Monday, 14 May 2018 22:19

Local alpaca farm has annual shearing day Featured

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UNITY - Dozens of freshly sheared alpacas could be seen running around Northern Solstice Alpaca Farm on Sunday at their annual shearing event.

Every year on Mother's Day, the Unity farm harvests alpaca fibers. The fibers can then be transformed into goods ranging from yarn to socks to rugs. The farm's owners sell such items at their store in Ellsworth.


"I hope a lot of moms received spa gift certificates, but these forty alpacas did,"  said farm co-owner Corry Pratt. "And they get nails, manicure, pedicure, haircut, and a massage."


Pratt said alpaca fibers come in three grades, and what grade the fiber is determines what it can be made into.


The alpacas were sheared in order of color. The white animals were taken first, so as not to cross-contaminate the colors when being sorted.


Farm staff said the ten minute grooming process doesn't hurt the animals. It's necessary to keep the furry guys feeling cool as Maine heads into warmer weather.


"They can die of heat exhaustion," said one of the shearers, Jay Mariacher. He is the owner of Mariacher Shearing Services, and was called up to the farm just for the shearing.


Mariacher has been shearing alpacas for 12 years, and travels the country annually to give the animals a full grooming. "We actually started two months ago down in Virginia and South Carolina," said Mariacher.


He said the first step is to vaccinate the alpacas, to protect them from getting a deadly worm virus.


Mariacher started with shearing the alpaca's back and stomach area, getting the first grade fibers.


He then moved on to the "seconds" or second-rate fibers around the animal's front chest and neck.


Meanwhile, other staff sat nearby to scoop the fibers into bags.


Finally Mariacher groomed the alpaca's head and face. The shearer said he left the faces of the male alpacas furrier, so that they're more attractive to female alpacas.


Farm staff said they expected more fiber to be collected than last year. They' expected more than 300 pounds to be sheared at this year's harvest.


Kelly Mitchell

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Kelly Mitchell joined the news team in March of 2018. She grew up splitting her time between York, ME and Haverhill, MA, but her favorite childhood memories took place along the rocky coast of southern Maine. She's now e...