Summer has arrived on Manitoulin in sheared alpaca fashion

Dexter grins and bears it as he’s shorn for the summer.

SHEGUIANDAH—One-by-one the clients are led out of the stable, blown clear of dust and debris with an air hose, guided to the weighing station and then to the shearing table where they are hoisted up to be lightened of their coats, given a pedicure and inoculated before being led back to the barn for a snack. It’s alpaca shearing time at Lobo Loco Alpacas.

Many of the animals being led to the shearing table are veterans from the first event in 2014, but they are not yet ready to submit to the inevitable. 

Each of the 26 alpacas have their own personalities and each has their own strategy for delaying the process, some immediately fold their legs and settle into an obstinate sitting pose, others dig in their legs and resist the team moving them toward the weigh station, others engage in some lively bucking and kicking. Surprisingly, none of the docile creatures seeks to bite or deliberately kick their guides—it’s full-on Gandhi-style non-violent resistance.

But the shearing team also contains plenty of veterans, including owner Richard Lathwell along with a number of his volunteer crew, and they have their own strategies for getting the job done.

Alpacas need shearing and hoof clipping when living in these temperate and decidedly softer landscapes.

“Alpacas live naturally in very mountainous and stony regions in South America,” explained Mr. Lathwell. “They are used to having their hooves and teeth ground down.” The climate is also much warmer here in the summertime, so the loss of the heavy winter coats comes as a big relief, despite their initial reluctance to getting shorn.

Mr. Lathwell has made a number of changes to the shearing system he has perfected over the years due to the pandemic. One of the major changes is that the sorting of the shorn alpaca “fleeces” takes place at a different time.

“The sorting table is usually very close quarters,” he said. “It just works better, and safer, if we do that part later. It’s working out very well.”

Another change is that the alpacas are not the only ones getting their temperatures taken. Outside the shearing barn is a chart for contact tracing and a no-touch thermometre to record temperatures. A box of masks stands ready for those who didn’t bring their own. Inside the barn, masks do double duty helping to keep dust and bits of floating hair at bay.

Lobo Loco Alpacas utilize their own products for a wide range of artisanal products that are often sold at Island farmers’ markets across Manitoulin.