MEET OUR SHEARER – IAN ELKINS
Ian was born and bred in Boorowa district of NSW. He began his (sheep) shearing career in 1980 at the age of 16. In 2000 Ian moved to Canberra and began shearing alpacas.
Ian is the winner of 110 open shearing competitions, including an International event in 1994 at Denver, Colorado USA. He has won the Australian Championship in 1992, 1994, 1996 and 2000 and has been Australian Shearer of the year 6 times.
Ian teaches novice shearers at the Dubbo TAFE and is a demonstration shearer at Sydney Royal and other venues. In 2014 the Royals – William and Kate – were in attendance at the Sydney Royal Show, and asked to meet Ian.
In 2015 Ian was inducted into Shearer’s Hall of Fame. Later in 2015, a call went out from the RSPCA for a Shearer, to shear a sheep that had escaped from its flock and hadn’t been shorn for several years. Ian was chosen as the shearer for ‘Chris the Sheep’ – the fleece was a world record weight of 40.5 kgs.
Ian is reliable, gentle with the animals, yet accurate and quick. He is easy to work with, good natured and Alpaca Magic is delighted to be able to call Ian “our shearer”, and suggest he deserves the award for just being a all round nice guy with as well as having an being exceptional shearer. We recommend Ian to anyone with alpacas to be shorn.
In a recent shearing, Ian shore 80 alpacas in one day (4 x 2 hour runs). We are impressed!
PRE & POST SHEARING INFORMATION FOR ALPACA & LLAMA OWNERS
Alpaca Magic Clients only
Not an alpaca Magic client? Scroll down for helpful hints. Alpacas need to be shorn annually. A good time is before the grass seeds mature and contaminate the fleece. For their convenience, Alpaca Magic invites our clients to bring their alpacas or llamas to Alpaca Magic for shearing each year.
Agistees – you do not need to book your animals in for shearing. They will automatically be shorn in the October/November Shearing as part of the Alpaca Magic herd. If you want their fleeces, please let us know in advance so we can bag them up separately. Please collect their fleeces with a week or so after the shearing date.
Clients other than agistees (those who have bought alpacas or llamas from Alpaca Magic) please see the calendar to find out the date for ‘Shearing (stud males, wethers and clients)’. In order to have your animal shorn please download and print out the shearing form, fill it in by hand and post or email it to Alpaca Magic. Please Note: Bookings will not be accepted without a booking form. We cannot guarantee a place for your animal(s) unless you return your Booking Form 28 days prior to shearing day.
Information for those who are not clients of Alpaca Magic
The most usual time to shear is in spring, before the grass seeds set (brown off and get into the fleece).
Do your animals NEED to be shorn?
If they have less than 5 cm (2”) of fleece and it is spring or summer – they probably don’t need to be shorn. If they have 10 cm (4” of fleece) and it is spring or summer they need to be shorn. Measure by putting your finger into the mid side of an animal and stretch the fleece along your finger – then measure where the fleece came up to on your finger.
During the few weeks before shearing, it is helpful to avoid feeding hay, as much of the hay ends up in the fleece. Vegetable matter reduces the usefulness and therefore the value of the fleece. However, if feed is limited in your paddocks, or very lush and green, it is preferable to feed hay and risk contamination of fleece, rather than have your animals hungry or scouring because of the lack of fibre in their diet. It’s a trade off – which is the least worst.
What if I don’t shear my animals?
Your animals may suffer or even die from heat stress.
Finding a Shearer
If there are other alpaca/llama people in your area, ask them who they use and if they are happy with their shearer. You may even be able to arrange for the shearer to come to one location and take all the animals to him – that will probably save each owner some money. There is a list of shearers on my links page.
Arrange with your shearer well in advance when and how many animals need to be shorn. Remember shearers are really busy in spring, so if you don’t book early (i.e. several months ahead), your animals might miss out on shearing and may then suffer heat stress through summer. Confirm your shearing date, time and the number of animals with your shearer a week or so before shearing.
Some shearers will also trim toes, give drench, 5 in 1 vaccinations, check and if necessary, trim teeth. If you want your shearer to do these things – check with him when you book him and find out what he requires you to supply. Some shearers require llamas to be sedated before shearing. If this is the case you will need to contact your vet.
The Day Before Shearing
Food (including pasture) and water should be removed not less than 12 hours before shearing – 24 hours is ideal. Why? Fasting your animals allows them to “empty out” and makes the job easier, safer and more pleasant for animal, shearer and handlers.
- Animals that are “empty” are less stressed and more co operative about being thrown and/or restrained
- They are lighter to throw
- They are more comfortable while being restrained
- They are less likely to spit
- They are less likely to urinate whilst being shorn (contaminates the fleece)
If a female is heavily pregnant and/or has a cria suckling probably 12 hours fasting is better.
Your animals must be dry when being shorn – even heavy dew will create a problem during an early morning shearing. Put them undercover the night before.
The shearer will expect your animals to be fasted, dry and penned ready to shear – not running around the paddock because “we couldn’t get them in, so we waited for you to come to help us”. At best this will annoy your shearer – his job is to shear your animals, not to round them up – but you might also find that he says he doesn’t have time to chase animals around the paddock and leaves. You may just miss out on getting your animals shorn!
Order of Shearing
It is usual to shear alpacas in their colour order:
If you have pregnant animals or those with a cria suckling, you may wish to get those shorn first so they can get back to the paddock to graze. Immediately before shearing it is helpful to have the animals in a pen close to the shearer, in the order in which they are to be shorn. Tell the shearer of your preferences regarding what fleece comes off e.g. bonnets left on or shorn off.
Headstalls (head collars, halters)
If your animal is lead trained, having it head collared will make it easy to move to the shearing table. If it is not lead trained it may still make things a bit easier (The head collar can easily be removed if not required, whereas it may be difficult to collar your animal when you are in a hurry.)
Methods of Shearing
You will need 2 people to throw/lift an alpaca plus one to hold the head. A llama will need 3 people to throw/lift + one to hold the head.
- On the floor – each animal is “thrown” and restrained with leg ropes
- On a table – each animal is lifted onto the table and then restrained with leg ropes (this is how we do it at Alpaca Magic)
- Standing – extremely quiet animals are sometimes just haltered and held standing while they are shorn
While the Shearer is shearing
Rule 1: Keep out of the shearer’s way. The shears are very sharp, and the shearer is concentrating on shearing – not on sidestepping those around him. To do otherwise is to invite an accident.
Rule 2: If you are helping, know your job and pay attention. If you are not helping, stand right back out of the way.
Rule 3: When restraining the head, keep your fingers away from the shears.
For shearing you will need
Helpers – 4 is good, 5 is better
- Musterer to put animals into pens ready to shear
- Thrower ( the shearer + one other (or 2 +others llamas)
- Someone to fit the rope restraints on the front legs and tighten the rope
- Someone to fit the rope restraints on the back legs and tighten the ropes
- Head holder
- Fleece Skirter
- Fleece remover and bagger
- Floor Sweeper
- Table Sweeper
- Injection person (if you are vaccinating &/or drenching)
- Toe trimmer
- Gate Opener
- Someone to return the animals to their paddock
- Admin person – list of anything special, list of animals to be shorn, gofer, arranging tea break and lunch break things (like boiling water etc)
Each person may have several jobs.
Runs and Breaks
It is usual for the shearer to have a “run” of 2 hours & then have a break. At this time it is important to have the kettle boiling so the shearer and workers get a break. It is reasonable that most shearers expect this to be on time. During the breaks, the shearer will also sharpen and load his handpieces for the next run, check his messages etc
First run: 7:30 – 9:30, then 30 minute tea break
Second Run: 10:00 – 12:00, then a one hour break
Third Run: 1:00 – 3:00, then 30 minute tea break
Last Run: 3:30 – 5:30, pack up and go home
Shearing Day Needs
Shearing needs will vary, depending on how your animals are to be shorn, how many animals are to be shorn and what you want to do with the fleeces.
- A first aid kit for people and animals
- Bags for your fleeces
- Heavy duty garbage bag for the saddle (I like the green “Stand Up” bags)
- Something to place these bags in to keep them rigid while they fleece is going into them (eg plastic garbage bin)
- Supermarket bag for the neck
- Supermarket bag for the belly & legs – if you wish to keep this fleece
- Large bin/wool bale or similar for floor sweepings & rubbish fleece
- Adhesive labels to place on each bag to identify each fleece (if you want each fleece identified)
- Felt Pen to use on labels (you can make your labels in advance)
- Plenty of towels for spit and urine mopping & to “sweep off” the table between each animal.
- If you want to drench or vaccinate – have it ready. Remember vaccine must be kept cold and has a limited life after opening. (At Alpaca Magic we use 5 in 1 vaccine and Cydectin Injectable)
- Sedative for your animals (if required)
- Plenty of syringes/needles 18 gauge is good for Cydectin, 20 gauge is good for vaccine
- If you want to toe trim – have cutters ready
- A floor sweeping/rubbish container
- Broom to sweep the floor
- Fleece sample bags, if you wish your fleece to be tested
For a week or so your animal is vulnerable to sun (sunburn) cold winds or rain. Providing your shorn animals with a well sheltered (paddock with trees and windbreaks) paddock with plenty of hay ready to eat is a good plan, allowing them to eat lots quickly especially if the weather is cold, wet or windy.
Locking the animal up in a shed if necessary because of cold weather can be a life saver – again give them plenty of feed. If you haven’t got a shed, rugging the animal will help keep it warm. Remember if you rug your animal, at first it will be terrified of the rug, so make sure you supervise the animal in a pen the animal until it understands the rug won’t hurt it.
There are many commercially available rugs that may fit your alpacas and llamas – dog rugs, small horse rugs, sheep rugs, and of course you can make your own from waterproof fabric lined with something warm.
An emergency rug can be made from bubble wrap – see below for pictures and directions. The bubble wrap can be taped together and onto the animal with masking or packing tape.
Symptoms of sunburn is that the animal almost collapses if it is touched, and sometimes when if bends its body (e.g. turning a corner). On white animals you may see a pinkness to its skin. A sunburned animal should be kept in the shed (or at least shade) for a week or so until it is no longer tender.
The above is intended as a shearing guide – not as a Bible. Add and subtract as required for your own circumstances.