Monthly Archives: December 2013
We want to have lambs in the spring. It is a fact of life that in order to have lambs in May and June, the ewes must associate with the bucks in December and January. The bucks have a cushy life, which involves hanging around most of the year–eating, drinking and looking forward to mid-December. They do have the occasional worries about bears and fertility testing, but generally lead a pampered life. (Think of the ewes, who experience a brief liason, spend almost five months pregnant, then raise a lamb for another four or five months. They trail from summer country to winter country and back, some 150 miles, while the bucks are trailered in and out.)
The bucks will join the ewes on December 15th so that they will start lambing on May 10th. We want both the ewes and rams to be fat and happy for this occasion. We need snow (but not too much snow) because the sheep depend on it for winter water. They can survive by eating snow, and there’s not much live water on the Red Desert, especially during the frozen winter months. We also depend on feeding corn during the bucking season, which will last until the beginning of February–two heat cycles for the ewes. The government-mandated corn ethanol program has been devastating to the livestock sector, as it drove prices to new highs in 2013. Corn prices are down some, due to a bumper crop. In any case, there is no substitute for corn as a nutrition-packed supplement to support the ewes as they survive often harsh conditions, conceive lambs, and grow next year’s wool crop. It is amazing that they can convert desert grass to food and fiber for people!
Once again, the sheep have crossed the UP line overpass and the I80 underpass at Creston Junction, Wyoming on their trek north to spend the winter months on the Red Desert on Cyclone Rim and Chain Lakes. We crossed three bunches one after the other. The first two bunches were one day apart. Fog and snow meant that bunch three had to hold up a day. Our neighbors, the Rodewalds, told us to hold up an extra day on their pasture. They had planned to ship calves that day, but had to cancel the trucks due to road and weather conditions. The next day dawned bright and clear, if bitter cold (-23 degrees) and we made the passage without incident. It is always nerve-wracking, due to heavy oil field traffic. We flag front and rear, and sometimes run into over-eager truck drivers. Luckily, this year, the truckers helped us and we crossed without any problems. On the same day, we got our first load of corn in. Corn is necessary to sustain the ewes through the cold cold weather, and to flush them since we plan to put the bucks in in a week or so. It is important that they are increasing their nutritional level just ahead of the breeding season, in order to increase the conception of twins.
In October, much of this year’s lamb crop climbed onto trucks and headed to Pine Bluffs, Wyoming to eat corn and other rations on Richard Drake’s feedlot. In the coming weeks and months, they will fulfill their destiny to become lamb chops. In the meantime, they are happy and healthy!