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Category Archives: Peruvian sheepherders

Migration

Shadows

As the elk and the deer
head down from summer’s grass
calves and fawns by their side
we gather cows, their calves and
hope for good weather.
We hook up the sheep camps,
move our community of critters—
ewes, lambs, dogs, horses.

The shepherds shift from early mornings,
lazy afternoons, fights with bears
and coyotes—
trying to find a camp spot among
tourists, campers, refugees from Covid.
At home, we stage the sheep, bringing them
bunch by bunch to pastures,
to the corrals

For sorting, for judging who stays,
who goes, some to the desert
some to farmers with soft fields and warm barns.
Lambs climb onto trucks—
first the heavies, born early,
next the lights,
and finally the peewees
headed for corn and lower country.

Now we follow the migration.

ewes trailing down from the Routt Forest

past the Bull Pasture

KIm supervising

Meghan at the sorting gate

lambs

under the sun

Anthony working the chute

ewes after sorting

Meghan loading the truck, with help

lambs loading on truck

Pepe and Oscar bringing them up

Pepe. Edgar and Bubba

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Buck testing–it’s pass/fail

bucks relaxing in the meadow

 

Each fall we test the buck herd. Geri Parsons, Optimal Livestock Services, comes to check our rams for fertility and health. At the same time, we look at their teeth, their feet and their general condition to make sure they are ready to romance the ewes in a couple of months.

ready to test

Geri, Edgar and Rhen

Oscar, Geri and Edgar

 

Geri in her portable lab

evening dust-up between bucks

 

 

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Leaving the Medicine Bow

    

 

     Autumn ritual–
     Alejandro’s yearling ewes
     leaving the Forest

 

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Autumn in the Routt National Forest

Dog Days of September

 

October 1st is drawing near. In our world, that is the off-date for most of our National Forest permits. We are now staging both the cows and the sheep to trail down to the Home Ranch in a few days. Here’s Pepe and Modesto, our excellent long-time herders, with their ewes and lambs, ready to come off the Forest. We have had a record year for predator losses, in spite of their efforts and the efforts of our valiant Livestock Guardian Dogs. Since we know how many ewes and their lambs went up in July, and Pepe and Modesto (and the other herders) keep track of other deaths, we will soon have an idea of how terrible these losses have been.

Pat and Pepe in Big Red Park

Pat and Modesto near Independence Creek

Modesto’s ewes and lambs

 
 

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Docking 2020

Bringing up the ewes and lambs

Lambing is closely followed by docking the new lambs. This means literally docking the tails, to protect against flystrike, earmarking and paint branding to indicate ownership, castrating to make management easier and to create better meat quality, vaccinating to protect health, and a look at each and every lamb for problems to address. It makes for long days, but also adds camaraderie and teamwork to our hard-working crew! A good lunch is sure to appear. No one has trouble sleeping at the end of the day

docking crew at Cherry Grove

end of the line, Dinkum Docker, Maeve branding

 

Pepe and Renee tailing and branding

Pepe, Renee, Siobhan

dances in dust

Eamon tossing lamb

Juan catching lamb

Siobhan and Bubba, docking

ewes and lambs, mothering up

 

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Shearing, interrupted

Anthony bringing up the wooley ewes

Shearing the sheep is a challenge every year. We are dependent, foremost, upon the arrival of the shearing crew. These skilled and essential crews are more difficult to find every year. For the crew bosses, it is harder each year to put together skilled shearers and to put together sheep to shear. We are dependent upon the weather, which is capricious. This year, now, our excellent shearing crew has started a few days late, due to weather. On Friday, we were able to get in a good days’ shearing. Yesterday it rained all day. Rain is usually good—much better than drought—but wet sheep can’t be shorn. Today, we started again, and managed to get through 50 head. A brief but fierce storm came through, and stopped us. So tomorrow, we try again. We have a lot of ewes who need shorn before  lambing starts May 10th or so.

Ciro shearing

the first shorn ewe

wooley ewes, shorn ewes

shorn ewes

Oscar and the crew

free at last!

water

storm clouds

 

 

 

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Homeward Bound in the Time of Coronavirus

lining up for the trucks

As our blog watchers know, we have had a horrific winter which made it hard to keep our livestock well cared for. This is the origin of the phrase “animal husbandry.” After a long and trying series of  experiences, mostly weather related, we moved both the sheep and the cows to warmer climes. They are now coming home. We are in the season Still Winter/Almost Spring. The Coronavirus outbreak has affected our day-to-day lives less than many, but our big picture economic lives more than many. Still, we live in the day-to-day. We had sent most of our sheep, ewes and rams, to the Bighorn Basin for the winter. The early cold froze the sugar beets grown there, which meant that the beets couldn’t be harvested, but were frozen in the ground. As it happens, sheep can “graze” on sugar beets in the ground, and other crop aftermath. Spring is sort of coming and the deep snow is finally sort of melting. The farmers in the Bighorn Basin, where it is almost 3,000 feet lower in altitude, need to have their fields cleared of sheep so they can be ready to plant the 2020 crops. We began to be worried that the side-effects from Coronavirus would make it hard to bring the ewes several hundred miles south, and home. The truckers are busy hauling essential supplies, and sheep trailers especially are in short supply. What would happen if our sheep, men and dogs were stranded? We have some great trucker friends and were able to organize 17 trucks (same trucks, more than one trip). We had already brought some home earlier, but we had not figured on the unprecedented challenges of a Black Swan event.

ewes and rams

getting the truck ready

eager to go home

brand inspector on the job

Joel and Pepe

Tiarnan supervising (home school)

Pepe and our “landlord” Pasquel

Maeve serving her brownies (Grandma Laura’s recipe) after the last sheep is loaded–more home school

Seamus and Pat with the trucks

Pasquel, Pepe, Joel and Meghan

multiple unloading

Home at last!!!

 

 

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There’s no place like home

Home at last!

 

We brought the ewe lambs (coming yearlings) home this week from their winter quarters on the frozen beet fields of Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin. You can see their dirty faces from rooting sugar beets out of the ground. The white-faced Rambouillets look like smut-faced cross-breds with the dirt on their noses. We unloaded them at the Chivington Place, where the snow has finally melted enough to bring them home and allow them to graze. We hope to bring the rest of our ewes back to our country soon. We are still waiting for snow to melt on their BLM grazing allotments.

Off the truck and onto the Chivington Place

unloading

Looking for grass, not beets

Jesus keeping the lambs together

Jesus and the lambs

 

 
 

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Life in the North

ewes in the Bighorn Basin

Faithful blog readers know that due to extreme winter conditions in the Red Desert, our usual wintering ground, we have trucked most of our ewes north to the sugar beet fields in Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin. The Bighorn Basin is several hundred miles to the north of us, almost to the Montana border, but is also several thousand feet lower, and less snowy. We have some ewes who experienced “early conception,” probably due to a rogue buck lamb who escaped docking. At Powder Flat, we are set up for shed lambing (usually in March) and have a great crew. Pat and I went up to visit the ewes and herders, and to collect the pregnant ewes and bring them home to lamb. The Bighorn Basin is also experiencing an unusually snowy winter, though for them it is several inches of snow, not several feet. We have a good crew there too–Pepe, Modesto, Alejandro and Joel. It’s a long ways from home, but has feed available for the ewes.

ewes near Burlington

Border collie on the job

Tres Amigos

pregnant ewes ready to load

Modesto and Pepe

Home at last

Dogs give a welcome home

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2020 in Animals, Dogs, Family, Folks, Peruvian sheepherders, Sheep

 

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North to better pastures

ready to leave LaClede

Our decision to move most of the ewes north was not an easy one. We have never not kept them (relatively) close to home on desert sagebrush steppe grazing permits. Last February, our sheep were trapped by bad weather and roads. When this winter started early and hard, we bought extra feed and hauled it to them daily, hoping for a thaw. We did not have back-to-back blizzards like last February, but it has just kept snowing and getting colder. Eamon found sugar beets which had frozen in the ground in the Big Horn Basin. After lots of phone calls and planning, we started loading ewes, and rams, on trucks and moving them to beet fields and crop aftermath in the north part of the state. Most of them had never seen a truck.

morning wagons

Meghan bringing them up

loading

Guillermo

northward bound

Pat and Pepe at Cyclone Rim

unloading the trucks in the dark

the next day

where’s the beets?

the first day of the rest of the winter

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on January 16, 2020 in Animals, Dogs, Family, Folks, Peruvian sheepherders, Sheep

 

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