Monthly Archives: April 2013
After Dunkin the Bellwether escaped from his abductor last summer and returned to us, he spent the winter in the corral at the Home Ranch. He thinks it’s a pretty cushy life.
Our prayers were answered, and April has brought us showers, sort of. A week and a half of blizzards, wind and freezing weather has brought us blessed moisture, but at a terrible cost. We know–really we do–that a foot of wet snow will bring us green grass in a few weeks. We had begun to despair of much-needed moisture, and were trying to figure out how to get through the summer with dry conditions and no feed left over from last year.
While these storms have brought us up to above 100 per cent on our snowpack, they came while many of our neighbors were calving on the open range. We are calving some of our cows and heifers, and shed lambing our purebred sheep, Hampshire and Rambouillet, which we raise our own bucks from. The winds were so high, and variable that it crept in every crack in the lambing sheds. The oldest shed has a lot of cracks, which we usually figure are good for air circulation (less respiratory ills). This time, for the first time I can remember, lambs actually died from the weather, in the shed.
On the Red Desert we were getting ready to trail out, but the high winds caused the sheep to blow out, and mix with a neighboring herd. It took a few days to gather them up and sort them out, but they were finally able to “hit the trail” for the lambing ground.
We also lost several calves to the severe weather, but again, we had shelter nearby and I know that our losses were not nearly as bad as some of our neighbors who range calve. Several of them said that they won’t know their losses until they gather the cows for branding.
The storms have done us more good than harm, because no moisture means no summer feed. Some nice warm rains would be nice.
We have been praying for moisture, after yet another dry winter (this on the heels of two hard winters). We are getting intermittent rainy and snowy days, which usually we are grateful for. Last week, we got a snow storm which came with high winds which made it unfit for man and beast.
At Powder Wash, we lost several calves, lambs and ewes, in spite of sheds and shelter. On the Red Desert, the ewes “blew out”, which means that in sheep just walked in front of the howling winds. In these conditions, we tell the sheepherders just to stay in their camps. Since there are few fences, the sheep are usually miles away from where they started, but they are OK, and we have to find them and put the herd back together.
Still, the moisture brings promise of green grass.
Pregnancy testing is one of the veterinary services offered by Optimal Livestock Services–Dr. Cleon Kimberling, veterinarian, and Geri Parsons, vet technician, proprietors. We ask them to pregnancy test our ewes who are expecting white-faced lambs. When we know which ewes are carrying twins, we can manage them separately so that they can get extra nutrition and care. At lambing time, we can make sure they have better shelter because the white-faced lambs are more vulnerable at birth than the cross-bred lambs which have black-faced Hampshire fathers. You old ag majors remember the lessons about “highbred vigor” which results when different types of sheep, or cows or whatever, are mixed. The purebreds are less hardy, but they are the lambs which grow into our replacement ewes (or at least the females do). We need both.
Geri recently showed up to check our ewes, who currently reside on the Red Desert, north of Wamsutter, Wyoming.