Now that the sheep are sheared, it is time to head 40 miles south to our lambing grounds. Trailing was held up a couple of days by stormy weather, but the moisture was welcome. We are pushing hard to get there before we have too many lambs on the ground. Now it’s time to pray for perfect weather, no predators and green grass!
The ewes are eager to migrate to the Cottonwood lambing grounds.
Pepe has picked up the ewes with early lambs and one guard dog.
2021 shearing went very well. Roland Montemayor’s crew showed up with plenty of shearers and wool handlers, good equipment and on time. The Montemayor crew has sheared for us for several years. We try to shear two weeks or so ahead of lambing, which is easier on the ewes and the shearers, and allows time for the ewes to trail on to the lambing grounds ten pounds lighter.
My only complaint was the howling wind for the first two and a half days. The winds were so strong on the third day that it was blowing the fleeces away. As Meghan pointed out, “The point is to get the wool into the bags.” We called it a day after lunch. We have shut down shearing many times due to weather, but this is the first time we’ve stopped because of high winds. Finally the weather settled down and we were able to finish all the sheep–pregnant ewes, yearlings, the early lambers and the bucks. Roland’s crew moved on and sheared sheep for a couple of our neighbors. Shearing is one of the very most important things we do all year, and it is one which we have little control over since there are so many factors that come into play. Thank you, Roland, Ciro and crew for your good work!
early morning–waiting to get started\
wooly ewes waiting their turn
the first shorn sheep
shearer at work
Tiarnan, Guillermo and Anthony on deck
Siobhan at the chute
packing the wool
wool handler on the run
packing the fleeces into the tromper
guard dog supervising
Thomasa–former bum lamb and newly sheared lead sheep
President Biden announced today that two hundred million Americans have been vaccinated for Covid-19. The Ladder Ranch crew, including Meghan, made that 200,000,008. Most of our Peruvian employees received their second Moderna vaccine. They were glad to get it, as Covid rages in Peru, affecting their families who don’t have access to vaccine. Meghan received her first shot, so we can go into lambing with one less worry. The Carbon County Health Department sponsored the clinic at the Baggs Senior Center.
We are heading south from the wintering grounds on the Red Desert. The first leg takes us to the Badwater Pasture. The shearing crew has assured us that they will be here in a couple of days, which means we can shear the pregnant ewes at Badwater. This is better for the ewes because they can trail the last 40 miles to the lambing grounds at Cottonwood without ten pounds of wool on their backs. It also means they are shorn well before they start lambing. Some years the shearers are late due to weather, equipment or misadventure, and we see lambs on the ground as we are trying to shear. With luck, all will go well. Stay tuned!
Seamus opening the gate
heading under I80
truck above, sheep below
passing through Creston Junction
between I80 and the railroad overpass
the orange flag alerts oncoming traffic
Joel bringing the ewes over the Union Pacific line (the trickiest part)
Early morning Sage Grouse dance east of Muddy Mountain
Third grade teacher Cindy Cobb is famous for her field trips. The most famous field trip is to see the mating dance of the Greater Sage Grouse, which is amazing. The kids have to show up to the school at 5 a.m. or so to board the bus for the dancing grounds on our lambing grounds. Last year when my grandsons McCoy and Tiarnan were in third grade, they missed the cool field trips because the coronavirus had closed the school, This year, the fourth graders joined the third graders on the trek to see the lek where the male grouse dance and hoot in their attempt to attract the hens. Wyoming Game and Fish Department Biologist Phil Damm accompanied the students on the bus and explained what they were seeing. These kids know the ways of the birds and the bees!
It’s springtime and the livin’ is crazy. After hunkering down for the winter months, we are moving livestock from winter pasture to spring pasture. We are lambing, calving and trying to get all of our livestock charges to where they need to be for the change of seasons. We trucked the yearling ewes, and a few older ewes, from their wintering grounds at Powder Wash to the Badwater pasture. We are seeing the Akaushi cross calves on the ground, after last year’s decision to try these Wagu-type bulls on our Angus heifers. The calves sure are pretty and we’re excited to see what they look like as they grow up.
In mid-December, we haul bucks out to the Red Desert so they may romance the ewes, thus guaranteeing lambs in May and June. “December rams bring May lambs” as the old saying goes.
Now it’s time to bring the rams home so that they may resume their bachelor lives, and create challenges until next December.
Here we are loading rams on the top of the aptly named Cyclone Rim. We are on the Rim seeking snow drifts for water for the sheep. The bucks are still in their working clothes (red powder) which will come off when they are shorn in a month or so.
Patrick and Sharon O'Toole are ranchers in the Little Snake River Valley on the Wyoming-Colorado border. They represent the fourth generation on the six-generation family ranch. The O'Tooles raise cattle, sheep, horses, dogs and children on their high country ranching operation. The transhumance operation stretches from north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado to Wyoming's Red Desert.
Pat has served in the Wyoming House of Representatives, the Western Water Policy Commission, and is currently President of the Family Farm Alliance, representing irrigators and water users in the western United States.
Sharon is a writer and poet. She writes extensively on western issues, and the relationship between landscape, animals and people. She is widely published as an author, essayist and editorial commentator.
Sharon's father George, 89, passed away December 25, 2010. He lived much of his life in the house where he was born, and remained active in the day-to-day life of the ranch. Mr. Salisbury was a decorated World War II veteran, a former member of Wyoming's House of Representatives, and former President of Wyoming's Board of Agriculture.
Pat and Sharon have three children. Their daughter, Meghan and her husband Brian Lally, live on the ranch with their children, Siobhán, Seamus, Maeve and Tiarnán. Meghan also served on the Wyoming Board of Agriculture, and she and Brian are active in community service. Daughter Bridget lives in Denver with her husband, Chris Abel, where she works in public relations and he serves agriculture in the food business. Son Eamon and his wife Megan live on the ranch with their sons, McCoy and Rhen. Eamon is a horseman and natural resource manager, and Megan is a nurse.
The blog traces the activities and life on the ranch, from the mundane to the fabulous.