DIXON — The ground inside the shearing pen at the Dixon Fairgrounds was littered with unwanted fleece, Sunday.
It was Violet’s turn on the shearing table, and owner Patricia Kemberling anticipated a challenge for the young alpaca.
“She’s not going to like it . . . because it’s noisy – scary,” she said.
Kemberling, of Deja Vu ranch in Penn Valley, had already shown her 10-month-old alpaca at the California Classic Alpaca and Fiber Show and the huacaya breed placed fourth in the brown-colored class. Now it was time for a trim.
“Leave her head hairy . . . ,” Kemberling told 17-year-old shearer Joe Swink. “I like her Ewok head.”
Swink, also from Penn Valley, was taking orders at the show – utilizing shearing skills he learned on his family’s Heart and Soul Ranch.
“He’s coming to shear 20 of my animals on Friday – all my clunkers,” said Kemberling, adding that clunkers were her non-show animals.
Swink wrapped the alpaca on its side to a tilted shearing table and leveled the station. With some help, he strapped the alpaca’s front and hind legs on opposite ends to stabilize the animal.
“Shearing on a table is safer for the animal because you have more control,” Kemberling said.
Anticipating some resistance, Kemberling held Violet’s head on the table as Swink fired up the shears.
Then the squealing began.
“(Alpacas) squeak and spit when they’re unhappy,” Kemberling said. “It’s like an alarm cry.”
But there was work to be done. Kemberling needed a histogram – or sample – of fiber to be sent to a lab for analysis. She also wanted Swink to roll a “blanket” of fleece from the alpaca’s midsection for an upcoming show. Violet, recently weaned, is a little too skinny to be showed again, Kemberling said.
“One thing you can do to have them gain some weight is cut off their fleece, then they’ll actually gain some weight,” she said.
A lot of energy is going into their fleece, she added, and Violet’s been hot and stressed.
Once Swink cleared the blanket off the alpaca and trimmed the “seconds” from the neck and legs and “thirds” – or throwaway – from the tail, Violet was unstrapped and released from bondage, nearly naked except for her puffy head and “stovepipe” leggings.
“That’s got to feel amazing . . . ,” Kemberling said. “She looks a lot smaller now.”
Reach Adrienne Harris at 427-6956 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aharrisdr.