka Autumn Hill's Karakoram).  She's the last baby llama we had born on the farm- she was born April 29, 2012.  She's been growing a beautiful fleece for the past year, which even won 2nd place at a llama show last fall (in walking fleece, which is judged on the llama).  It's been getting hot in the Midwest though, so Kara was more than ready to get rid of her heavy fleece.

This is baby Kara, the day she was born.

This is (a very wet-nosed) Kara, looking very grown up at just over a year old.

The first thing that had to be done was lots and LOTS of grooming!  Kara LOVES to get dirty, and her fleece really showed it.  Over the course of 2-3 days, I spent several hours brushing Kara.  Luckily she has her mom's sweet and manageable personality, so most of this was done with her loose in the training pen in our barn (as opposed to being tied in the chute so she doesn't move).  I brushed out the surface of her fleece, which had most of the dirt and grass, and then dug in deep and worked through every other inch of her barrel (belly) area!  I like to use a soft slicker brush when I groom, it gets a lot of debris out, and doesn't seem to pull the fiber.

Kara, BEFORE any grooming!

Grooming Kara out in the training pen.  She laid down about half-way through, but that's still not bad!
The second step was to blow the dirt and dust out of her fleece with a high power blower.  Kara had never had this done to her before, but luckily was very well behaved for it.  (A lot of babies freak out the first time they are blown out!)

Blowing Kara out.  It's not easy with such long fiber!

The AFTER grooming photo, BEFORE shearing.

The third step is another big one...washing!  Luckily Kara had a few other baths last fall for the two shows she went to, so this wasn't as scary for her.  When washing, I first soak the area I want to wash (when shearing I typically only wash the barrel (belly) area), then apply soap/shampoo with a handy contraption that hooks to the hose and dilutes the soap as it is sprayed, scrub just a little, and then rinse REALLY well with plain water.  I walk the llama around a bit to shake a good amount of water out, and then either stake them in the yard or put them in a pen to dry.  Kara isn't stake trained (yet!), so she and her mom Bluff went into a pen beside the barn to dry for a few hours.  I washed them around 10am, and Kara was still slightly damp when I sheared her about 8pm.

Kara getting washed.

Kara trying to escape from her pen beside the barn.

And last but not least, I do the actual shearing.  With Kara (and most baby llamas), I first removed the fiber with scissors, and then went back with electric horse clippers and smoothed out the cut.  She looked a bit ridiculous before I smoothed her out!  As I shear I'm very careful to place the fiber in a clean bucket or paper bag, and don't let it touch the ground.  This year I found a handy bucket that would hang on the doors of the chute, which made it easier to deposit the fiber.  And as I should have expected, Kara was an absolute angel when I sheared her!  She was rather worried while I sheared Bluff before it was her turn, but once she got in the chute she mellowed out very well.  Lots of grain helps too!

Shearing Kara, just starting on the second side.  You can see how rough her coat looks after the hand-shearing portion!

Now I have a beautiful shorn llama, and an even more beautiful bag of shorn fleece that I get to spin!  Kara's fleece was sold as handspun yarn as part of our new CSA program, so I get to process and spin all of her fiber, and then send it off to a very lucky person!

And the final AFTER shot!  I'm not the world's best shearer, so her cut is still a bit rough, but in a month you'll never be able to tell.  Kara is now much happier (and cooler!), and I can't wait to spin up her fiber!

I'll make another post soon with before and after pictures of the rest of the herd!

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