It seems a little odd to be writing this with Australia suffering its worst drought in living memory; however, throughout the shearing season, we will always lose days to some form of precipitation.
These inclement conditions regularly lead to questions as to why we will not shear animals in the rain or while wet. So, let us start with shearing outside in the rain. We use electric handpieces, extension cords, etc. would you use a hairdryer outside in these conditions?
If the alpacas are wet, there are numerous reasons why we will not shear them. When the stock is wet, they become slippier, and so does everything they come in contact with, this results in increased chances of injury to both alpaca and handlers. Wet alpacas mean wet shearers and handlers so spending the day or part thereof cold and wet can harm the health of both. The shearing process is tougher on the alpaca and the equipment. The shears do not shear as clean or as fast through the wet fleece. From a fleece harvest point of view, managing wet fleece and drying fleece can be a real challenge.
But they are only damp. The alpacas may be sheared if they are not wet at the skin, but there are important considerations. Damp fleece when bagged will get mouldy. Alpacas will stick to the shearing table and are more difficult to move. The shearer and handlers still end up wet.
Either way, it is simply not a pleasant experience for anyone.
We completely understand no one can control the weather, and the last thing anyone wants is to lose their shearing day to rain. There are somethings you can do in advance to try and prevent this from happening. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, if there is even a slight chance of rain shed your alpacas. If you do not have a shed, can you hijack a carport, veranda, open-fronted paddock shelter with a gate to hold them in or even a horse float? Do not assume your alpacas will stay in a dry place if they have the option. If you have no means of keeping alpacas dry or they are wet let your shearer know in advance, it is always frustrating to turn up somewhere having accumulated vehicle and wage expenses and not be able to shear.
At the peak of the shearing season, we will be shearing seven days a week and potentially six or seven stops per day. Rescheduling rain days can be an absolute nightmare, and most likely it will not be in the next few days, it could be weeks out. Apart from our interstate runs where we take one shot through an area, we should always be able to reschedule you.