May 2—EBENSBURG — Spring was crisply in the air on Saturday morning, and so was the fleece of more than a dozen Huacaya alpacas at GET'IM Alpaca Farm in Barr Township.
George Sherry, the owner of the private farm on Amadei Road that is home to the gentle and sometimes shaggy animals, hosted an annual shearing of the alpacas on Saturday, with Josh Klein, of Alpaca Shear, handling trimming duties.
Klein, who is in his 20th season of shearing alpacas across the nation, says that he visits "hundreds and hundreds" of farms throughout the year, stopping at about one to three farms per day during his seven-day-a-week travels.
The process takes about 10 minutes per alpaca.
The animal's front and hind legs are tethered to prevent struggle or escape. A handler then holds the alpaca's head as the shearer clips the fleece off one side. The alpaca is then rolled over so the shearer can clip the other side. The blanket of of fleece is then bagged and documented by assistants at the farm.
Fleece is then shorn off the legs and around the head and neck region, while nails are also trimmed, keeping the alpacas cooler as the weather warms up.
Sherry said the process is necessary so that the alpacas do not overheat. The shorn fleece can also be a source of income for the alpacas' owner.
"Obviously, there's revenue in the finer fleeces," Sherry said, "but in our climates, and pretty much anywhere that I know of, you get the fleece off the older ones for the heat so they don't stress out."
The hypoallergenic fiber can be used in many capacities, including clothing, rugs and toys. Huacaya alpacas' fibers possess a "crimpy" quality similar to sheeps' wool, giving it natural elasticity.
Sherry gave an optimistic estimate when breaking down the economy of what fleece can be used once it's shorn from an alpaca.
"You're hoping for at least 60%, which is off the back and the sides," Sherry said. "That's got a lower micron, which is finer, and that's what you can have against your skin. It will not itch. There's no lanolin, so there's no reaction, and there's no barbs. It's a very smooth fiber."