Laurie Weed shows Pam Rezak, a new alpaca owner from Faribault, how to pull the fiber while the shearers work. First the prime or main blanket comes off, then the seconds which is the neck then the rest is considered thirds. All the fiber can be useful but the prime and seconds are considered the most valuable, Weed explained in an email.
Photo by Jerry Chelgren
By Tara Lindquist
Northern Sky Alpacas owners, Tom and Laurie Weed held their first alpaca sheering on May 31 in rural Dodge Center. The couple purchased the alpaca farm formerly named R and S Hillside Alpacas from Ray and Sandy Spalding last summer.
Shearing is an annual event for alpaca owners and it is the number one reason why the Weeds raise alpacas. The fiber is the strongest natural fiber in the world, being eight times stronger than wool and three times warmer. It isn't coarse like wool; however, it is as soft as cashmere or silk.
"It was important to Tom and I for the shearing team to be experienced and have excellent animal handling skills," Laurie explained. "That is why we hired BioSecure Alpaca Shearers." The business is based out of Ohio and sends out teams of four people across the country from March through October to shear alpacas, shearing an average of eight per hour. The team was to travel to four farms that day, including theirs, starting off in Pine Island, then going to their farm, and finally going to Owatonna and Chaska. "We were very pleased with our team," she said. Alpaca shearing starts with shearing off the blanket or the prime, which is on the back and sides of the animal, then they remove the seconds, which is mostly on the neck of the animals. Then, they remove the thirds which is on its legs and the rest of the body. The thirds fiber is used for rugs or projects, and the rest is used to make clothing and blankets.
Once the shearing is done, the fiber is cleaned up to either be sold, processed, or sent to the Alpaca fiber co-op.
Along with the team, which was made up of John, Sardis, Colin and Jason, the Weeds had volunteers that came to help with the shearing. Other area alpaca owners also came to have their animals sheared and helped with the gathering of the fiber, sorting it and working with the animals. "The day wouldn't have been so successful had it not been for the help of all of our volunteers," Laurie explained.
This month the farm is expecting baby alpacas to be born and the Weeds welcome visitors out to their farm for a tour and to learn more about the animals. The farm welcomes daycare groups, scouting troops or individuals to call to set up a tour. For more information, you can call Laurie at 507-374-2490.