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Category Archives: Dogs

Trailing the cows off the Routt Forest

Bubba and Eamon conferring with Leo

 

Trailing down, audibly OR The Silence of the Calf

Crunching as the calf dives into dry willows
“Quakey” aspens rustle up autumn, leaves flutter to the ground
“Hup, hup!” I holler, trying to spook the calf out of the willows
A thump on the ground as I dismount, followed by
more crunching as I thrash through the willows
A sigh as I realize the calf has somehow escaped me
“Hey there, pretty baby” as I push the filly aside
“Stand still, I said” to my mare as I mount
We sit very still, listening
to low bird song and the chuckle of aspen
but not the bawl of a calf
“Hey, you guys OK?”—our cowgirl come back to see what’s taking so long
“Holy cow, look at that!”
A smoke plume silently rises, signaling the faraway
crack and crash as molten trees succumb
as animals dash madly from the deadly flames of the Mullen Fire
Another sigh—of relief—that the blaze is far away
“That calf caught up”
“Oh good”
The quick clop of hooves as we trot up to the herd

“Come by! That’ll do!” Reluctantly the Border collie drops back
Mooing—meaning “get over here and stay by me”
Whinnying as the filly realizes her mom and I have moved to the lead
Clip-clopping as she races past the cows to catch up
They watch, knowingly
The distant rumble of cars, trucks, RV’s
The flash of my gloved hand
“Just go slowly. The cows will move. Watch the calves”
“Thank you”
Finally, the clank of chain and squeak of gate
as the cows and calves slip through
to green grass
The dark settles, birds silent

through the gate and off the Forest

headed down from the mountains

 

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Leaving the Medicine Bow

 

September 30 is the off-date for most of our Forest permits. Bridger Peak above Battle Pass is one of our highest grazing areas for the sheep in the summer. Alejandro takes the yearling ewes to the top of the Continental Divide. He had a flat tire on his wagon, so German changed the tire before we pulled the camp down the really rocky road to the highway. Alejandro shepherds the yearlings with the help of his border collies, his livestock guardian dogs, and his pet lamb, Solano. We saw snow on the Divide, and glorious fall colors on the trail down.

through the mist on the Continental Divide Trail

Alejandro and Sharon on WY 70

Alejandro with his sidekick, Solano

yearling ewes on the Savery Stock Driveway

 

 
 

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Tending camp on the North Elk River

Border collie supervising Bubba and Pepe

 

 

The ewes and lambs graze on the National Forests in the summer months. They move through a rotation so that they are not in any area for long. Part of the journey for Pepe’s sheep includes several weeks in high mountain pastures near the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area. He stays in a tent and we pack in his groceries and dog food. When he drops into the north fork of the Elk River, we bring his camp to him. This involves a drive down a death-defying curvy road to a wonderful mountain meadow. Bubba came along, both to learn the way and to provide the muscle.

 

Pepe’s horse, pine-beetle killed tree

Pepe and Bubba: twins separated at birth?

 

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On to the Forest!

Leo trailing the sheep up the road

July 1st is the on-date for most of our sheep grazing permits on the National Forest. We have to stage them on since we have several bunches which graze on federal permits in the summer, and it is the on-date for our neighbors as well. They usually trail one day apart so we go up the line and move each camp to the next spot until everyone is settled

There is always a grateful sigh when we know we are through lambing, through docking and through trailing. The next challenge is withstanding the predators which view our ewes and lambs as tasty snacks, especially in a year when the deer population is low. My Dad’s cousin once said, “Well, you’re up there in the nice cool flies.”

Now we are up in the “nice cool bears.”

We have grass and we have water. The grazing greatly reduces the fuel load and the fire danger. We are worried about fire in this year’s drought conditions. So it begins.

 

Pulling the wagon and flagging the sheep up the road

crossing the South Fork bridge

Leo

closer than they appear

lambs hitching a ride

It was an early morning for Meghan!

Tiarnan helping Leo

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2021 in Animals, Dogs, Horses, Sheep

 

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Heading South

We are heading south on the sheep trail.

 

Now that the sheep are sheared, it is time to head 40 miles south to our lambing grounds. Trailing was held up a couple of days by stormy weather, but the moisture was welcome. We are pushing hard to get there before we have too many lambs on the ground. Now it’s time to pray for perfect weather, no predators and green grass!

The ewes are eager to migrate to the Cottonwood lambing grounds.

Pepe has picked up the ewes with early lambs and one guard dog.

 
 

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Southering

Ewes ready to leave the Red Desert

We are heading south from the wintering grounds on the Red Desert. The first leg takes us to the Badwater Pasture. The shearing crew has assured us that they will be here in a couple of days, which means we can shear the pregnant ewes at Badwater. This is better for the ewes because they can trail the last 40 miles to the lambing grounds at Cottonwood without ten pounds of wool on their backs. It also means they are shorn well before they start lambing. Some years the shearers are late due to weather, equipment or misadventure, and we see lambs on the ground as we are trying to shear. With luck, all will go well. Stay tuned!

 

Seamus opening the gate

heading under I80

truck above, sheep below

passing through Creston Junction

between I80 and the railroad overpass

the orange flag alerts oncoming traffic

Joel bringing the ewes over the Union Pacific line (the trickiest part)

through the gate and into Rodewalds’ pasture

Pepe and John at Rodewalds’ gate

 

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Spring Fever

spring snow on round bales

bovine shadows

It’s springtime and the livin’ is crazy. After hunkering down for the winter months, we are moving livestock from winter pasture to spring pasture. We are lambing, calving and trying to get all of our livestock charges to where they need to be for the change of seasons. We trucked the yearling ewes, and a few older ewes, from their wintering grounds at Powder Wash to the Badwater pasture. We are seeing the Akaushi cross calves on the ground, after last year’s decision to try these Wagu-type bulls on our Angus heifers. The calves sure are pretty and we’re excited to see what they look like as they grow up.

Akaushi babies at Powder Flat

Pepe, at dawn, ready to load the yearlings

ready for the trucks

guard dog, on the job

guard dog on the truck

Meghan, supervising

yearlings unloaded at Badwater

 

Alejandro, with his bellwether, Panchito

 

 

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Cattle and sheep and dogs, oh my!

Ladder Ranch crew–Rhen, Eamon, Edgar, Leo, Pat

Rhen on the chute after guiding his Dad who was backing up the truck.

Sometimes we have multi-species days. Pat, Eamon, Rhen and Sharon headed to Powder Flat to load heifers on trucks so we could move them to spring country north of Dixon. We are full-on lambing at the Powder Flat headquarters, so there was plenty going on there already.

heifers heading for the truck

Eamon on Aspen, ready to trail up the road

meanwhile back at Powder Flat. . .

 

guardian dog puppy in training

burning old straw by the lambing shed

Leo and Rhen feeding a bum lamb

Ladder branding iron

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2021 in Animals, Cattle, Dogs, Horses, Sheep

 

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Early Lambing at Powder Flat

Hampshire ewe with comfy lamb

 

Each March, we lamb our purebred ewes, Hampshire and Rambouillet, in the sheds at Powder Flat. We raise our rams for the commercial range ewes from these two farm flocks. Luckily, we have a good crew and the early weather has been mild.

Pat and Edgar with pen for outdoor dining

guard dog hard at work in a circle of ewes

guard dogs on the job

guard dogs on the job

Hampshire ewe and twins

bum lambs in warm straw

Leo feeding the bum lambs

Meanwhile, Maria is hanging out with the bucks

 

 

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January on the Red Desert

ewes at Chain Lakes

The past two winters have been hard winters by anyone’s standards. Conditions were especially harsh on the Red Desert north of Wamsutter, where we winter our sheep. In 2018-2019, the ewes and bucks were snowed in on the Cyclone Rim allotment for weeks, and we couldn’t even get to the Chain Lakes allotment. In 2019-2020, the winter started early, so we found frozen sugar beets in the northern part of Wyoming and trucked the sheep to farms.

Now we are in drought. We have received around 65 percent of normal moisture so far this winter. An easy winter is easier on both livestock and herders, and on us as we drive back and forth to the sheep camps. The sheep depend upon snow for water for most of the winter. We’ve had several days of wind and thaw, which takes the snow and leaves bare sage and steppe. We now wait for a good winter storm, which we hope will bring much-needed moisture. Winter snow brings us spring grass.

Enough snow. Not too much. Not too little.

Joel with guard dog puppy.

Sentinel ewes

Pat and Pepe at Cyclone Rim base camp

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2021 in Animals, Dogs, Family, Folks, Peruvian sheepherders, Sheep

 

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