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'Paca walk from hunk to spunk!

Kylie Martin
Keeper Diaries - Posted 2 February 2015

Pablo the spunk before

As the weather starts to warm, some exciting changes happen in the animal world. Males start to strut their stuff to show off to the females and new babies are born or hatched.

But for our two bachelor boys, Pablo and Tyson, there’s no need to show off or worry about babies. All they need to worry about is their annual shearing.

Both Pablo and Tyson are trained to be lead on a halter, so it was an easy walk up to the top of the Zoo to meet the expert shearers, Miriam and Peter. They run a local alpaca stud and kindly came to us to give the boys their annual shear.

Miriam and Peter brought with them a specialised shearing board which the boys lie down on. And they use an electric hand piece with specialised combs and cutter designed especially for alpaca fleece. Because it was an unfamiliar situation the boys showed some displeasure, by humming, snorting and grumbling. Tyson also let us know with a “dry spit”, warning us he wasn’t totally ok with this, then the full-blown “green spit” followed. This spit has an unpleasant smell, as it contains bile, grass and hay. He soon realised it wasn’t that bad and settled. Pablo is a little less confrontational but grumbled the whole time.

Kylie23

Pablo lying down on the specialised shearing table

The fleece is shorn in 3 parts – prime, seconds and thirds. Each grade of fleece is used for different purposes. The prime fleece is the bulk of the body (like the saddle area on a horse) and is used to make yarn for jumpers. But unlike farmed alpacas who live only on grass, our fleeces are quite messy, with sand, mulch, bark and leaves stuck in them.

Kylie24

The prime fleece being collected

A regular question we get asked when out walking the boys is the difference between a llama and an alpaca. The main difference is the size; llamas are larger and used as “beasts of burden” whereas alpacas are bred for their hypoallergenic fleece.

Whilst they are on the table, we give them a thorough head-to-toe. One interesting thing I like to look at is their canine teeth – called “fighting teeth” – which they use to bite other alpacas when there is serious disagreement. They have two in the upper jaw and one on the bottom jaw on each side. It’s also interesting to note they only have incisors on the bottom.

Kylie26  Kylie32

Tyson’s fighting teeth – ouch                                          Prime fleece

We got half a rubbish sack of prime fleece from each boy. After we’ve cleaned it up, we will make something to be sold for our conservation fund.

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Pablo the spunk after

After all the excitement, it was a quick walk back down for a cool-off under the sprinkler. Phew, all over for another year.

 

 

 

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