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Category Archives: Family

The long journey to the wintering grounds

Ewes coming to the road

Most years, we set out on the sheep trail to the wintering grounds on about the same date. It is usually about a five- or six-day trail from our late fall pasture at Badwater to our winter grazing permits in the Red Desert. We leave around Thanksgiving time–grateful that the ewes have come south on the same trail in the spring, met the shearers. trekked to the lambing ground, borne and raised lambs, grazed on the forest, trailed back to the Home Ranch corrals, weaned their lambs, and now head north to winter pasture. It is usually a time when we can take a breath. We pray that the winter is not too hard, that the dry grass is enough to sustain the ewes, and then the rams, as the cycle begins anew.

following the tractor

This year, back-to-back blizzards hit soon after the first two bunches of sheep set out. Some days they have been stranded on the trail and it has been all we can do to reach the sheep and the herders with supplies. The Interstate has been closed, with multiple wrecks and even some deaths. We crossed two bunches in between storms, but have struggled to move them north, breaking trail with the tractor. The weather has paused between storms, allowing us to make progress. We are grateful that the storms have not been unrelenting.

We had to turn south with the last bunch. Their winter pasture on Chain Lakes is snowed under, and we’ve found another, more open, allotment to the south and west. We are trailing down the highway, which must confuse the ewes, whose instinct and habit is to head north. Since we are on the highway, and not the cross-country trail, we flag, fore and aft, to slow the oncoming traffic. Locals are also not used to seeing livestock on the road this time of year, and non-locals are mostly interested to see the sheep, the dogs, the herders and the family members.

The sheep north of the interstate are still struggling to get to Cyclone Rim. They have finally made it to a plowed road, but it is slow going due to all the trucks stuck as they try to reach the energy development in the same areas.

Eamon and Guillermo bringing up the sheep

almost to the gate

Eamon, ready to trail

Wagon, waiting for the day

View from the rear flagger

Wilber and Guillermo putting in at the 18 mile marker

 

 

 

 
 

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Shipping lambs

lambs in the corral

In the fall, we send lambs to the feedlot. These are the lambs that we have nurtured in the womb throughout the cold winter months. These are the lambs that we saw into the world in a cold wet spring. These are the lambs for whom we fended off coyotes and ravens and bears. These are the lambs who followed their mothers and grew on sweet summer grass.

Some of their numbers fell to predators. A few fell to the hundreds other hazards that await the creatures that we care for. Now we sort out the ewe lambs who will stay with us and become mama ewes. The others go to feedlots where others look after them. In a few months, they will go to slaughter and provide sustenance, by-products such as insulin, and pelts for all of us. The income they bring helps us continue the cycle  of husbanding livestock and caring for landscape.

sunrise

lambs loading at Cottonwood

Raul with a lamb

onto the truck

Meghan supervixing

 

 
 

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The Fall Sort

ewes trailing into the Sheep Mountain pasture

 

October 1st is the off-date for our summer grazing permits on the national forests. We spend a lot of time staging the trailing off of both cows and sheep. We consolidate sheep bunches, move them onto private pastures, and bring every ewe and lamb through our corrals and sheep chutes at the Home Ranch. We sort the lambs off the ewes. Some lambs will go to a feedlot to gain more pounds, and some will stay home and become replacement ewe lambs.

The ewes are sorted several way. Ewes with good health and good udders stay with our bunches. The “good old ewes” who are short on teeth but otherwise sound will go to buyers, usually in the Midwest, who can care for them for several more years, in conditions more forgiving than Wyoming’s Red Desert. The “killer ewes” or culls will go to slaughter.

All this involves a lot of moving parts, but when we’re done, we’re ready to move onto other late fall pastures before the long trail to the wintering grounds.

Meghan, Cora and Raul bringing up the sheep

ewes and lambs heading down the chute

 

Edgar and Cora at the sorting gate

Meghan and Leo

Meghan sorting lambs

 

ewes lambs in the corral

Pat, contemplating

Cora is a working mother. Puppies for sale!

 

 
 

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The all boy crew

Tiarnan and Rhen trailing toward the corrals

Sorry for the long hiatus. . .I’ve continued to have computer issues, but I hope they are resolved and I can now return to offering glimpse into the life and times of the Ladder Ranch and its crew. I will do some backtracking because of course, I’ve been taking pictures!

When we trailed out of the Red Desert last April, a couple of ewes snuck off and have been hanging out near the Continental Divide Rim energy production facilities. We’ve seen them, and received some phone calls from folks working in the area. In the meantime, they each had a fine lamb, and avoided shearing. We knew that capturing them would be  difficult, since they were clearly independent. A few days ago, Pat took Tiarnan, 8, and Rhen, 6, and a couple of horses with the mission of capturing the errant ewes and lambs and bringing them home. It was an adventure, but they returned home with two ewes, two lambs, two horses, two boys and Pat.

Rhen with escaping sheep

Tiarnan trying to keep up

bringing them in

the corrals at last!

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2019 in Animals, Family, Folks, Sheep

 

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Counting on, Modesto’s bunch

ewes and lambs in the Johnson corral

July 1st brings the on-date for the Forest grazing permits. We worked Modesto’s bunch at the Johnson corrals, in the Routt National Forest.  We not only counted the ewes and lambs, but put numbered paint brands on the “marker” ewes, and gave Rhen an opportunity to practice his mutton busting.

Cora keeping an eye on the sheep.

Belling number 2, Juan supervising

 

numbering the marker ewes

Rhen practicing mutton busting

Siobhan and her team of Border collies

Counted, belled and numbered–heading for summer pasture

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2019 in Animals, Dogs, Family, Folks, Sheep

 

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Ready to brand

Bringing in the cows and calves

 

It finally stopped raining long enough to allow us to brand some calves. Clouds were threatening, but with lots of good help, we got through them. They were, as my Dad used to say, “Big enough to get ahold of.”

 

 

cows checking the clouds

Eamon watching Jeff chase the errant cow

Jeff bringing her in

Jeff and Mike watching the calves

 

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Shearing 2019

ready for the shearers

 

 

heading up the chute


Alejandro helping ewes up the chute

bucks ready for a fleecing

shearing with skill

 

down the ramp

Ten pounds lighter!

shorn sheep

 

Cora with wool packer

wool ready to pack

Oscar and Meghan

Pepe processing ewes

all hands and the cook

 

 

 

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