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Category Archives: Events

Hard winter, loading at Chain Lakes

herd of sheep on Chain Lakes allotment

We are experiencing the worst winter in decades. We trailed the ewes to their usual wintering grounds on the Red Desert, north of Wamsutter, Wyoming. We got there in early December, right on schedule.  Most winters, snow falls, then blows into drifts, leaving bare ground where the ewes can graze on dried grasses left from the summer. My Dad used to say that when that country is good, it’s great, and when it’s bad, it’s awful. Well, this year it is awful. It started snowing in mid-December. We were two days late putting the bucks into the ewes because the part of Interstate 80 we need to traverse, between Creston Junction and Wamsutter was closed. We normally just feed some extra corn or cake while the bucks are in, but we have had to purchase and bring in extra feed as the landscape has gotten buried in snow. All our neighbors in the region have been trucking their sheep out of their desert winter pastures to their home ranches. Sometimes in bad winters, it is possible to find a place to take the sheep where they can graze. This year, the bad conditions reach from Nevada to Nebraska. In mid-January, we brought four truckloads of sheep closer to home on the Dixon ranch, where we are already feeding some cattle. These were the thinner ewes. Since then, we have been trying to evacuate the rest of the sheep, but have been unable to line up trucks since they are busy hauling so many sheep. We are grateful to Sweetwater County Road and Bridge, and our neighbors who are plowing in the oilfield.

We were supposed to load the rest of the sheep all last weekend, but a major storm came in and closed all the roads, locally, on the Red Desert, and especially on I80, which has been littered with accidents every time they try to open it. Our sheep truckers are just waiting for the conditions to allow it. As soon as everything is plowed, we will load the rest of the sheep and come to safer grounds. We’ll still have to feed alfalfa and cake, but both the sheep and our herders will be close to home. Here’s some photos of the loading of the sheep in mid-January.

Here’s the semis coming in very early in the morning.

Ewes trailing in to the corrals

Meghan and Leo waiting at the corrals

ewes following truck

Sheep coming in, trucks waiting

getting the corrals ready

ewes on drifts

guard dog with the sheep

Three guard dogs, sheep, drifts

truckers

loading

sheep in corrals, drift behind

setting up the chute

oilfield tanker passing

Modesto, who went with with the sheep to Dixon

Meghan and Modesto

The team of Belgium horses that we’re feeding with at Chain Lakes

Eamon and Chandler

unloading at the Dixon ranch

Marty’s “Sheepman” truck

Fed Ex truck near Dixon

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2023 in Events

 

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Equinox Sunrise

Equinox sunrise
beaming south of Sheep Mountain—
Winter is coming.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2022 in Events

 

Moving Camp to Battle Creek

sheep in the Aspens above Battle Creek

Summer is slipping away for our sheep grazing in the National Forests. We haven’t had rain lately, so the vegetation is drying up. We have been blessed with a rainy summer so there’s feed on the ground. The ewes are getting restless as the sunshine days grow shorter and the nights get colder. We had our first frost this morning and soon the leaves will change the color of the hillsides. A few eager trees are already throwing out some yellow. We move the sheep camps every few days to fresh feed. Today we moved Edgar’s camp from Aspen Alley to the Battle Creek Campground.

Maeve and Sharon with the newly moved camp.

Edgar and Sharon

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2022 in Events

 

Wool Away

San Antonio bound

We just sold three years worth of wool. In 2020, the Trump trade war with China, and Covid 19, caused the previously decent price of wool to plummet. We decided to keep that year’s clip in hopes of higher prices in the future. We’d heard stories of sheep producers who had held their wool throughout the Depression, then sold several year’s worth for good money when the United States entered World War II and needed wool for uniforms and other strategic goods. In 2021, the wool market and the trade situation had not improved, so we kept a second year’s clip. We have a large shed where we can store the wool, so were not accruing storage charges at a wool warehouse. This year, we visited with the wool buyers, who advised us that the world political situation was not improving, but that prices were up somewhat. We decided to sell the 2020, 2021 and 2022 clips, which required two semis with long flatbeds. The first truck driver was from Uzbekistan, and spoke limited English. He was very cautious and conscientious, and when the wool was loaded, strapped and tarped, it looked as neat as could be. The second truck driver was from Denver, but spoke fluent Spanish, which was very helpful with our Spanish-speaking employees who were loading the truck. He even helped load the bales of wool, which weigh 400-500 pounds each. The wool was secured and headed for San Antonio. Our fine Rambouillet wool is usually sold to another buyer who uses it for U.S. military uniforms. We think this fine wool will end up in mills in Italy. The blackface wool goes on to become blankets and sweaters. The shed looks empty without three years worth of wool bales stacked up.

Aaron with hayhooks

Juan with skidsteer, Aaron ready to load

Juan, skidsteer and bale of wool

emptying the shed

Loading the trailer

Lalo making sure the bales are in the right place (33 on each layer, fewer on the top)

bringing up the tarp

Lalo tarping the wool bales

securing the tarps

ready to roll

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2022 in Events, Folks

 

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Solstice rays

Solstice sunrise gleams,
first rays of dawn portending
shorter days ahead.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2022 in Events, Nature and Wildlife, Poetry

 

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Lambs losing their tails, gaining vaccine

ewes and lambs on Cherry Grove

We’re almost done lambing and it’s time for docking      the lambs and getting everyone ready for trailing and summer’s grazing on the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forests. Sheep are naturally long-tailed, and if those tails are not cut short early in life, they can have problems later with manure and flies. The assembly line process also includes earmarking, castrating the males, vaccinating for diseases and a stamp with a paint brand. The ewes also receive a fresh brand and everyone is counted. We usually run two docking lines with all hands on deck, and bring up a hot lunch and plenty of cold drinks.

ewes and lambs ready to go

docking crew working two lines

Seamus vaccinating

hats and lunch

after docking

 

 

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Branding Time

McCoy bringing in a calf

 

 

It’s that time of year again. We have lots of baby calves who need vaccines, brands and earmarks before they head up to the Forest with their mothers. We have a great crew this year. Everyone knows how to work together to minimize stress on both cattle and people.

 

calves gathered in the Elephant Corral

Bubba, Tiarnan and McCoy bringing in the calves

Siobhan at the ready

Rhen on the water tank

Bubba and McCoy

branding crew

McCoy and Eamon

 

 

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Shearing at Badwater

wooly ewes waiting for the shearers

It’s that time of year again. The shearers have shown up and shearing is underway. Each year it takes a lot of moving parts for fleeces to roll off the sheep and into the big bales. Our shearing crew are contractors who come out of California. We are their last client of the season. This is good because they are not under pressure to move on to the next producer, but nerve-wracking because we want to have the ewes shorn in time to trail to the lambing grounds north of Dixon. Lambing starts around May 10th.

We were fortunate with the weather this year. We had a snowstorm right before we were ready to start. The weather cleared and was warmish and nice for most of the week, allowing us to get through the “main line,” as the wool buyers call the running age ewes. The yearlings were next, followed by a brief, but not killer storm–always a worry for freshly shorn sheep.

Our crew packed up their portable shed–the shearing equivalant of a food truck–and moved to Powder Flat. The early lambers and the rams were there, and soon they too had given up their winter coats. Beulan and Maria the llamas were also shorn, much to their spitting disgust, but they are ready for summer.

wooly ewes with wagons

waiting in the corral

shorn ewes, ready to lamb

Frank and Gramps, son and father, on the job

Modesto and Eamon counting sheep

shorn ewes with birds

Edgar with unshorn llamas at Powder Flat

 

shearer at work

Meghan and Maria

Megan with Beulah

Beulah, freshly shorn

the wool packer baling the fleeces

bales of wool

fleeces in line

 

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Heifers to the high country

Chandler on Cora, waiting for the trucks to unload

 

We plan to run heifers this coming summer (I have faith that summer is coming). We have hay on hand so decided to bring the heifers in now. They are from South Dakota, and are used to cold and snow. I was happy to see their fuzzy coats.

backing the truck up to the chute

Mc Coy ready with his rope

Welcome home!

heading for the hay pile

 

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Winter sunrise

sunrise over Flattop and Lucky Butte

 

 

Winter sunrise paints
the sky, illuminating
mountains and tractor.

Chandler heading out to feed cow and horses

Flattop, Lucky Butte , Squaw Mountain, and Chandler

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2022 in Events