Alpaca Fleece Harvest Planning aka: Shearing Day

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.


Shearing 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.


Shearing Mat:


  1. Pull fiber away from alpaca as it gets shorn off alpaca.
  2. Fiber is placed in bags, according to location from where it was removed.


    1. 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)
    2. Side Sample– Nathan will cut a small sample of fiber from the blanket location. This sample will go in the labeled baggy.
    3. Seconds– comes from neck and belly, if unsure ask.
    4. 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.


Alpaca Handlers :


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.


Fiber Room:  


  1. Keep in constant contact with alpaca handlers to control the alpaca shearing order.
  2. 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:

  1. A) prime blanket then record on spreadsheet
  2. B) second & thirds can weigh together then record on spreadsheet
  3. 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. 


Skirting Stall:


  1. Fiber – working with 2nds and 3rds.
  2. Clean any unwanted fibers, stiff hairs, dung, hay or short cuts. This would be trash, throw on floor.
  3. Separate colors. Use large drum size cans, labeled
    1. Lights – White, beige included in this can
    2. Fawns– light tan to light brown  included in this can
    3. Browns– dark browns, bay black  included in this can
    4. Blacks – black black included in this can
  4. Separate length-
    1. 2nds– are 2 inches (about the length of your thumb) or longer
    2. 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.****


Gift shop:


  1. Help customers with shopping needs
  2. Educate visitors on all things that can be made with alpaca fiber.
    1. pass out Alpaca SCAT postcards and take reservations for SCAT pick up.
    2. Enter a drawing to win a pair of alpaca socks. Entry form includes name, email, phone, and town. 
    3. Fiber Sale: $1.85 oz reduced from $2.00 oz. If purchase is less than a pound.
    4. Monitor the house. Make sure people have a reason for being there.


Food prep for Volunteers:


  1. Be the host/hostess with the mostest
  2. Morning Coffee, muffins, fruit
  3. Lunch: pick up from LaBella’s, & Subway, (pre ordered) set out food, drinks and utensils
  4. Naked alpaca happy hour: pick up food from LaBella’s set out food drinks and utensils
  5. Trash cans
  6. Coolers, ice
  7. 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.—>


Thanks for your commitment to Quarry Critters and all the alpacas on the ranch.

Julie and David Wysong



Why Shear an Alpaca?

Shearing Day will be here in just a few days. With all this rain it feels more like April Showers instead of May. I sure am hoping for a nice sunny day. It will be so much nicer to store dry fleece instead of wet.
You are invited to come watch the process and even get your hands dirty by sorting fibers. The alpaca Gift shop will be open 1-4 and earlier by request. Just ask for Julie

Why do we shear the alpacas?
Shearing is important to the health of the alpaca. While their fiber keeps them warm through the winter it is too heavy and hot through the summer. The alpacas do not shed the extra fiber so it must be shorn off to keep the alpacas comfortable and healthy.
The alpaca fleece is valuable. It’s a great reason to shear them. Even if you have pet alpacas shearing is a must because of the health issue.

At Quarry Critters Alpaca Ranch we have many volunteers to make this transition move smoothly for all 38 of our alpacas and 4 alpacas that will be returning to get their hair cut.
We have handlers that go into the fields or stalls to collect the alpacas by halter and lead.
The handlers bring the alpacas to the groomer that uses special tools and a vacuum to get the large and small unwanted vegetable matter, dune and dust off the alpacas. The handlers also talk sweetly to the stressed out alpacas, soothingly waiting until it’s their turn on the mat.
All four of the alpacas legs are restrained and the alpaca is gently placed on an athletic mat. Our shearer, Nathan Good, then proceeds to get the alpaca a haircut. Nathan brings his own helper to hold the alpaca’s head. If needed the alpaca will get their teeth and toenails trimmed. Once release, after about 10 minutes, the handler will return the alpaca to the field.

Then the fiber fun begins. During shearing day we sort through the 2nds & 3rd cuts to fit the artisans needs instead of where it comes off the alpaca. The artisitians would like to use 2nds that are as long as your thumb or longer and 3rds then are shorter than the length of your thumb.

Prime coat or 1st fleece comes from the part of the alpaca’s back where it would wear a saddle if it were a horse. The Prime coat is used to make wearables, that you want to be soft next to your skin. We make this available for handle spinners, weavers or crafters. Some of the alpaca fleece is sent off to mini mills to be made into yarn, roving, rug yarn. Some it sent off to the co op to be made into socks, scarves, and other alpaca products. Many of these products, yarn, roving or fleece can be purchased in our Alpaca Gift shop here on the ranch or on our website:
Shearing day specials:
Purchase the whole fleece($2.00 per oz) and receive seconds & thirds at no additional charge.
Spent $65 in the gift shop (this includes the fleece) and receive a free needle felting kit.
Fleeces can be seen on the alpacas on Saturday, May 19, 2018 by appointment and picked up on Sunday, May 20th after it is shorn off the alpaca. Now that’s a fresh fleece.
Visit our Alpaca Gift Shop

Gift Shop Hours are now:

Always Open
Online ( or
On the Ranch by appointment 717-359-9989,

Shop in store
No appointment needed
October – January
Fridays and Saturdays ~~~ 11:00 – 4:00

No appointment needed
Gift Shop and SCAT collection open on Saturdays 8-12

Gift shop always open during EVENTS
Shearing Day-
Sunday, May 20, 2018
1:00 – 4:00

Farm Days-
Saturday, September 29, 2018
9:00 – 3:00

SCAT~ — Saturday, March 16, 2019
8:00 – 12:00
Come pick up a free load of SCAT- Alpaca enhanced soil
Along with 10% off gift shop, this day only

Look forward to seeing all sometime out at the ranch.

Quarry Critters Alpaca Ranch
And Gift Shop
580 Basehoar Rd.
Littlestown, PA 17345

Oh that darn Meningeal Worm….

In Memory of
Peruvian Ace of Heart

March 28, 2004 — May 12, 2014

As an alpaca owner we are always worried about that darn little worm that can migrate into the alpaca and cause damage to the central nervous system or result in death. That worm is know as the meningeal worm and is hosted by the white tail deer. In PA, we certainly have lots of white tail deer running about about therefore protocol calls for deworming of our alpacas. Here at Quarry Critters Alpaca Ranch we use Dectomax every 6 weeks and we have Guinnea Hens. Guinnea Hens are a pea fowl that eats this snail and their eggs/larva. Another dewormer often used alternatively is Ivermectin.

Here are some other means of prevention:
* Ideally alpacas should not graze in the same pasture as the white tailed deer.
* Placing a deer proof fence may offer some protection, but that would be a 12 foot high fence of
woven wire not high tensile fencing.
* eliminate organic matter. Snails and slugs prefer dark, damp areas therefore these pests will gather
around the leaves, buildings, wood piles, compost, etc. It’s a good idea to keep pasture and areas
around the barn clean.
* placing gravel or limestone around the fence lines can help to reduce migration of these slugs
into the pasture.
* Fowl such as Guinea Hens will help decrease snail and slug population in the fields
* Use of dewormers are recommended such as Ivermectin every 30 days or Dectomax every 45 days

Make every effort to know the prevention and be diligent in your management to reduce risk and maintain a healthy meningeal worm free herd.

I’m so sadden at the lose of our favorite herd sire Peruvian Ace of Hearts. Yes, he was infected by the meningeal worm. We first noticed lost in weight. Then he stopped following us around eager to eat, and stopped eating. We called the vet and got lots of help and meds. This helped his spirits and his appetite returned. He was his old self again except he wasn’t using his legs. We work physical therapy on his legs twice a day in an an attempt to keep the circulation moving. The vet loaned us a hoist to help lift him so he
would be able to put pressure on his legs. This was incredibly helpful. He fought a good fight. He stayed true to the end. May 12, 2014 at age 10 Ace passed away.

Ace is survived by many fine off springs both male and female. He was able to produce many colors but his favorite color was medium fawn. His EPD put him in the top 1% of the American herd for his fine crimp. Ace participated in alpaca shows such as 2005 Empire Show and placed 5th out of 12 white yearling males, 2006 was in the North American alpaca Show and placed 6th. He was also known for his incredibly dense blanket.

Ace was loved by all and will be missed.

What is a micron?

A micron?
When I first started looking into alpacas I kept hearing this word micron. What the heck is a micron? After listening, asking questions and reading research I think I have it figured out. Pretty important word to know as an alpaca breeder. So here is what I found. . . .

Micron count is a way of evaluating each hair or fiber on the alpaca. So in many ways a micron is a tool. It’s a way to figure out the value of your alpaca’s fleece. Like this . . . . .

I shear my alpacas, send the side sample off to Yocom-McColl which is a lab that use microscopes, scanners and computers to evaluate that sample and then tells me the results. Based on the micron count, that they tell me, I then know the best use of the fiber.

Like this. . . . . . .

Very fine 20 – 22 micron count

I have an alpaca that has a micro count of less than 20 up to 22 microns then I’ll want to make something that is next to the skin and will be gently used maybe a shawl or baby items.

Most versatile 23 – 28 Micron count

Micron counts that are 23 – 28 are the most versatile and can be used for lots of items that are worn very comfortable next to your skin. Because alpaca is so soft, alpaca breeders want everyone to feel this comfortable fiber.

Then there is the higher number of micron count such as 29 – 32 this might start to feel a little less comfortable. There is still a use for this warm and cozy alpaca fiber and that would be to use it in batts, felt or outerwear.

What is a micron?

A micron is a tool that alpaca breeders use, to determine what product to make from the raw alpaca fiber that comes off their alpacas. A micron is a tool that helps alpaca breeders breed for that product. Do you want your alpacas to make rugs, felt, batts, outerwear OR baby soft blankets and shawl? It’s helpful to know this word micron. What is your goal for breeding alpacas? Now you know, plan accordingly.