Sheila is the first llama I owned. I’d shown llamas owned by other people for 10 years, and it was fine. I don’t know exactly what made me think I needed to own a llama. Except it’s Sheila, and she was meant for me.
I typically enjoy shearing llamas. At least, I enjoy the idea of it. After I’ve had time to forget about the previous year’s shearing season. There is some satisfaction in how the wool rolls off the animal. I like finishing things, and this is something that’s pretty clear when it’s finished.
There are 87 llamas on the farm, and we sheared all but one (he’s old and light-wooled; he doesn’t need it). Most of them are retired and get a quick cut that helps them stay cool in the summer heat. Some of them are on the show string, and those get a more careful cut meant to show off their conformation in the halter ring.
Sheila officially retired several years ago. She just turned 15 last month, so she’s one of the “old girls” now. I wish I could share better pictures, but I was alone on this particular day, and I didn’t even have an actual camera with me. Phone pics will have to do.
Before. Sheila, since she’s retired, doesn’t have to keep up appearances. So she was pretty dirty. I’d decided to give her a cut that takes off more fiber than I normally would because of the heat. She also doesn’t particularly like being groomed (she’ll tolerate it), so I figured shearing the fiber off would make it easier for the both of us.
After. She looks like some kind of fancy poodle. My friend, Sheila’s number one fan, asked if I’d left leg warmers on her when I texted her this after shot. Yes. Leg warmers.
Though many people do, we don’t really use the fiber for anything after we shear it off the animal. Llama fiber is softer than most sheep wool, but it’s not quite as fine as alpaca fiber. One year, we shipped a bunch of fiber to help with oil spills (they use it to soak the oil off the water). This year, we gave bags of fiber to a shear guild. Most years, the fiber gets buried. There’s just too much left from so many llamas.
Shearing the llamas is a hot, dirty job. It’s also sometimes painful because some of the llamas take exception to the shearing and kick. A lot. I’m quite happy that we’re done for the year. Now, we can do other fun things. Like bale hay.