Shear delight

Luna
Luna, one of the herd at Island Alpaca, waits her turn to be sheared. Photos by Ralph Stewart

By Anna Marie D'Addarie - April 26, 2007

With buzzing clippers and gentle words, Jozi and Matt Best sheared the alpaca herd at Barbara Ronchetti's farm last Friday. It was the first shearing day at Island Alpaca, the new farm off of Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in Oak Bluffs. Many curious passers-by have wondered about the alpaca, and last week's shearing and open house gave many an opportunity for a closer look at these gentle creatures.

The Bests came from Unity, N.H., to shear the herd. Ms. Ronchetti had met them before and was impressed with the gentle way they worked with the animals. She knew she wanted these two people to shear her alpaca.

Ally and Naomi Cook
(left) With their new looks, the alpaca were ready to greet the public at an open house last Sunday. Ally and Naomi Cook offer treats.

The annual shearing can be an anxious time for alpaca. It does not hurt, of course, to remove the fleece, but too much handling can cause undue stress on the animal. Jozi and Matt worked with such efficiency that the people who were helping (Ms. Ronchetti's friends and family) had to work to keep up. Jozi held the animal's head while Matt carefully removed the fleece from the body. The body fleece, called the blanket, is the best fiber. Next, the legs and neck are sheared. This fiber is kept separate from the blanket. Although still good, the legs and neck give a slightly lesser quality fiber. Each animal yields approximately five pounds of fleece.

While the animal is occupied with being sheared, his or her teeth and hooves are checked. Shots are also administered if necessary. Each animal took less than 10 minutes to shear and all 31 alpaca were finished by 3:30 pm. The couple left the Island the next day to continue shearing at farms on the Cape and near Boston on their way home to New Hampshire.

Island Alpaca opened its doors to visitors last Sunday and the newly coiffed herd greeted young and old. The gentle, curious animals peeked over the fences and children squealed with delight. A busy weekend at the new alpaca farm brought Islanders and critters closer.

For more information on Island Alpaca, visit www.islandalpaca.com or call 508-693-5554. Open houses are scheduled throughout the summer. Check the Directory of Information in The Times.

Matt and Jozi Best
Matt (left) and Jozi Best shear an alpaca last Friday at Island Alpaca farm in Oak Bluffs. The two sheared the entire herd of 31 animals in seven hours.
Alpaca fleece
Every bit of the precious fleece is collected. Each animal's fleece is marked with its name and kept separate for processing into yarn.
alpaca
These female alpaca wear their new shorn looks back into the pasture last Friday.