Some llamas have been handled since they were young and are more receptive to handling, and are less likely to be upset during shearing. It would be delightful if all llamas were that way. Mine are not (despite moments of tolerance!)
I have six llamas: Kahlua, Dolly, Cabernet, Hazel, Cesar, and Stormy. As most of my regular readers will know, Stormy is only just 6 months old, so he's kind of half-a-llama. He's also much more used to being approached by me and given little chin rubs, so he's not difficult to handle. The rest of them might as well be stampeding elephants when it comes to shearing time. This was a difficult lesson last year, when I was repeatedly kicked, stepped on, spat upon, shoved, and generally given a good demonstration of the ability of a llama to show its displeasure.
Earlier this year, one of my sheep magazines had a reader letter from a woman asking about the best way for a small-statured woman to shear sheep by herself. The response came from a woman who shears full time, and she was kind enough to include in her response the description of how she shears llamas and alpacas. I read it, re-read it, and decided it was entirely possible. In fact, I could scarcely wait to try her method.
Yesterday was my first try! And guess what?! It WORKED! So, without further ado, I present to you the best method I have learned to date for shearing llamas (unless your llamas are wonderfully obliging about allowing you to shear them). I hope it might help somebody else out there!
First - the essentials for your llama shearing experience:
1. Sharp shears!
Quality Llama Products, Inc." The large shears came from Premier here in Iowa. The Fiskars shears are much easier for me to use and I have less blisters than last year. They are lightweight too, which is a bonus when you are dealing with multiple llamas. If you can, splurge on a quality pair of shears. It's worth it!
2. Grooming tools!
rotating tooth rake" and each of the metal teeth rotates in place so that when you pull the brush through the llama's fleece, it doesn't catch on things but it does remove a considerable amount of debris from under the surface. It doesn't seem to cause problems with tangles and is very easy to use. This tool was another first for this year and I loved using it. The llamas weren't upset by it either.
3. Spit mask!
So, here's the method to getting your llama to lay down for shearing. Yes, it may be somewhat uncomfortable for the llama, but you will be finished much faster, and there is far less risk to both you and the llama. Using sharp tools around an agitated animal can easily result in injury to you or the animal, and that's easily avoided using this method.
1. Attach a sturdy lead to the harness. Tie the llama to a sturdy tree at the head end. Tie low down on the tree trunk because the llama will be laying down and you don't want to stress the neck.
2. Tie a sturdy loop in the end of a strong rope. Use a soft rope for the comfort of the animal, and for your hands. Amuse your llama with some grain or fresh grazing, so that he/she doesn't notice you laying a rope under their belly. Loop the rope around the belly so that you have a "lasso" around the belly of the llama with the end of the rope going through the loop at the other end. Gently tighten the rope so that the llama cannot wiggle out of it. Slowly work the rope loop towards the back end of the animal. You're aiming to have the hips or upper legs cinched. Be ready with another tree or sturdy post (or tractor) to tie off onto.
3. As you move that hip rope backwards on the animal, gently pull on it (don't be close enough to get kicked). DO THIS ON SOFT GROUND! NOT CONCRETE! You do not want to hurt the animal when it lays down. I did it on the grass in the yard. As you pull backward, the head lead rope will become taut and the rear rope as well. The llama will tend to lay down or stumble a little, losing its footing, thus going down. Once the llama is down, quickly secure the rear rope. I had the rope on a pulley on the front of the tractor, and then around a tree.
4. What about the other side?! Yes, you can only shear one side at a time.
5. How do they get up? Well, once you've finished, loosen the rear rope first. My experience was that they were not really terribly aware of the loosening of that rope. Still, be cautious and avoid getting kicked. Once the rear rope is loose, release the head rope from whatever tree/post you have it attached onto, and encourage the animal to rise. My experience was that the rear loop kind of slipped down the legs and they just stepped out of it.
Here is Kahlua before shearing...
A kiss for my well-behaved boy!
This is Cabernet pre-shearing...
Overall, I had a much easier time this year with the shearing experience. So far, I've completed two llamas - Kahlua (my herd sire) and Cabernet. I have a lot of beautiful fleece from them both. Kahlua is a dark chocolate brown with milk chocolate highlights...