Llamas are native to areas of high altitude and relatively cool climate with low humidity of the south American Andes. Even if you aren’t interested in using or selling the fleece, the llama’s health will benefit from shearing if you live where summers are hot. Llamas do vary considerably in fleece length and thickness, so the importance and frequency of shearing will depend on the individual animal as well as climate. It is important to leave at least a half inch of fiber for protection from weather and sunburn. The need for skin protection varies according to the llama’s skin color. Light colored skin needs more sun protection. A llama typically will need 3 inches of undercoat for winter warmth. A llama sheared to half inch in the spring should grow an adequate coat by winter. Here in Missouri shearing every year or two is recommended unless the llama has an unusually light coat.
The Full "Nudie" Cut
This is the "head to toe" cut. Generally it runs from the top of the neck to the knees. We like to leave wool from the knees down for two reasons. One, it gives the llamas some protection from flies, who love those leg areas. And, two, they are terribly challenging spots to shear. Llamas are not all that happy having the shears around their legs. We have done it before. It's just not fun. When Llamas get feisty and don't want us to touch their legs, we can also do the Half "Nudie" Cut , which means we stop at the legs and taper it for a clean look.
The Barrel Cut
This is a basic shearing of the llama around its body between the front and rear vents (armpits). This basic cut allows the animal to get adequate ventilation across it's belly as well as taking the majority of the prime blanket off of the back and sides. Their are a couple of modifications to this cut as well. Modifications may extend the shear points forward to the withers and/or back toward the tail.
The Lion Cut
This cut starts at the llamas withers (where the neck and back meet) and removes all the wool from the back, sides, rump and rear legs. Options for how far forward you would like the cut to go on the front shoulders are available. The prime blanket on a llama generally extends from the withers straight down the front shoulder.