Now is the Time to Prepare for Spring Fiber Collection

Now that we are into February and the days are getting longer, it’s time to start preparing for fiber collecting. Some of you may be thinking that it is WAY too early to be thinking about this. Well, here in SW Ohio, combing usually starts mid to late March, sometimes even earlier, so getting all of my fiber combing supplies ready starts right about now. Last year I did my first round of combing on March 10th and filled two 49 gallon totes! (see pic to the right)

What is involved in fiber combing prep?

Mat Buster

The first thing that I do is to round up all of my combs that have made their way all over the farm throughout the year.  After I have rounded them all up, I take inventory to see what is missing and what needs to replaced. Occasionally, shedding rakes will lose a few teeth, brush bristles get bent, and mat busters get dull.  I wash all the combs and brushes that are still usable and order what needs to be replaced.  It is much easier to comb with clean tools than dirty ones.  Clean combs and brushes go through the guard hair much easier which helps with hair pulling. If you haven’t already noticed, yak don’t like having their guard hair pulled very much.

Once I have all the combs and brushes accounted for and washed, I gather up my totes and wash them. Storing your fiber in clean, breathable totes or bags is super important. When the fiber is combed out, it will have some moisture in it. If it is stored in something that isn’t breathable, it will probably felt some or become musty. It is important to make sure that whatever the fiber is getting stored in is free of oils, chemicals, or anything else that may damage or contaminate the fiber. 

The next thing that I do is to go over my squeeze chute and make sure everything is working properly. I will clean it and oil all the mechanical parts for smooth operation. I am fortunate to have my chute indoors where it protected from the elements; however, it still gets pretty dusty.   If your chute is outdoors you may need to oil it a little bit closer to combing time.  

It’s a given that yak will come in with debris and dirt entangled in their hair, all of which is unwanted in the precious fiber. All that unwanted debris is much easier to remove before the fiber comes off. For this I use a medium size shop-vac to blow out most of dust, hay and dander.  This also helps to loosen knots and also the down.  Since I use the shop-vac as a blower, I make sure that it is clean so that I am not blowing dirt onto the very animals I want to clean.  

The last couple of things that I do are to make sure that my scissors are in working order and treats are on hand.

*One last side note, if I need to bring the animals in through the chute before it’s time to comb, I will remove mats and do a light brushing, which will help when it’s time to start collecting fiber.  

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have on this subject or any other yak-related subject by using the form on this page. Or feel free to give input on what you do to prepare for fiber combing season. 

Shedding Rakes

Below is a list of combs, brushes and other tools I like to have on hand:

  • 2-3 shedding rakes 

  • 2 mane and tail brushes

  • 1 mat buster

  • 2 scissors (one small pair and one heavy duty pair)

  • shop-vac 

  • clean totes

  • squeeze chute

  • treats

  • shovel/rake

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