Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Shearing Day: Harvest Day for Alpacas

Lark and Donatello Sheared Prior To Arrival At Hum Sweet Hum
Shearing day is quickly approaching.  The annual alpaca fiber harvest.  This will be the most animals sheared on the farm this year.  Thirty-two animals needing shearing so a long day ahead.  Volunteers are coming and makes the work go so smoothly and fun.  There will be a holding area where animals will be prepped and weighed, then come over for shearing where toenails are trimmed, teeth trimmed if necessary and booster shots given.  It's a full spa day for alpacas. 

I'm not known for being the most organized person around but on this day, I make an extra effort to be organized so it goes more smoothly.  This year could be even more interesting with cria due any time.  But with so many volunteers coming, there will be plenty to help no matter what added events happen.  The biggest concern for me is knowing how stressed my animals are during shearing.  The ones that have been through it before, still are not happy about it.  I was so pleased last year that they all handled it pretty well though.  There was only had one spitter!  I have some new animals since then and they haven't full adjusted yet to the ways of Hum Sweet Hum.  I use Rescue Remedy for stressed animals (and me) and this year I'm also going to try using calming essential oils.  I used Rescue Remedy on animals at a recent show I attended.  I experimented with them sniffing it instead of putting it in their mouths.  We were about to enter in the ring and the alpacas started to act up.  I didn't want to amp them up more by opening their mouths and putting Rescue Remedy drops in their mouth.  It seemed counter-productive.  So I opened the bottle and held it up so they could sniff.  It was almost immediate that they calmed down.  The scent is very strong and they would shake their heads at the strong odor but then came back and take another whiff.  It was totally on their terms if they wanted to take a whiff of it or not.  When they seemed to have enough, I put the stopper back on and observed them.  The alpaca's energy calmed down a couple of notches.  They were still alert and not happy about being in these foreign surroundings of the show ring but calm enough to be handled more easily and they showed beautifully too.

After my experience at the alpaca show, I decided to learn a bit more about Essential Oils and so this year at shearing, we will be trying a couple of different oils to see if they help calm these critters down before they get sheared.  I'm most interested in my very pregnant females.  It's always a dilemma on whether to shear or wait.  Temperatures are beginning to rise and full fleeced females that are near term can be stressed more than the stress of a quick shearing.  The daily heat is an extended and long term physiological stress whereas the shearing is a short term fear based stress.  I know how gentle my shearer is and how fast he is so this year we will proceed with shearing them all.  So this year, I'm opting to shear all my pregnant females and hope I can keep them calm with my essential oils and Rescue Remedy to keep them from going into premature labor.

Shearing day is a lot of details for me to keep straight.  With three females near term, I will be on hyper-vigilance for babies so think I will be giving a whiff of essential oils to the animals and one for me!  Or maybe two or three for me!!!!  If anyone out there has had experience with Essential Oils on their alpacas and other animals, I'd be interested in hearing what you think has worked or hasn't worked.

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