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Author Archives: Ladder Ranch

About Ladder Ranch

I am a rancher and writer who lives in Wyoming

More evacuation of sheep, Groundhog Day

sheep loading at Chain Lakes (the bucks are red)

On Groundhog Day, we all saw our shadows, but we don’t have any expectations for an early spring. We did have a sunny day to evacuate the last of the ewes and rams still on Chain Lakes to our ranch near Dixon, Wyoming. It is almost as snowy at the Dixon Ranch, some 20 miles west of our main headquarters and proximate to our lambing grounds. We still have to have the sheep on full feed, but they are safely closer to home. We’ve had days that our sheepherders and sheep were stranded and unreachable. We’ve had days when even the oilfield plows couldn’t work because conditions have been so terrible. We are grateful to our neighbors who have worked to keep the roads open. They need to tend their wells, and they have gone our of their way to keep our access to sheep and men open as well. After three horrible days of blizzard and cold, we finally had a window to evacuate the rest of the sheep, horses, dogs and herders. The truckers are working constantly. There aren’t enough sheep trucks and truckers to keep up, and they go from one herd to the next as the sheep producers wait to get their critters and employees out of danger. All this costs a non-budgeted fortune for plowing, for trucking and for feed. The feed, alfalfa, is soaring in cost and really hard to find.

This doesn’t take into account the antelope, deer, elk, and even feral horses that share the same winter country. They too depend upon open winter grazing, with enough snow to provide water. We are watching them as they seek open ground, and as they die. We are the ones there as they gather into ever larger bunches, and eventually lay down and die.

We’re not yet sure how we will pay all these expenses, but we know we cannot leave our animals without care and safety. That is the original meaning of “animal husbandry.” It is our obligation to keep them safe and fed.

Hampshire buck, ewes in meadow near Dixon

ewes under Sheepman Express chute

Modesto, Seamus and Border collies unloading

unloading

sunset

 

unloading after dark

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2023 in Events

 

Hard winter, loading at Chain Lakes

herd of sheep on Chain Lakes allotment

We are experiencing the worst winter in decades. We trailed the ewes to their usual wintering grounds on the Red Desert, north of Wamsutter, Wyoming. We got there in early December, right on schedule.  Most winters, snow falls, then blows into drifts, leaving bare ground where the ewes can graze on dried grasses left from the summer. My Dad used to say that when that country is good, it’s great, and when it’s bad, it’s awful. Well, this year it is awful. It started snowing in mid-December. We were two days late putting the bucks into the ewes because the part of Interstate 80 we need to traverse, between Creston Junction and Wamsutter was closed. We normally just feed some extra corn or cake while the bucks are in, but we have had to purchase and bring in extra feed as the landscape has gotten buried in snow. All our neighbors in the region have been trucking their sheep out of their desert winter pastures to their home ranches. Sometimes in bad winters, it is possible to find a place to take the sheep where they can graze. This year, the bad conditions reach from Nevada to Nebraska. In mid-January, we brought four truckloads of sheep closer to home on the Dixon ranch, where we are already feeding some cattle. These were the thinner ewes. Since then, we have been trying to evacuate the rest of the sheep, but have been unable to line up trucks since they are busy hauling so many sheep. We are grateful to Sweetwater County Road and Bridge, and our neighbors who are plowing in the oilfield.

We were supposed to load the rest of the sheep all last weekend, but a major storm came in and closed all the roads, locally, on the Red Desert, and especially on I80, which has been littered with accidents every time they try to open it. Our sheep truckers are just waiting for the conditions to allow it. As soon as everything is plowed, we will load the rest of the sheep and come to safer grounds. We’ll still have to feed alfalfa and cake, but both the sheep and our herders will be close to home. Here’s some photos of the loading of the sheep in mid-January.

Here’s the semis coming in very early in the morning.

Ewes trailing in to the corrals

Meghan and Leo waiting at the corrals

ewes following truck

Sheep coming in, trucks waiting

getting the corrals ready

ewes on drifts

guard dog with the sheep

Three guard dogs, sheep, drifts

truckers

loading

sheep in corrals, drift behind

setting up the chute

oilfield tanker passing

Modesto, who went with with the sheep to Dixon

Meghan and Modesto

The team of Belgium horses that we’re feeding with at Chain Lakes

Eamon and Chandler

unloading at the Dixon ranch

Marty’s “Sheepman” truck

Fed Ex truck near Dixon

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2023 in Events

 

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January Day at Powder Flat

Powder Flat house in the winter

 

After a series of winter storms brought on by the “atmospheric rivers” hitting California, then flowing on towards us, we have more than enough snow. The Snotel near our mountain headquarters is measuring 160 per cent of average.

Our crew at the Powder Flat headquarters, Edgar and Alejandro, have been doing a great job of keeping all the animals safe and fed.

 

sheep in the corral

solar panels

2022 lambs on feed

winter lambs

Pat with lambs

winter gold

livestock guardian dog on the job

Do Not Enter

 

 

 

“Do Not Enter” the road to Powder Flat from the folks building the power line

 

Maria the llama with her sheepy friends

antelope gathering in a herd–a sign of a hard winter

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2023 in Animals, Dogs, Family, Folks, Llamas, Sheep

 

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Working the yearlings in winter

Meghan at the Terrill corrals

 

Today was the best day we’ve had in a while to vaccinate the ewe lambs. They are on their wintering grounds near Powder Wash. Last week was bitter cold as a “bomb cyclone” with the unlikely name of Winter Storm Elliot swept down from the Arctic. It caught us on the southern end, and we only had two or three days of wind and terrible cold. It was far worse to the east of us as the storm swept across the Midwest and the Northeast. Today, it warmed up to about 30 degrees, with only some wind, so Meghan gathered up her crew of Eamon, Chandler, Filomeno, and McCoy, Maeve and Rhen to vaccinate Alejandro’s ewe lambs. The ewes on the Red Desert “blew out” as they walked before the wind. The herders waited out the storm in their camps, then found the ewes when the cold and wind died down. The Farmer’s Almanac says we are on the borderline between a harsh winter and a mild one.

coming down the chute

Alejandro with his ewe lambs

Meghan, Filo and Aleja

Meghan with vaccine gun at the ready

time to relax

 

 
 

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Preg Testing

Casey bringing in the heifers

 

November brings pregnancy testing. We bring in the heifers and the cows, call for the vet, and learn who is pregnant, and who is not. Our long-time vet, and friend, Warner McFarland, the jefe at Carbon County Veterinary Clinic, came to check the cows. As the cows come through the chute, he palpates, looks at the ultrasound, and calls out “pregnant,”  “open,” or “late”.

Each animal goes in with her cohorts to await the next step. Occasionally, we find a cow with a problem that needs attention, such as an errant horn aiming towards her eye. Luckily, Warner carries a saw for just such an occasion, thereby saving the cow’s eye and a whole lot of misery. Thanks, Warner, for all you do!

Our neighbor, Matt lending a hand

Chandler at the chute with Warner

Warner with the tools of his trade

preg checking

sawing off the threatening horn

 

 
 

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Solano and the lambs

Solano with the lambs

 

Faithful readers may recall Solano, the pet lead sheep. Last spring he was featured on this blog as he traveled with his herder, Alejandro, and the yearling ewes on the Savery Stock Driveway. He was sporting a backpack that Alejandro had fashioned for him, though I’m not sure what it held.

He has been hard at work as a lead sheep, helping to convince his more suspicious cohorts to enter the corrals. Here is is with a group of lambs, getting ready to load and head for the feedlot.

Solano will soon rejoin Alejandro and this year’s yearling ewes. Alejandro is anxious to reunite with his pet and co-worker.

Alejandro and Seamus

 

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Fall Work

Cows in the JO

 

I once told a cook that we were only really busy in the summer. As the year wore on, he commented “I didn’t know summer lasted until November!”

So here we are in November, and it seems like  the fall work just keeps coming. Here’s some pics of cows, calves, ewes, lambs, dogs, horses and folks who help us out.

in the corral

Eamon and dogs at the ready

Casey and Bubba

Eamon, Bubba and Casey having a meeting

ewes and lambs in the Dixon corral

lambs onto the truck, Nevada bound

sea of sheep

Meghan and the loaded truck

beaver dam across Battle Creek

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2022 in Animals, Cattle, Dogs, Horses, Sheep

 

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Sheep camp

sheep camps

I mentioned to some acquaintances that I couldn’t attend a Zoom meeting because I was busy moving sheep camp, it became apparent that they had no idea what I was talking about. However, they applied a humorous interpretation, speculating about what sheep camp might entail. They envisioned sheep playing volleyball, rowing boats, perhaps attending a crafts class. . .. All this made me wish that I were a graphic artist and could sketch sheep involved in summer camp activities. Alas–that is not my skill.

What I am actually doing, along with Meghan, is moving the sheep camps (portable homes) as our herders trail the sheep from the Home Ranch environs to fall pastures north of Dixon, Wyoming. These pastures also happen to be our lambing grounds in May and June. When the ewes left here in late June, their lambs were toddlers. They faced down bears and coyotes as they grazed on the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forests in the summer months. The predators exacted their toll, but the sheep were defended by the herders and the Livestock Guardian Dogs (aka Big White Dogs). Now the sheep return with their almost grown lambs. They will graze on fall pastures on Cottonwood Creek until it is time to trail north to winter country on the Red Desert.

Leo on the trail with the sheep

herder, sheep and Baker’s Peak

Loco Creek

guard dog on the job

along the Savery Stock Driveway

coming down the hill

sheep running under trailer parked on the Driveway

heading for fall pasture

 

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2022 in Animals, Dogs, Folks, Horses, Peruvian sheepherders, Sheep

 

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Fall Work

Chandler counting cows through the gate

 

October is one of our busiest months. The cows and calves, and the ewes and lambs, along with yearlings of both species, have spent the summer on the Medicine Bow and Routt National Forests. Our off-date is October 1st, so we stage the bands of sheep and gather all the cows we can find and bring them down to pastures near the Home Ranch headquarters. It has been a warmish fall and some of the cows are hiding out. Eamon and the cowboy crew have been backriding every day, but the best incentive is cold weather, which reminds the cows that it’s time to get the heck out of the Forest. We migrate along with the deer and elk as instinct draws the critters downward. This time of year, all the sheep and all the cattle are close to home. We work them through the corrals. The lambs are separated from the ewes. Often we sell the lambs this time of year, but this year we still have feed so we will keep them a little longer. The lambs are weaned and switched to a different bunch. The calves will be with their mamas a couple of more weeks, and then it will be time for them to be sold, as feeders or as replacements. It’s noisy as night, as the newly weaned lambs and calves call in the night, and the guard dogs who are now close to home bark all night to warn us of various impending dangers. To be fair, usually the coyotes are howling which makes the guard dogs even more on alert than usual. Tomorrow, we’ll start the sheep on the trail to our fall pastures, some 20 miles to the west.

Meghan, bringing down the cows

lambs in the corral at sunrise

 

Hampshire ewes hanging out with the bucks for March lambing

Theo working sheep

at the Home Ranch corrals

cattle in the Big Meadow

yearling ewes in Loco Canyon, with guard dog

fall colors with the Petite Tetons (the Mountain Formerly Known As Squaw)

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2022 in Animals, Cattle, Sheep

 

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Equinox Sunrise

Equinox sunrise
beaming south of Sheep Mountain—
Winter is coming.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2022 in Events