Our decision to move most of the ewes north was not an easy one. We have never not kept them (relatively) close to home on desert sagebrush steppe grazing permits. Last February, our sheep were trapped by bad weather and roads. When this winter started early and hard, we bought extra feed and hauled it to them daily, hoping for a thaw. We did not have back-to-back blizzards like last February, but it has just kept snowing and getting colder. Eamon found sugar beets which had frozen in the ground in the Big Horn Basin. After lots of phone calls and planning, we started loading ewes, and rams, on trucks and moving them to beet fields and crop aftermath in the north part of the state. Most of them had never seen a truck.
Cows in Laradise,
far from mountain drifts and draws—
We have had a challenging winter, so far. Last winter found our sheep trapped on the winter sheep permit on the Red Desert. We could not get them out, and we could barely get feed in to them. We had a good crew on the ground, and managed to keep everyone alive and well until the snow started going off in early March and we could move the sheep out to graze. We were able to trail to spring country, the shearing pens and the lambing grounds. This year, the winter has come early and snowy and cold. Two bands of ewes trailing to the winter country on the Red Desert were caught by storms and we had to break trail with the tractor in order to stay on the designated BLM trail. We decided to move the third bunch to leased ground to the south, on a permit called LaClede after an old fort. The early storms have not quit, and the winter feed, usually available as the wind blows the sage flats clear, is buried. We have piles of snow in the north country, and in LaClede.
We learned of sugar beets in northern Wyoming, which had not been harvested due to s severe October freeze. After aligning a lot of moving parts, we have made the decision to lease fields, truck sheep, move sheepherders, wagons, and dogs to beet fields and crop aftermath. The fields are farther north, but 2000 feet lower, and offer us the means to nurture our animals through the winter months. We have trucked the ewe lambs and some of the ewes, with more to follow this week.