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Roger Hastings shears Dolly Llama. Photo: Sarah Harris
Roger Hastings shears Dolly Llama. Photo: Sarah Harris

Dolly Llama, Daisy, and 14 alpacas get a haircut

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Summer means shearing season. All across the North Country, sheep, alpacas, and llamas are getting serious haircuts and losing their winter coats. A couple weeks ago reporter Sarah Harris went to an alpaca shearing in Ray Brook.

It had special significance for her. Sarah has two llamas living in her backyard that desperately needed to be shorn. So she watched, she learned, and she later helped her llamas get a much-needed shave.

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Sarah Harris
Reporter and Producer

Nina Schoch has 14 alpacas — and they’re all getting haircuts. 

Poppy Rose is a two-year-old reddish-brown alpaca. Her name's Poppy, Nina explains, "because she popped out when the poppies were in bloom."

Shearing fourteen alpacas is an all-day job, and Nina has a team of people helping her. I’m really curious to watch,  because I have two llamas of my own. They’re basically bigger hairier, cousins of the alpaca. And they desperately need to get shorn — and I need to learn how it works. 

"We’ve taken blanket off, so i’m going to clean this up," Jay Ward says. He has an alpaca farm, and a small shearing business. So far, he’s shorn Poppy’s topcoat in one big piece called a blanket. Her fiber rolls off in thick, dark waves. 

"I’m going to go down that leg, she’ll tip it up on the belly, I’ll finish tail, clean up the bottom here, I’ll finish belly, I’ll do that bag leg on the other side, then I’ll jump up to the front."  

Once most of Poppy’s coat is gone, Kathy Craft gives her a haircut.  

From left: Reporter Sarah Harris (me!), Poppy the Alpaca, and Cathy Kraft. Photo: Joseph Andriano
From left: Reporter Sarah Harris (me!), Poppy the Alpaca, and Cathy Kraft. Photo: Joseph Andriano
"So I use a stiff grooming brush to get some of the stuff out. Jen is holding the alpaca’s ears and I’m hoping she doesn’t spit because I’m directly in line," she says. 

"You already got spit on once today," I say, noticing crusty green sludge on Cathy's sleeve.

"Thoroughly, completely, yuck! And it was warm, it was so disgusting," she says. 

Poppy the alpaca doesn’t spit. In fact, she holds pretty still. Kathy Craft snips and snips with a pair of spring-loaded scissors.  

"It’s so quiet, she says, snipping and smiling. "She’s got such soft fur!" 

"That color is beautiful," I say. "Mocha, maybe?"

"With some cinnamon in it," Cathy says. " And look at these eyelashes, they’re so thick and long, and sometimes it’s hard to sort them out from the fur."

Pretty soon, Poppy the alpaca’s done. They’ve made it look easy, but I’m still apprehensive about my llamas. They don’t like wearing halters, or getting tied up, or doing anything they don’t want to do. And they’re a lot bigger than alpacas. Plus they do spit. 

Thank goodness, though, for Roger Hastings. 

Dolly, left, and Daisy, right, after their haircut. Photo: Sarah Harris
Dolly, left, and Daisy, right, after their haircut. Photo: Sarah Harris
A couple weeks after I watch Nina Schoch’s alpacas get shorn, Roger arrives at my house in an old van. 

He’s a thin man with a ponytail and beard. Roger’s been shearing since the nineties, and travels all over the place, shearing from "Crown Point to Sackett's Harbor."  

We find an extension cord and plug in Roger’s big razor. Somehow, my partner Joe manages to get halters on Dolly and Daisy. We tie up Dolly — the nice llama — and Roger gets started.

"This way they aren’t going to look smooth," Roger says of the cut, "but it gives them a little protection and it’ll grow out quicker."

I tell him I'm fine with it. "As long as we give them a good haircut for the summer, I don’t care what it looks like." 

Roger Hastings has a lovely way with the llamas. Dolly doesn’t even filch as he starts to shear her. The fiber rolls off in that same, nice wave — and it turns that while the llamas are reddish brown on the outside, underneath’s deep, chocolately brown, flecked with grey. Dolly’s shearing goes really well, which kind of makes sense — she’s a friendly, agreeable llama. Her sister, Daisy, the ornery one? Not so much. The minute we approach her with the razor, she sits down. 

Roger Hastings manages to shear Daisy’s back and neck, and the fiber pools around her. But then, we have to get to her belly. And we have to get her to stand up. Joe and Roger tug on the tope. I push her back legs. Daisy is totally mad and shaking her head around wildly. But then — she's up! 

Roger does a quick shave of her belly. And then, it’s done. It was a lot easier than I thought: no kicking. No spitting. And The llamas? Well, they were cool animals to begin with. And now that they’re shorn, even they look a little funny, they’re definitely a lot cooler. 

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