Category Archives: Dogs
The rams hang around for ten and a half months, waiting for the day when they are called to go to work, fathering lambs for the next season. We put the bucks in over a period of days and weeks. We figure that the first bucks to go in with the ewes are getting tired, so we send reinforcements. They sometimes resent being worked through the chutes, but are happy to jump out of the trailers to join the ladies. When we were loading them, I said, “Hop in boys–all the corn you can eat.” Meghan said, “All the ladies you can breed!” I added, “…and all the wind you can tolerate.” Such is the life of a buck in the winter.
The ides of December means that it’s time to put the rams in with the ewes. Romance in December brings lambs in May. A sheep’s gestation is five months less five days. I wish we could predict now just when the shearers will arrive and what the weather will be like on the 10th of May.
The ewes have made their annual trek north to the Red Desert, where we have wintering ground on the Cyclone Rim and Chain Lakes grazing allotments. These allotments are part of the vast Great Basin, home to Greater Sage Grouse, desert elk, riparian plants and amphibians, feral horses, many many antelope and, part of the year, cattle and sheep. The Great Basin is named because it is a closed basin. To the north, the Continental Divide splits and runs in separate ranges until it meets again about 15 miles south of Wamsutter near the Haystack Mountains. The country south of there–Church Butte, Adobe Town, Powder Rim–is likewise amazing landscape, but it is not part of the Great Basin, the Red Desert. It is always a relief when we safely cross the overpass over the Union Pacific line and the underpass beneath I80 and head out across the open country for winter pasture. We are a week later than usual on the trail north. We had to wait for snow, since there’s not much water on the trail. Like Goldilocks, we want it to be not too hot and not too cold!
It’s the time of year when we pregnancy check the cows. Dr. McFarland uses a combination of ultra-modern ultrasound goggles and old-fashioned palpation to determine if the cow is pregnant (the best option), open (the worst option) or late. He calls out his judgement, one after another, as the cows step into the chute for their pregnancy test. The pregnant cows will spend the winter in Laramie, eating hay and gestating. The open cows will be sold–either to become hamburgers or to be given another chance to breed. The lates are sold to someone who likes the cows, and likes to calve later. Our calendar for calving is fixed by the seasons and by our grazing permit on and off dates. We can’t calve too early, or we will surely meet with cold and snow (still a possibility). We can’t calve too late, or the cows will already be on the National Forest permit. If the calf survives predators, it will still be young and small when we ship in the fall. The calves were sorted and shipped a few days ago, so now it is time to start the cycle anew.
We sold one truckload of heifers so it was time to sort and load them. After weeks of dry weather, fire in the forest and smoke in the valley, we’ve had rain. It has settled the dust and greened up our brittle grasses. The Big Red Fire did a lot of good, this week’s rain is doing a lot of good, and the first frost which came last night is just a few days ahead of the Equinox. Fall is here, and the cooler weather is welcome.