I started shearing because I had seen some rough treatment of animals being shorn and I wanted to offer a kinder alternative. I believe it’s important to understand not only the mechanics of shearing itself but the physiology of the animals one works with. Injuries can always happen when working with very sharp tools and large animals, but when one works with the brain (as Hercule Poirot would say, “the little grey cells”) and not the brawn, the whole shearing experience is better. There is no need for shearing day to be stressful. To the contrary, it should be a good experience for both farmer and animal.
Alpacas: I use the pulley and ropes shearing restraint system and shear alpacas on a soft mat. This is a very safe and quick method, and causes minimal stress to the animal. During the high shearing season I bring an assistant whom I’ve personally trained in appropriate handling of your animals. I include toenail trims in the process, and can also do tooth trimming if you wish, both overgrown incisors and fighting teeth; for this I use a dremel and take care to sculpt the teeth so as not to leave sharp edges.
Llamas: I normally shear llamas standing up. I do not believe that it is safe or humane to bring an llama down on a mat using the ropes we use for alpacas. Their shoulder structure is different, they are far larger, and the possibility for injury is high. The exception to this is when a llama cushes (lies down) and simply will not get up. In this case, the llama is already lying down and a gentle stretch allows me to shear the belly and legs which otherwise would be inaccessible. Toenail trims are also done at this time. Occasionally intact males will require that their fighting teeth be ground down so they cannot hurt other animals. Incisor trimming on llamas is more rare.
Sheep: I normally shear using the New Zealand method (animal on the ground), because this allows for maximum efficiency of movement and maximum stretch of skin (and thus minimal chance of nicking). Some older and some very overweight animals do not tolerate being turned on their bottoms and I can shear them either lying on their side or standing, if you wish.
Goats: I use a hybrid method to shear Angora goats. I place them on their butts initially to trim their hooves and shear their belly and crutch area, and then lay them on one side and then the other to remove the high quality fiber. I ordinarily use 17 tooth “mohair” combs to shear goats, because this greatly reduces the chances of cutting their very thin skin.
Horses, ponies, donkeys, cows: I can clip horses and ponies (and the occasional donkey!) when winter hair is not shedding out, or when Cushings causes an excess of hair growth. Winter clips also available.
Pigs: No, I don’t shear pigs! But occasionally people ask me to trim their pigs’ hooves and I am happy to do this provided the pigs can be adequately restrained. Pigs do not enjoy this process, even though it is not painful, so you should be prepared for some noise.
I cannot trim cow or horses’ hooves, but am glad to make referrals.