Alpacas need to be shorn annually (although suris may be left for up to two years). This is a skilled job and is best left to shearers experienced in handling the animals. Here in South Australia, shearing normally takes place in Spring to reduce contamination of the fl eece by seeds and to make life more comfortable during our hot summers. Being a lot larger and stronger, they cannot be held and shorn by the shearer in the same way as sheep. Instead, they are restrained, either on the ground or, as we do, on a purpose-built table, allowing the shearer to concentrate on removing the fleece in a way that minimises discomfort and injury risk to human and animal alike. A regularly updated list of shearers can be found on the web site of the South Australian region of the AAA at www.aaasa. com.au.
Shearing is also a good time to check teeth and toenails, trimming when necessary.
How often toenails need to be clipped really depends on the terrain that the animals live on. We know of owners who keep alpacas on hard, rocky ground who never have to trim nails - they wear down naturally as they would in their natural habitat in the mountains and high plains of South America. Others however, kept on soft pasture, may need checking three or four times each year.
While most owners will have no problem with trimming toenails, teeth are another area best left to the experienced. Most shearers will include this service, but make sure that you check with them first. The bottom teeth need to align with the pad on the top jaw, the teeth naturally wear down and regrow all the time but, in some cases they may over-grow and need to be trimmed back down. Mature males also grow small, but sharp fi ghting teeth (clearly visible in the picture). These also need to be trimmed or removed to prevent the risk of injury to other males when they are working out amongst themselves just who is in-charge in the paddock.
To find out more about our shearing service click here