Quarry Critters Alpaca Ranch
All year long we offer fiber arts classes and a gift shop fill with products and apparel made with alpaca fiber.
Where does all that alpaca fiber come from?
The answer is it comes from alpaca fleece.
Here at Quarry Critters Alpaca Ranch, we breed and raise quality alpacas to produce soft, dense, crimpy fleeces so we can use their fleece to make these things.
We shear our alpacas once a year. Harvest is known as “Shearing Day ”. On shearing day all our alpacas get a haircut, this is where we collect alpaca fleece. This is a very big day. It requires many hands. To make light work and include alpaca enthusiasts, we rely on volunteers. It’s a long day and a dirty job but we always try to have fun. We keep our volunteers fed and hydrated with a quick grab of coffee and breakfast snack, a sit down -all you can eat- luncheon, plenty of water, tea, sodas and conversation. Once we find that very special alpaca, (the last one), we open the bar and celebrate with a “Naked Alpaca Happy Hour”.
Our shearing day harvest has run successfully every year because of our wonderful volunteers and good planning. Throughout the years we have tried to improve on how to make our shearing day run smoother. We have developed stations with specific roles and responsibilities.
Let’s take a look at these stations.
#1 Greatest shearer of all times
~ Nathan Good~
Nathan is our shearer. On shearing day he is the master.
Let’s make sure to respect the most important job of all.
Without him the work stops.
- Pull fiber away from alpaca as it gets shorn off alpaca.
- Fiber is placed in bags, according to location from where it was removed.
- Prime Blanket is often “noodled”. Noodling is placing plastic on the mat near the alpaca. As fiber is gently pulled away from the alpaca it is placed on the plastic. When directed that all the “blanket” or 1st has been removed by Nathan, then the plastic is “noodled”, (to noodle is to rolled up like a sleeping bag. Make sure not to overlap fiber on fiber. Use extra plastic if needed)
- Side Sample– Nathan will cut a small sample of fiber from the blanket location. This sample will go in the labeled baggy.
- Seconds– comes from neck and belly, if unsure ask.
- Thirds- comes from the legs and tail location.
Pictured here are shearing day fiber locations.
- After the alpaca leaves the area on the floor, it is swept clean for the next alpaca. It is very important to keep the same colors together without allowing different color contamination.
Halter, lead, snuggle, comfort alpacas, talk to them, then return alpaca to their home stall, after shearing on the mat.
Handler 1: Halter and lead alpacas to the grooming area
Handler 2: Hold alpacas until the shearer is ready to put the alpaca on mat.
Handler 3: Walk alpaca back to their stalls/fields after shearing.
Grooming the alpaca. Preparing to get sheared.
Use tools provided to rid the alpaca of all unwanted waste material, dung, hay, food stuff
Tools: Vacuum, wands, hand patting
Handlers: needed to hold alpacas while being groomed.
- Keep in constant contact with alpaca handlers to control the alpaca shearing order.
- Writes names on all 3-4 bags
- Banket– large clear 55 drum bag
- Side Sample– gallon zip lock baggy
- Seconds-blue tall kitchen bags
- Thirds – white tall kitchen bags
Make sure the alpaca chip number matches the name on fleece bags.
Call out any special instructions such as: sock, towel, teeth, toenails, show coat or noodle
Help roll noodle or educate mat volunteer.
Weigh on scale:
- A) prime blanket then record on spreadsheet
- B) second & thirds can weigh together then record on spreadsheet
- C) Weigh all together, 1st, 2nds, 3rds then record on spreadsheet
Pass 2nds and thirds to skirting stall
Prime blankets will be place in the big boxes for their finally use.
- Fiber – working with 2nds and 3rds.
- Clean any unwanted fibers, stiff hairs, dung, hay or short cuts. This would be trash, throw on floor.
- Separate colors. Use large drum size cans, labeled
- Lights – White, beige included in this can
- Fawns– light tan to light brown included in this can
- Browns– dark browns, bay black included in this can
- Blacks – black black included in this can
- Separate length-
- 2nds– are 2 inches (about the length of your thumb) or longer
- 3rds- are shorter than 2 inches (shorter than your thumb).
Clear plastic 55 gallon drum liners should be placed in each can and labeled to match the label on the drum can. As the drum liner gets filled take out the drum liner bag and tie up and place in a corner. (Be sure it has a label)
All fiber will be collected and driven up to the processing room for later processing.
But wait there’s more!!!!
****Maybe you want to help but don’t want to be in the barn. Maybe one of these stations would be of interest to you.****
- Help customers with shopping needs
- Educate visitors on all things that can be made with alpaca fiber.
- pass out Alpaca SCAT postcards and take reservations for SCAT pick up.
- Enter a drawing to win a pair of alpaca socks. Entry form includes name, email, phone, and town.
- Fiber Sale: $1.85 oz reduced from $2.00 oz. If purchase is less than a pound.
- Monitor the house. Make sure people have a reason for being there.
- Be the host/hostess with the mostest
- Morning Coffee, muffins, fruit
- Lunch: pick up from LaBella’s, & Subway, (pre ordered) set out food, drinks and utensils
- Naked alpaca happy hour: pick up food from LaBella’s set out food drinks and utensils
- Trash cans
- Coolers, ice
- Tables, tablecloths, flowers, napkins
Well, I hope you saw a station that was of interest to you. If you love alpacas, fiber, having fun, or helping others then this is your day. We will be ever so grateful for your time.
Please click the link to sign up.—>www.volunteersignup.org/DTJXR
Thanks for your commitment to Quarry Critters and all the alpacas on the ranch.
Julie and David Wysong