Pregnancy testing on the Red Desert

24 Mar
Pregnancy testing on the Red Desert

In the lambing seasons of 2010 and 2011, we had terrible cold weather, freezing drizzle and snow.  We estimate that we lost at least 1000 lambs, beyond normal death loss, each year to the terrible conditions.  This year, we determined to be ready for another hard spring, especially after November blew in with a lot of cold and snow.

We decided to build a shed on the private part of our lambing grounds, which also includes BLM allotments and a Wyoming state lease.  Then we would at least have an alternative in case of bad weather.  We have always “drop lambed”, which means that we start out with bands of 2000 ewes or so, then move then along morning and night, leaving the newly lambed ewes and their babies behind.  This is known as “cutting the drop.”  The sheep are constantly attended by our very competent Peruvian sheepherders, and Pat, Meghan, Eamon and I go back and forth with supplies, groceries, and whatever else is needed.

To make the best use of the shed, we decided, for the first time, to pregnancy test some of the ewes.  The lambs who are most vulnerable are the white-faced twin lambs.  They do not have the hybrid vigor (the result of breeding two different purebred lines) of our Hampshire/Rambouillet cross lambs.  We tested, over the course of a week, about 3,400 ewes bred to Rambouillet rams, in order to determine the ones pregnant with twins.  We can, this year, keep those ewes close to the shed, and give them shelter and extra care as needed.

Of course, as the saying goes, only fools and newcomers predict the weather.  This past winter has been the mildest in recent memory, and spring is appearing ahead of schedule.  Of course, that does not mean that May and June will be warm and dry, but it is certainly shaping up that way.

Geri Parsons, a certified veterinary technician and partner in Optimum Livestock Services LLC, is a master at ultra-sounding ewes.  She and Dr. Cleon Kimberling, formed their livestock health company following Dr. Kimberling’s retirement as the long-time (and famous) sheep extension veterinarian at Colorado State University.  Due to unplanned circumstances, Geri’s keys became locked in her pickup, along with all her gear, at the end of a long day, and a very long way from assistance.  We were near the top of the aptly named Cyclone Rim.  Luckily, the next day, a newly made key solved the problem, but not before our crew had exhausted their burglery skills.

Eamon bringing the ewes up the chute
Geri works in the tent, out of the wind

McCoy, keeping them moving

We used all our expertise to try to open Geri's truck

Only one pickup drove by in two days
Cyclone Rim, Red Desert, Wyoming


2 responses to “Pregnancy testing on the Red Desert

  1. Pat H

    March 26, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    I did the same thing to my truck out in the sticks near Gillette. But, lucky for me, some folks from an oilfield service company were able to open it right up. I was really pretty impressed.

    • Sharon

      March 26, 2012 at 12:10 PM

      We were able to pry to door open a little and hit the lock button with a wire. The keys were in the ignition, and it flat wouldn’t unlock. It might be a child protection lock issue. Geri called AAA, who I think thought she was a prankster when she said someone would have to lead them to the vehicle because it wasn’t near any town. Luckily, she was able to get another key made at a dealership 75 miles away the next morning.


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