Thursday, March 26, 2009

Getting Ready for the big day- Shearing!

John Gunther and crew take off an elite "blanket" of fleece

It's hard to believe that shearing time is here again! As in the two previous years, we will have a crew from Biosecure Alpaca Shearing ( come to do it, and although I always anticipate shearing day with some trepidation, they have truly made the process much more easy and pleasant for us. We have come such a long way in our ability to prepare the animals, execute the shearing, and process the fleeces, as seen above and below. Then again, anything is better than the first few years we sheared! I would do the llamas using Fiskars scissors and then hand-shears to do strictly a barrel-cut. (In the very early years, nobody even bothered to shear llamas, barrel-cuts were all the rage!). Our favorite llama ever, Grato 1, at the All Kentucky Ag Exp at the Kentucky Horse Park, 1995?
The first year we had more than a few alpacas, I was unable to find a shearer and had only a few hours of extra help per week. Many of the alpacas that were here were newly-imported animals (read: WILD!) that we were brokering for Pan American Alpacas, and they weren't halter-trained and had been handled very little. In order to get them cool and get the fleece off, I would wrestle a halter onto them, tie them up high on the wall, and then start clipping.

One of our first alpaca females, Sweet Tiara

The fleeces weren't very clean since a lot of it fell onto the dirt floor in our only barn at the time, and due to the kicking and protests of the frightened and angry animal, it was nearly impossible to go past their upper belly area or to do around their head (hence, the poodle-looking cuts!). Paul always said the difference between a good and bad haircut is a few weeks, but I think some of those bad cuts lasted for the year! Now, there are travelling crews of experienced and trained shearers who are experts with alpacas, and we have all come a long way in knowing how to safely and quickly get a nice clean fleece off of each animal.

In several of our early years, (when we did at least have a sheep shearer come), we had an annual Shearing Day and Country Festival in the barnyard surrounding the old cabin. It was a crazy time, as we would invite vendors with crafts and food, have spinning demos and a speaker, a bluegrass band, shearing (of course), and usually about 300 people would come. We may do it again in the future now that we have our nice new barn, but inviting in the public for the busiest farm day of the year is a little bit loco.

With my parents and some of our "menagerie" at a Shearing Festiveal, 1996?

On Monday, March 30th starting at around 7:30 AM, we'll be shearing 90 alpacas. All are invited, either to help (with fleece-gathering, sweeping, etc.) or just to watch! Give me a call so that I'll have plenty of food on hand- 859-873-8352.

I've been at the barn doing extra sweeping (an extra-clean barn environment has been mandated for the past month or more), preparing the fiber bags and labels, and rethinking the "traffic flow", since all of the animals will need to be moved quickly in and out of the shearing area. In addition, I've got dinner and breakfast meals prepared for the shearing crew, who always seem to be a bottomless pit and we sure try to keep them nourished and happy! I think we're ready!!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Best of Midwest Success!

Last weekend's show and auction in Columbus was a great way to get back into the alpaca scene for springtime. It's always so fun to see our alpaca friends again, to get our young animals into the ring for the first time, and to regain enthusiasm for the industry!

Jitterbug, consigned to the auction, gained a wonderful new home with John, Mary and Sally Francis of Alpaca Corner in Shandon, Ohio. They are long-time loyal customers, and we are excited that they got such a lovely Michelangelo daughter! (She placed 2nd in a very competitive fawn class!) Thanks and Congratulations, John, Mary and Sally!!!
Our new farm manager, Jenny, was great to have along and as always she was a sponge, trying to learn every nuance of showing and judging. She is proving to be a fantastic asset to our team here on the farm!

Our animals did great, with the highlight being XXXtremely Sweet taking the brown female championship in her first show at just 9 months(seen at top). I have had high hopes for her since birth, and it's going to be a lot of fun showing her this year!

Our newest Thoroughly Bred Herdsire, LMFI Man of Steel (co-owned with Catalpa Creek) took a blue ribbon as well in the greys, and he garnered lots of complements with his distinctive good looks. Competition is always brutal in Ohio, and since most of the animals that we took placed high, we were really pleased! We look forward to attending the Futurity, Kentucky Classic and Nationals later this spring- hope to see you there!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spring visitors!

I had so much fun yesterday visiting with two knitters, Maude and Elizabeth, who scheduled a tour of the farm. Although I can't always accomodate people who just want to stop in, I nearly always make time for knitters when I can, simply because I enjoy them so much! As it turned out, the weather was spectacular and it was just a great day to be enjoying the beauty of the farm and the alpacas.
These two ladies were just so enthusiastic about everything we do here, which made it fun for me to share. Even the alpacas themselves seemed to sense that these ladies just adored them!

Flashpoint was pretty good about having his incredibly soft fleece touched.
Grato was happy to let the ladies hug him and to see the difference between a llama (which he is) and an alpaca.
Thank you, ladies, for visiting and I truly hope you enjoy your yarn, sweaters, and other goodies! Feel free to come back for our annual Shearing Day on March 30th!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Jitterbugging toward spring!

We are so ready for spring, and excited about attending our first show and auction of the season, the Best of the Midwest Alpaca Show and Sale in Columbus, Ohio on March 14th and 15th. Highlighting our attendance is the offering of one of the best from our 2007 vintage, SSF Peruvian Jitterbug. She is Lot # 37 in the auction which will be held on Saturday evening. Jitterbug is the daughter of El Nino's Accoyo Michelangelo and SSF Peruvian Jericho's Junebug, daughter of MFI Peruvian Jericho. Both of these lines need little introduction, they are two of the most prepotent sire lines in the alpaca industry!

She is already a blue ribbon winner, having taken first at her first show, the Heartland Classic. She is showing readiness for breeding this spring, and she sells with a complementary breeding to any of our hersires, or you can use a Michelangelo breeding on another of your females if you choose!

Please feel free to contact us for any further information about Jitterbug- she is just the type of female that any breeding program would appreciate adding to their herd!