Alpaca shearing gives animal reprieve from the heat
BEECH ISLAND — A summer hair cut proved to be a great way to beat the heat and take off extra pounds.
It was shearing day at John and Lettie Tolley’s Buena Vista Alpacas, and a herd of 35 alpacas would soon be making a seamless transition to feeling cooler, being relieved of the fleece they’ve been carrying on their bodies. Livingston, Mont.-based Pura Vida Shearing’s Pete Connelly and Nigel Leveret did the shearing and teeth trimming, and Lettie Tolley did the toe trimming on Saturday morning.
“We shear them once a year,” said John Tolley, whose Buena Vista Alpacas has been a fixture on the Aiken County landscape since 2002. “We do it for two purposes, one to harvest the fleece, and the other is to get them through the summer months.”
Jeannie, a Huacaya Alpaca, had her first shearing on Saturday, and was well-behaved, as the process itself was a new experience for the domesticated camelid who hadn’t previously been shorn.
The alpacas are stretched out for their own safety, on mats placed on the floor, with the shearing process taking an average of about five minutes. There were also two sets of ropes, allowing Connelly and Leveret to have two alpacas down simultaneously.
“We’re able to shear one, let it up and walk over and shear the next one,” said Connelly. “And while we’re working on one, another alpaca can be brought in. It takes away the dead time. What that allows us to do is to be as efficient as possible, shear the animals in a safe and efficient way, and to have them in and out before they know what really happened. We’re just getting all that fiber off in an efficient way, and allowing those alpacas to get up with no injuries and walk off.”
The alpaca has a completely different look, bereft of the fleece, giving them a new outlook on life and a cooler way to enjoy the warmer weather.
“They’ll be running around, happy and rolling around in the dirt,” said Connelly. “They have their summer cut.”
Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004. Among the awards Baugh has won include the 2003 Raleigh Burroughs Award as the turf writer making the most impact on the Florida Thoroughbred Industry. Baugh is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, worked for North America’s leading Thoroughbred breeder Adena Springs in Ocala, Fla. And interned at Thoroughbred Racing Communications in New York, N.Y.