Sheep & Goats
During shearing, the shearer will throw aside the belly wool and topknot (wig). These are normally discarded. The rest of the fleece will need to be collected upon completion of shearing and at that point can be shaken, rolled, thrown onto a table for skirting.
The alpaca fleece comes off in three different classes: Firsts, seconds, and thirds. There are slight variations in how these are designated, but in general:
- Firsts are the blanket – this is taken off first and should be collected as soon as it is off so it is not contaminated with other, shorter parts of the fleece.
- Seconds come off the neck.
- Thirds are from the legs, belly, tail, and topknot.
Typically we shear llamas standing. We use a clean, large bucket to collect the fiber as it comes off. It can then be bagged upon completion of the shearing. Some owners ask that the blanket (firsts) be separated from the neck (seconds) and legs (thirds). Others combine everything together. It’s best to specify in advance how you plan to use the fiber and how you wish it to be collected.
I’ve found that everyone handles skirting differently. Some folks only pull away the dirty bits and bag everything up as is. Others will lay the fleece out on a sheet and pick out second cuts, pieces of hay/straw, and dirty or felted bits, and then roll the fleece carefully. More fancy are the skirting tables where you can set the fleece, cut side down, to get the second cuts to fall to the ground and you can move around the fleece, skirting it on all sides. Some alpaca owners will place a large paper sheet (or thin plastic sheet) under the alpaca to capture the blanket as it comes off. They then roll it up immediately and store separately from the other parts of the fleece.
It’s a good idea to do at least minimal skirting before bagging your fleece – you really don’t want to bag up fleece with manure attached to it!
Types of bags: I recommend either the clear plastic leaf bags or the brown lawn bags for your fiber. The black contractor bags and kitchen plastic bags do not breathe at all, and too much moisture can accumulate causing molding. It’s also hard to see what is inside! If you are going to store the fiber for a while before processing, make sure to label them and plan for a good spot to store them where animals cannot get in. Some folks have said that dryer sheets will keep moths away.