Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Shearing in the wind

I have been learning to shear this year and have to date sheared 27 alpacas, I have 6 more to do. I have bought and acquired the best shearing equipment and have been advised by a master. Therefore the only thing I can blame for the, lets say, 'untidy' alpacas is myself.

If we can say that the reason for shearing the alpacas is to make them more comfortable through the hot summer months, (sorry started to laugh then, we do live in the UK) then I have done a good job, the fleece has come off and the alpacas are cool.

However, as I have progressed I have been through several thought processes. Firstly, I thought that speed was the most important thing. Proper shearers seem to shear an alpaca in no time at all and I wanted to be the same..............wrong!!

I had watched my personal 'sensei' shear at speed, when I say watched I was usually helping out so I was either picking up fleece or holding a head or wrestling with the next victim, not a good position to be able to observe properly.

My whole outlook on shearing changed last weekend down at Inca HQ. Assisting Timbo shearing Jack of Spades and another stud male I was able to watch carefully the little bits that I had missed previously. The stud males were sheared in a more relaxed way, there was no rush, there was attention to detail. There was more time for me to observe an expert at work.

It slowly dawned on me that speed was not important, speed would come later with practice. What I needed to concentrate on was getting it right. I was working from a perspective that I wanted the alpaca to be tied down for the shortest possible time. What I should have been working towards was getting the shearing right so that the alpaca looked good and the maximum amount good fleece was harvested (is that the right word?).

I was able to try out my new and improved method of shearing yesterday. Sue was home and my parents were round to help. The weather was dodgy but the alpacas were dry and despite the wind, yes it was rather windy, I decided we should crack on.

Sometimes you make a decision and realise that it was not the best decision. However, shearing outside in the wind was an interesting proposition. To stop because of the wind would have been easy but the alpacas would still be hot and would still need shearing another day. We weighed it up, yes folks I sought advice from shearing team two.

We cracked on. It was difficult, I was concentrating hard on getting it right and the team was intent on giving me the best possible support. The wind blew, by jiminy it blew.

It seemed to me that I was in some bizarre cricket match at one point. I was joint batsman with the alpaca that was being sheared, we did, Patou Poppy, Patou Lola, Patou Fifi and Tisbury Bella.
The wind was the bowler, stick with me guys use your imagination. The slip cordon was the lovely Mrs Steele, my Mum and my Dad.

We were a pretty shocking batsman. Everything (the fleece was the ball) was nicked to the slips. The wind was blowing everything that I sheared off into the slip cordon who were armed with plastic bags and big 'trugs' (large buckets). I have to say not a lot was dropped in the slips they did a marvellous job. They really knuckled down when I said 'saddle' or 'neck' and relaxed (appropriately) when I said 'legs and belly' or 'crap' as my Dad called it.

Suffice it to say we enjoyed the experience, it was a first time for Mum and Dad and they did me proud, as did Sue, well, she always does.

The main casualty of the whole thing was the prat of a shearer who somehow managed to take the top off his index finger. There was a lot of blood, I needed a lot of aftercare. Once we had finished a lot of alcohol and hot curry had to be administered...........for pain relief purposes of course!

The best thing was that the gorgeous foresome did look great. Heads and tails, where I had struggled, looked much, much better.

The trouble is I now want to go back and reshear all the scruffy ones!

I won't of course but I can't wait until next year!


Gerry said...

Jeez Mark shouldn't you have gone to hozzy to get the thing sewn back on?!

Reading about your shearing experiences has been very interesting though. I must say it's no fun being at the mercy of the schedule of the touring Antipodean shearing/cricket?! teams - great shearers though they are. At least you have the thing under your own control. Makes me want to have a crack - trouble is I don't have a shearing sensei to instruct me. I do know a pro sheep shearer though so maybe.....

And you say you're finished for the season? What about the crias - need to get a nice even fleece on them for next show season!

Cheers - Gerry, Coire Alpacas

Mark said...

I tell you there was a lot of blood. Sue being a midwife (and ex-nurse) was more than capable.

I would thoroughly recommend shearing yourself. I did it for two reasons, firstly when we move to France I will have to do it and secondly it gives you control so that heavily pregnant girls can wait etc. It is also great when they look good.
Not so good when you cut them though, thats horrible. Only one needed stitching but still it makes you want to punch yourself in the face.