Written by Penny Pittard from Currabungla Alpacas
Preparation before shearing can add value to your fleece
Since skirting and testing fleeces for the Ultrafine Bale for AAFL and more recently for Alpaca Ultimate, I have realised that a number of breeders lose value in their fleeces by poor preparation and not skirting fleeces properly. I have put together the following procedure to help breeders get better value for their fleece.
Take midside fleece samples at least 3 weeks before shearing to have the results at hand on the day and take the samples midway down the side to make sure you are getting a realistic test. Too high and it can be finer than the bulk of the saddle. By knowing your fleeces midside test results at shearing it makes it very easy to put aside fleeces that may be suitable for special purposes - Showing or selling to fleece purchasers requiring certain microns.
Trim tips of animals that have burrs, vegetable matter or the brown tips on black animals is easier while the fleece is on the animal than trying to remove it later.
Buy fleece bags ahead of time to make sure you have the right sizes for necks, legs, saddle (only buy biodegradable bags if you intend sending your fleece for processing immediately otherwise they can break down and ruin the fleece). Don't tie the tops of the bags so tightly it is hard to undo them, we have had bags that have been impossible to undo and have to be cut.
Clean shed of all contaminates eg baling twine, toe nails, vacuum thoroughly.
Have a covering on the floor that can be swept and vacuumed easily- no dirt floors or rough concrete.
Have plenty of old towels to mop up any accidents, puddles or spitting.
Digital scales and a washing basket set up on a table make for easy weighing.
Set up equipment for smooth operation, fleece to skirting table, pieces put straight into wool packs, weighing table with work sheet to write weights, etc then areas designated for fleeces of certain micron (superfine, fine, medium, strong and also into colour groups. This makes for easy sorting later when bagging up for processing.
The night before get all animals that will be shorn the next day under cover.
No water or feed to be available to them during the night reduces puddles, spitting etc. Ruminates have plenty to carry them through and will not starve to death as many think.
On shearing days, skirting, weighing and sorting as you go means when shearing is finished, most of the work is finished if it is not done at the time, many find it extremely hard to get back to it and consequently fleece gets left in sheds forever. Organise enough people to help cope on the day.
People required for shearing, the shearer, an alpaca handler, a person to organise the fleeces as it comes off the animals (experienced in separating the hairy leg and belly pieces away from the saddle as I know this is where a huge amount of contamination occurs) to pick up the saddle and put it on the skirting table, an experienced skirter at the table, a person to get bags labelled and to weigh the fleeces and record details. Sometimes it's unproductive to have heaps of friends and relations falling all over each other and requiring lots of feeding.
Better to have an efficient team.
Shear in colour groups all white together etc and from fine micron to coarse micron if possible.
Sweep mat clean between every animal to avoid guard hair contamination etc and always vacuum between colours groups to reduce colour contamination.
Skirting immediately before bagging saves so much contamination of the saddle as if stronger micron fibres get into the main saddle it will downgrade the saddle, grid testing shows this and can mean a lot less dollars for your fleece.
This cannot be stressed enough as we come across it time and time again.
Carefully treatment of your fleece at shearing time can make a huge difference in dollar value.
If you would like more information or clarification please call:
0429 783 575
0427 455 633