How often do alpacas get shorn?

Alpacas are shorn each year to remove their fleece, allowing them to keep cool over the summer months. Shearing also helps prevent health issues such as sores and entanglement, leading to circulation restriction, which can result from fleece that is left to grow unmanaged. The fibre is cut using specialist shearing clippers. The skin is left intact - much like when we have a haircut, just the hair is removed and the fibre is simply a by-product of this annual husbandry task.

How often do alpacas need their hair cut?

Alpacas are shorn annually, usually in springtime around May-June here in the UK. This works well, as the alpacas are then usually shorn before birthing and/or mating occurs, which helps keep the dam (mother) clean during and after birthing. This significantly reduces the risk of flystrike, and prevents infection entering the vaginal canal and strangulation of the male’s penis during mating (yes, this can happen when alpacas are in full fleece!).

Can a sheep shearer be hired to shear an alpaca?

We recommend using a specialist alpaca shearer, as alpacas are shorn in a completely different way to sheep.

How much does it cost to shear an alpaca?

This totally depends upon your herd size - the more alpacas you have, the cheaper it is per head (usually). Expect to pay around £15-£30 per alpaca plus mileage expenses. The shearer will normally offer teeth checking and feet trimming at the same time.

How do you restrain an alpaca for shearing?

Alpacas are big, strong animals and far too large to be held in the same way as sheep when being shorn. So, for the safety of the shearer and the alpaca, they are gently restrained. A mat is laid on the floor for the comfort of the alpaca. One alpaca at a time is caught and gently laid on its side on the mat. The shearer secures a loop of soft rope around each of the two back feet which goes through a wooden spacer, and the other side is secured to a post. Then, the shearer does the same for the front feet, which are secured to another post. This allows the alpaca to be gently stretched out into a yoga-like pose. A weighted beanbag is placed over the alpaca’s neck, near its head, to stop the alpaca thrashing. Shearing can now take place.

How are alpacas shorn?

Once the alpaca has been gently restrained, the shearer uses specialist shearing clippers to carefully trim the fleece along one side of the body, up the neck, around the face and on top of the head. The alpaca is then gently turned over and the other side is shorn. Feet are trimmed as needed and the teeth are checked and trimmed as needed. The alpaca is then released and quickly goes back to grazing!

Does shearing hurt the alpaca?

No. Provided it is done by an experienced alpaca shearer who handles the alpacas with respect, shearing is not harmful to the alpaca. Most alpacas are relieved to have the fleece removed and enjoy a good rub on the floor afterwards - after all, all the dirt and twigs etc that they pick up in their fleece over the year must be itchy and uncomfortable!

What happens to the fleece after shearing?

The fleece has two main sections. The saddle, which is from the back and sides of the alpaca, is the prime quality fleece; whereas the rest of the fleece is referred to as “seconds”. Some keepers may spin the prime quality fibre themselves into wool, which can then be used to knit products such as shawls, socks and scarves. This can also be achieved by sending the fleece off to mills for someone else to carry out this process for you. The seconds can be used to make bird nesting baskets.

Disclaimer: We are not a veterinarian body. We always advise that you consult your vet to discuss the best options for your herd.

Click here to discover more about us and our alpaca family. You can also stay with our herd at Hush Hush Glamping – click here to find out more!

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