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.