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.
Category Archives: Dogs
After months of being in landscapes out of sync with where the ewes are used to being, they are at last on the lambing grounds during lambing season. They are happy and we are happy.
Spring shearing is always an adventure. This year, we planned to shear a little later than usual, since we had put the bucks in with the ewes a few days later than usual. Our shearing crew comes from California, and they told us they would be a few days late (surprise!), due to persistent rains in California.. This year we didn’t have to worry about trailing to the shearing pens on time, since the ewes have been near them since late January, when we trucked out of the Red Desert. Still, when our crew showed up, we were just a few days away from the beginning of lambing.
The rains showed up the same day that the shearers set up,. We gathered up every tarp we could and draped them over the wool handling area. We have good sheds at Cottonwood, where we were to shear, so were able to put the ewes in to stay dry. Wet sheep can’t be shorn. The moisture ruins the wool if it’s packed, and the shearers won’t shear wet sheep because it leads to “wool pneumonia.” Between the sheds, the tarps and our intrepid crew, we got all the ewes with the “main line” wool done at the Cottonwoold pasture. Since that is also our lambing grounds, the ewes, who were starting to lamb by the time we were done, just moved right onto their lambing pastures.
We moved onto shearing the yearling ewes, who had spent the winter at Powder Flat. We moved the shed, the shearers and our crew and were able to finish the yearlings in one day. Riley, our friend and former ranch cook, supplied the meals, delivering them each day to where ever we were. Her tasty meals kept everyone going
Rams in October mean lambs in March. Even though we still have record amounts of snow on the ground, the lambs are arriving right on schedule. We raise our own rams–Rambouillet and Hampshire–and the moms lamb in March at Powder Flat. Our Peruvian crew is doing a great job at getting live lambs on the ground. It is a reminder that spring will actually arrive, someday. We did see birds migrating north. We saw geese in the sky and Sand Hill Cranes on the alfalfa feed line with our ewes.
The sheep, herders, dogs, and horses are all safe and sound on our hay meadows near Dixon. All the grass is still buried under snow, but we can get to them with feed every day, and bring alfalfa and cake to them (except when the highways are closed, which is pretty often). It took several more days to ferry all the sheepwagons, panels and other equipment off the Red Desert and to the Dixon ranch headquarters. It continues to be especially brutal in the area we evacuated the sheep from, on the Chain Lakes allotment. Hay prices are high due to demand from impacted livestock producers and state game agencies. These historic winter conditions stretch through northern Nevada, Utah, northwestern Colorado and southern Wyoming. Wyoming’s Governor Gordon has declared an emergency. Spring still looks like a long ways away!
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.
“Do Not Enter” the road to Powder Flat from the folks building the power line
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.
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.
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.
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.