Grooming and Shearing-How to and why

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Grooming and Shearing-Why and How to

Shearing For Comfort and Show 
The primary reason for shearing in weather where the heat and or humidity or both could be considered hot is for the comfort of the animal.  Our temps in the summer get to over 100 degrees for several days in a row.  It tends to be a dry heat that cools only slightly at night.  I call this hot weather.  But areas with high humidity would be hot at a much lower temperature.  In the Andes Mountains it can be quite warm in the day but gets quite cold at night, hence the big furry coats.   Since the reason for shearing is to make the animal comfortable, what it turns out looking like really doesn’t matter.  All you are interested in is getting the wool off.  Your target area is the barrel of the animal.  This is the area between the withers and the hip and all the way around including the bottom of the belly.  This opens up the natural “vents” located just behind the front legs and just in front of the back legs where there is not much wool already.  The belly is important because it helps the cooling, especially if they can lie on cool-damp ground.  If you don’t want to invest in electric clippers you can use a pair of scissors.  Buy the ones at Walmart with the blue plastic handles.  They seem to stay sharp pretty well.  You certainly won’t want to do more than two llamas with one pair of scissors  and don’t try to do too much at one time.  I advise no longer than a half hour at a time.  Several short sessions, rather that one or two long ones, will be appreciated by both you and your llama. If you want to use electric clippers, the target area is the same.  Use a pair of scissors to make a starting point for your shears on the top of the back and about in the middle of the back.  Starting at this point with your electric shears move straight down, shear as far down as you can.  Now take off all the rest of the wool between the front legs and the hip, all of the way around the barrel.  Of course you can remove any additional wool you want to but they are at least cooler with the barrel shorn.So that is down and dirty but some of us like to take our llamas out in public and want them neat and stylish.  Generally speaking electric shears are going to give you the neatest and most versatile cut.  Scissors are more labor intensive and you must be careful to make sure all the little snips are the same length, neatness counts.  You can always go back and even up the cut when you have most of the wool off.  If you want to do a little creative shearing you are going to be adding to your hands' blisters.  Still, I have seen some really nice hand shearing jobs.  I don’t really recommend the hand sheep shears since I have yet to accomplish successful use of these.  They can be temperamental even when they are brand new.  If the blades don’t mesh perfectly they won’t cut and you must continuously sharpen them.  If you are not good at sharpening this can be tricky.  Being lazy myself I go for the electric shears.
I use Lister Stablemate shears.  I like these since they are light weight and not terribly noisy.  DO NOT use sheep shears as these can cut your llama or yourself.  I use plucking blades for the Listers.  Of course there are many other brands of shears that do a fine job.  I also use Blade Wash to clean the blades.  Putting a bit of Blade Wash in a shallow container run them for a few seconds and then dry them with a towel while they are still running.  Don't try this with the sheep shearing type of blades.  The blades to use are the ones you would use to shear a horses mane.
  Clean your blades often. 
People often have trouble getting their electric shears to cut.  Your blades may be dull.  If you are sure your blades are sharp try running them in Blade Wash and then drying them, while running, with a towel.

Maintaining your llama's coat is an important componant of caring for your llama. 

Light wool animals need the least amount of grooming and for this reason are a good choice for guardians.  The short wool animals will molt out their undercoat every two years.  Given brush, trees, or fences they will "self groom"  rubbing against these things to remove the dead undercoat.  For the most part these animals never really look bad. 
Medium and heavy wool animals need to be groomed and shorn every year.  Their coats do not shed or molt out.  They mat and felt close to the skin. 
The most important tool for grooming is a Circuteer ll.  This  is a high powered blower that cattlemen use to blow out their cattle for show.  For the llamas it blows out a lot of dirt and vegetable matter as well as open up the coat.  You will be suprised at how much stuff comes off of your llama.  The Circuteer ll is not an inexpensive tool,  it generally runs about $300.00, but it saves you and your llama lots of stress and time.  Blow out the animal  throughly, take your time.  Blowing does not require any hands on and does not pull the animal's coat.  They do not like to have their hair pulled.  Next, spray a grooming agent into the air flow of the Circuteer and blow it into the coat.  The dirtier the animal the more grooming agent should be used.  If you do use a lot of it you will want to wash the llama when you are done.  The grooming agent that I use is homemade, the recipe is:
1 part Show Sheen (a horse grooming agent)
1 part white vinagar
3 parts water
mix this in a small hand held garden sprayer, one that you can pump up.  
You can increase the amount of Show Sheen and vinager if the animal is really full of stickers and other vegetable matter.  But, the Show Sheen will get sticky in the sun over 2 or 3 days.  Now blow the animal dry.  You can now begin brushing.  You will be suprised at how easily the vegetation comes out with out as much pulling.  A soft slicker brush works the best.  If it is too stiff it pulls the llama's coat.  You can get good brushes from the various llama equipment catalogues and sometimes at the local pet store. 
All of this takes time.  The dirtier the llama, the more time.  Llamas seem to have a limit of 2 hours and you should too.  They usually have to relieve themselves about every 2 hours.  I recommend you divide up the grooming process into not more than 2 hour sessions over several days.  Try not to make this an unpleasant experience for your llama,  they will not want to let you groom them if there is a lot of pulling and yelling.  Be gentle. 

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Mystical Llamas  5963 Fruitland Rd., Marysville, CA. 95901
TEL: (530) 743- 4803  e-mail