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January 13, 2014

By: Steve Murray, Shearing Services LLC

How To Pick A New Shearer


The time to start the process of selecting a shearer for your alpacas is not two weeks before you want them shorn. In fact, most probably any shearers still available at that short notice are not the ones that would be your first choice. The time to start the process is January 1st. Do not procrastinate, for capable shearers book quickly and early.

If you are a new alpaca owner the place to start is to talk with other alpaca owners in your area. They will have a good idea who is working in your area and what time of the season to be prepared. Next, call each shearer and ask if they might have room in their schedule for your herd. If they do, ask a few questions….

Does he come with or without help? Some shearers work alone and expect the owner to provide help. Others come with help for which you will pay extra. Find out so you can plan.

Ask how long it takes to shear a single alpaca. Any longer than 12 minutes or so and you should move this person down your list of candidates. Shearing is stressful for the animal and a skilled shearer will never take more than 15 minutes per animal. Seven to nine minutes is the sweet spot.

If show fleeces are important to you ask if he can shear a fleece in one piece.

For suri owners, ask if he is comfortable shearing suri fleece.

Ask for several references. Then call these people and ask…

- Is he on time and professional in appearance and action?

- Does he do a good job shearing? That is, when he’s done does the animal look good and is the fleece in excellent condition with very few second cuts? This is really important!

- Does he have bad habits? Ex. Smoking, spitting, cursing, animal abuse etc.

- Does he cut the animals with the shears? No cuts are the rule but accidents do happen and a minor nick or two during the day is within normal parameters. If you get reports of large, long, deep cuts move this shearer well down your list.

Finally, if this is a shearer with whom no one is familiar, ask him if he sharpens his own combs and cutters. A good competent shearer is not likely to send combs and cutters out to be sharpened, and will have spent the time and money to learn how to properly sharpen his equipment. This is not a hard and fast rule, but may give you an idea of how committed this shearer is to do good work at a reasonable price.

The most important take-away is to start the booking process early. The longer you wait the likelihood of having to settle for the less qualified and /or least professional shearer increases.