Alpaca Info on Burrs
We love to pass on alpaca info that may help others with their animals. We have had a problem with burrs in our alpaca fleece for the last two years. The weeds that produce the burrs are very tough plants to get rid of.
We have no irrigation here so we do not have pasture. What is left after the alpacas eat what little grass there is, are weeds and more weeds. We have stiff winds that bring in the weed seeds, too.
We have had to hand pick the burrs out of our fleece after shearing which is not fun. This year was even worse than last.
While surfing the internet on another subject, an Australian website or forum (can't remember which it was) with alpaca info happened to mention burrs in alpaca fleece, a problem some of the Australian alpaca ranches were having, too.
AhHa! We are not the only ones with this problem. A suggestion was made to use a shedding comb that is used for horses. We had horses before (and during) our alpaca adventure and still had some equine equipment, including the shedding comb.
We pulled it out today and tried it. Low and behold, it worked! Much easier than picking them out by hand. It does pull your alpacas fleece apart so you should not do it a couple of months prior to shearing. It was mentioned that the fleece would return to its staple with tips state.
The majority of the burrs are on the surface and all we needed to do was pass the shedding comb over the fleece to pull off the burrs. Our shedding comb rotates and has two sides to the teeth. One is longer than the other. The longer teeth worked the best. They were long enough to get under the burr and pull them out.
Our Great Pyrenees managed to get them, too. Not only are we giving you alpaca info, but you get this added bonus of Pyr info. The shedding comb worked even better on him. Not only did it pull the burrs out but it pulled out all his loose hair. If you don't own a Pyr, you might not understand how many gobs of hair they shed. It's a lot!
It used to be that alpaca owners brushed their alpacas prior to showing, but that is a big no-no now because the fleece needs to be in a natural state for judging. You probably don't want to groom them prior to a showing. If you want to show your alpacas, here is some alpaca info you need to know before grooming. This is what the judges are looking for, according to Mike Safley, in huyacayas for an ungroomed, natural state of fleece:
"1. The presence of weathered tips—naturally formed staples that end in an angled tip on the outside of the fleece versus those that are very blunt, and open at the tip.
2. Shearing patterns that allow for an even regrowth of staple length over the entire animal.
3. The existence of a dust line as barrier in the fleece that protects the fleece’s clean condition nearer to the skin.
4. The presence of guard hair on the outside of the blanket and at the chest.
5. A uniform color over the exterior of the fleece."
Of course, the best remedy to this is a well groomed pasture. That isn't an option for us right now where we live. The burrs are the only thing we have right now that is causing a problem with the fleece. We are trying to solve the problem without having chemicals in the pastures that might harm the alpacas.
We'll pass on our alpaca info of a safe remedy when we find one. In the meantime, we will groom our alpacas. This will take a lot less time now that we know we can use the shedding comb and stop using it two months prior to shearing. If we shear a little earlier, I think we will beat the burrs. They don't stick to the shorn alpacas. The shearer will be happier, too.
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