A hairy situationFLORENCE TOWNSHIP - Midnight Mini was not happy with her recent haircut.
By: Jen Cullen, The Republican Eagle
FLORENCE TOWNSHIP - Midnight Mini was not happy with her recent haircut.
And she let Norris Berg know it.
The miniature llama thrashed and spun and whimpered. She did not make Berg's job easy.
"It's just like a kid getting his first hair cut," said Berg, a llama shearer from Ellsworth.
Berg is used to temperamental llamas like Midnight Mini.
He's been traveling across the Midwest for years with his heavyduty shears and his gentle touch, which he often uses to calm down frightened llamas not quite in love with haircuts.
Some of the animals - usually those who have been buzzed by the shears before - stand calmly like seasoned pros.
Others put up a fight.
Good news is, it's hard to get hurt by a llama, Berg said.
The animals' defense mechanism is to run away. They don't have top front teeth and their hooves are not powerful like a horse's.
"It scares you more than it hurts you," Berg said.
But just in case, Berg has recruited Joe Patterson, a young and athletic helper in charge of making sure the llamas stay put and don't hurt themselves.
Patterson's strength is part of the process.
Proper equipment is also key.
"You have to know what you're doing," Berg said. "You have to have the proper equipment. The chute is key."
The chute is a sort of holding pen for the llama. Bars keep the animal's head and neck in place and prevent it from running.
Patterson attempts to keep the llamas in a safe and favorable position in the chute so Berg can quickly run his shears through their soft and fluffy fiber.
Patterson is the muscle of the group, often getting stomped, twisted up and left out of breath.
He also must cut the llama's nails.
But the hair cut - ranging from a barrel cut to a lion cut to a full cut depending on the animal and what it's used for - is what's really important.
Llamas need to be sheared once a year in the spring to prevent heat stroke. Depending on its quality, the owner can sell the fiber.
"They can definitely make some money from it," Berg said.
Depending on the animals' moods, Berg said he can shear three or four llamas in an hour.
By the time he's done, he's covered in hair.
"It gets in your nose, it gets everywhere," Berg said. "But I still love doing this. I enjoy going out to farms. It's fun."