Author Archives: Ladder Ranch

About Ladder Ranch

I am a rancher and writer who lives in Wyoming

Checking the bucks again

bucks waiting in the corral, Edgar, Jose

Our intrepid friend, Geri Parsons of Optimal Livestock Services, is once again making her rounds to make sure the bucks are ready for their annual duty of impregnating the ewes. They have one job and  most winters they are with the ewes from mid-December to mid-February to make sure the ewes are exposed through two heat cycles. Usually, we take them out after a couple of months. The winter of 2022-2023 was so severe that we didn’t take the bucks out until shearing in early May–not because that is a new normal for management. It was just so cold and snowy for so long we didn’t want to further stress the sheep by working them, and we didn’t really have a better place to care for the bucks separately, since every critter was on full feed anyway. Our weather prognosticator friend assures us, using very complicated explanations, that he expects the winter weather in our neck of the woods to be fairly normal whatever that is. El Nino will strike elsewhere, according to him. No matter what, we want the rams to be in tip-top shape. Any buck with less than optimal testicles or sperm has gone to the “train station (see Yellowstone TV show). Sorry guys, but that’s the way it is in the ovine world.

Meghan, Chandler and Geri checking the rams in the chute.

Chandler working the chute

Meghan marking the rams

rams at Powder Flat, with our new yard ornaments, the Pacificorps Power lines



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Pregnant, late or open

cows coming in

It’s that time of year again. The cows have spent the summer on the forest, raising their calves. The calves have been weaned and now it time to decide which cows will stay and which will go. A key factor in this decision is pregnancy. The cows have also been keeping company with bulls all summer. If all went well, they are pregnant. If not, they will find a new home. Our friend and long-time veterinarian Warner McFarland came with his ultrasound machine to check each cow and call out, “pregnant,” “late,” or the dreaded “open.” Luckily, not many cows were open (i.e. not pregnant). Since all of our summer crew has departed for warmer climes, we depend on family and Chandler to get things done.

Meghan, waiting for the cows to cross the bridge and head up th the corrals

heading into the corral

Megan looking at the eartag

Eamon operating the chute

Megan checking a cow

Warner preg checking

Megan entering data

through the rails


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Posted by on November 8, 2023 in Events


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Autumn work

horses in Big Meadow


It’s that time of year when we are crazy busy. The cows and calves, and the ewes and lambs, have trailed down from the grazing allotments on the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forests (which are geographically one forest). Once they have trailed back to pastures around the Home Ranch, we look at each and every animal. We sort off the calves and the lambs. Both are sold to buyers. The calves go on to be fed and eventually become tasty steaks and burgers. Some of the heifer calves go on to become cows. The wether lambs and the smut-faced lambs go on to become tasty lamb chops and holiday legs of lamb. The white-faced ewe lambs stay home to become ewes. We look at every cow and every ewe. The cows are pregnancy tested by our trusty vet, who calls out “pregnant” or “late” or “open”. The opens (not pregnant) are sold and the pregnants stay home to produce next spring’s calves. The ewes are checked, one by one. Most of them stay with the ranch. They will go to winter pastures, hang out with the rams, and have lambs in the spring. Some ewes are older, or lack teeth, but can go to gentler climes in the Midwest and remain productive. Some are not sound, and go on to become food in Mexico. It is a time of decision-making as we select the animals that can continue to sustain us. After the terrible losses of the 2022-2023 harsh winter, we cast a special eye. “Is she strong enough?” “can she survive a hard winter?” “will it even be a hard winter?” We are all still shell-shocked from last winter, and this adds extra perspective to these decisions which we make every fall.

In the meantime, we have to appreciate the blessings of fine weather and the joy of working with livestock.

horses in the corral, contemplating the day’s work

old ewes on the Mesa

Alejandro’s bellwether Solano, and friend

ewes by the chute

cows after sorting

cows, fall work




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Posted by on November 4, 2023 in Animals, Cattle, Horses


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Checking the bucks

Edgar and Robyn testing bucks

Each fall, Geri Parsons from Optimal Livestock Services LLC comes to test our rams for health and fertility. This year she was assisted by our intrepid crew of ranchhands. The rams give up a semen sample into a test tube.. This is passed to Geri in her mobile lab where she checks the semen for viability. In addition to the ram-handling crew, this year she was assisted by our grandson Seamus, who helped with the techinical parts of the testing. The whole process involves flesh and blood bucks, and microscopes and computers. When we get the results, we cull any bucks who are not promising as future fathers, and keep the others fat and happy until it is time to go in with the ewes in December. A lucky few go in now with the purebred ewes, Hampshire and Rambouillet, so they may lamb in March. We raise future replacement rams and ewes from these purebreds, completing the circle.

our crew hard at work

Geri checking the microscope

Seamus reading results, with the help of Good Dog Tony

Seamus and Geri after a long day of good work

At day’s end, the buck testing groupies showed up to encourage the crew


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Loading steers

loading the steers



Campbell on the job

After a summer of cell grazing, it is time for yearling steers to leave the high country. Here we are loading them on trucks, fat and happy.

in the chute, waiting to load



working the steers


Supermoon rising

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Posted by on September 2, 2023 in Animals, Cattle, Folks, Folks who help us out


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Sandman Mountain

Sandman with his pal, Mr. Easter Island Moai



Timeless climb, steadfast,
hefting pack of sleeptime sand
up Sandman Mountain





Sandman Mountain


Posted by on September 2, 2023 in Nature and Wildlife, Poetry



Loading the 2023 Wool Clip

Bales of wool ready to load

After we finished shearing the sheep in early May, we stored the wool bales in a shed at Cottonwood. In early August, the wool buyer sent a truck so we could load the bales and send them to San Angelo. They will eventually make their way to Italy to be turned into fine woolen clothing. We loaded the bales, two high, onto the skid steer, then drove them to be loaded onto the flatbed trailer of the semi. We loaded 102 bales. The driver strapped them onto the bed, then secured tarps over the whole load. We had a great crew, all working together to get the job done.

Aaron contemplating the job

Aaron using hayhooks to move the bales, Juan in the driver’s seat

Tarping the loaded wool bales

Simon, Juan. Aaron, Samuel, Lalo



Posted by on August 8, 2023 in Events, Folks who help us out


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Trailing the yearlings from Badwater to the Forest

wagon and yearlings hit the trail


Each spring, the yearling ewes graze in the Badwater pasture, south of Interstate 80, until it’s time to hit the trail south and east to their summer grazing grounds on the Medicine Bow National Forest. It’s a high allotment, and the snow has lasted longer than usual on the forest. The ewes travel five-ten miles per day for some sixty miles or so. This year, they trailed part of the way down the highway instead of on the traditional back country trail..

Trailing down the highway requires flagging front and back. We do this with one pickup pulling the sheepwagon behind and another vehicle in front, both with flashers and flags. Alejandro, the herder and another person on foot push the sheep. Alejandro is followed by his faithful Border collies, and Solano, his pet sheep. We try to stay in the right of way to make it easier for traffic to pass.

We spent two days trailing down Highway 789, overnighting on BLM land proximate to the road. Lots of people stop to take photos and ask questions, so it provides us with a teaching moment. We were happy to put in at the Dad/JO road and get onto the backcountry trail. We trailed onto our pastures north of Dixon, then east on the Savery Stock Driveway to the Blake allotment in the Forest. Alejandro, his ewes, his dogs and Solano will rotationally graze until our off-date in late September.

on the trail

on the highway

Solano following

dead horse by the Muddy Creek bridge

turning into the Dad/JO gate

through the gate

Alejandro and his crew

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Posted by on July 15, 2023 in Events


Summer Scenes and the Ladder Ranch crew

horses with Sheep Mountain


Summer is here, and we are crazy busy with cattle, sheep, horses, and lots of folks! We have a great crew this summer. Here’s some pics of these summertime days.

Bald eagle on post


Clyde at the Elephant corrals


Riley and James

sprinklers on the Mesa

Edgar with the alfalfa

James, Robyn, Liza, Riley

Pat, Meghan, Eamon, McCoy Rhen

Riley and James

Riley, Robyn, Liza, Eamon, McCoy, Samuel, Simeon, Rhen

Robyn, Liza, Maeve

Sharon and Megan

bald eagle on post


Bald eagle in a Cottonwood

Battle Mountain from Buck Camp


Sandhill crane in meadow

steers on the JO

steers grazing

calves at Powder Wash

wild horses at Powder Wash (not in a Horse Management Area)

headquarters above Battle Creek






Posted by on July 10, 2023 in Events


Docking Days

docking lambs


May and June bring us lambs, and lambs mean docking–cutting the tails, castrating the males, eearmarking,vaccinating and paint branding. This requires our crew to gather the ewes and lambs into portable corrals, which we move to the various areas on the lambing grounds. We sort the lambs into a smaller pen, then carry them, one by one, along an assembly line where they are  prepared for their future lives without tails. The last stop is a paint brand. This year we have an exceptional multi-national crew, which includes Peruvians, Mexicans, South Africans and Americans, including our grandchildren and employees. We have had fair weather and great lunches. Soon the ewes and lambs will be ready to trail to their summer pastures on the forest.

Rhen, bringing up the lambs

ewes in the pen

Rhen and Aaron with the Dickum Docker

Maeve, Riley and Tiarnan docking

Maeve, Riley and Tiarnan docking

Robyn, Oscar and James

Riley and Seamus

Liza with lamb

Seamus and Riley

ewes and lambs at Cherry Grove

wagon at Cherry Grove




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