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Branding calves in the mountains and on the desert

 

It’s time to brand those calves which have been born this spring. We’ve been branding calves both in the mountains and the desert. We have our good crew of employees, friends and family on hand to help us with this endeavor.

Ready to gather: Cookie, Mike, Eamon and Karen

Siobhan and Dice

Taylor bringing in the cows

Mike and Tiarnan conferring

McCoy on the job

 

Pat and Cookie have a lot of irons in the fire!

Calves in waiting

Looking for the branding crew

Rhen and McCoy at work

David and Joe

 

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Twin Lamb Haiku

Twin lambs on the ground,

Safe and sound with their mama,

Their whole life ahead.

 
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Posted by on May 7, 2017 in Animals, Poetry, Sheep

 

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Wild horses at Powder Flat (private land)

View from the Flat

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2017 in Animals, Horses

 

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Avocets in April

Avocets on the Adams Reservoir

 

These Avocets were braving cold water on the Adams Reservoir near Dad, Wyoming.

Bottoms up!

Looking underwater

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2017 in Nature and Wildlife

 

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Shearing 2017

In the shearing shed

It is hard to describe shearing season. It is essential, and ridden with uncertainty. The sheep must be shorn once a year in order to remain healthy and productive. The wool is a critical part of our income. And it is overwhelmingly important that the wool be shorn before lambing commences—a point that was brought home in 2015 when the scheduled shearers did not show up, and the problems of the season were exacerbated by weather and visa issues for the crews. We had to lamb in the wool, and organize a complicated shearing/docking operation in June.

Shearing of the range sheep herds is accomplished by contractors, who hire highly skilled crews (mostly foreigners, who need H2-A visas). It is a well-paid profession, but like most essential agriculture jobs, hardly filled by Americans. The contractors spend most of the non-shearing season vetting, hiring and completing paperwork so that they will have enough skilled, hard-working shearers to fill their crew.

Ewes coming in to the corrals

The contractors seek to work for producers with a large number of sheep. This means that they don’t have to move as often, and are guaranteed a good period of work. Producers develop reputations for their facilities and respect for the crew, as well as proximity to amenities such as grocery stores and fuel.

Likewise, shearing contractors are known for their speed, care of the sheep and the wool, and above all, reliability. Producers value the good crews and strive to hire them. It is a dance every year, with the crews shifting as the situations change. Loyalty goes a long way for both partners.

bringing in the ewes

This year our good California crew returned, and sheared our sheep in good order. We had luck that they were able to show up only a couple of days after our original target date. Sometimes the delay is many days, or weeks. Producers have to “stage” the sheep, since the shearing areas are usually at a fixed site, with usually “just enough” feed to support the sheep as they cycle through the shed.

Luka and Riley helping in the chute

In the old days, producers had large fixed sheds, which were designed to facilitate the movement of sheep and efficiency for the shearer. Most of these old Australian-style sheds are gone now, and the traveling crews have portable sheds which are basically small buildings on a trailer base. These are ingeniously designed to allow the sheep to enter a long chute from which the shearers (usually six or eight to a shed) can pull them to the shearing floor. After she is shorn, the ewe goes out a trap door to the left, while the wool slides out to the right. The wool handlers are waiting to sort and bale the wool just outside. Some crews have “sorting tables” to make it easier to skirt and bale the wool.

wool packing crew hard at work

About 40 fleeces go into each bale, tamped down by a large ramrod into a rectangular wool bag. Bellies and tags (dirty short pieces) are baled separately, as are different types and grades of wool. The wool handlers, often women, are also skilled and must work fast to keep up with the shearers, who outnumber them.

Kimmy, Uribe, Luis and David on the job

The weather is a huge factor in all this. Wet sheep cannot be shorn. The wool quality is ruined if it is baled wet. Shearers won’t shear wet sheep because it can lead to “wool pneumonia”. Cold spring storms are a threat to recently shorn sheep. In a week or so, enough wool grows back to allow the sheep to have some insulation, but freshly shorn sheep are very vulnerable to cold, wet weather. A late April storm in 1984 killed a quarter million ewes in Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas. Some of them were ours.

All that said, we are grateful that we got through the week it takes us to shear with relatively good conditions, a good crew and healthy sheep. We have to trail to the lambing grounds now with the main bunches. The two-year-olds are already under way lambing at our lambing sheds, so all hands are busy.

Ciro and Pepe

shearing the black ewes

Uribe and Megan unbelling the black ewe

Rhen helping in the chute

Rhen and Cora pushing the ewes up

Rhen practicing mutton-busting with Uribe

Edgar pushing ewes along the chute in the shed

Maeve and Seamus playing “Throw Dirt at the Sibling While Guessing the Wind Direction”

Guard dogs with shorn ewes

McCoy, Eamon, Gramps and Pat

Meghan and Eamon conferring

Riley’s lunch for corral crew and shearing crew–a welcome sight!

Siobhan and Luka in the shed

Karen with Cora and Sam–“Come early,” I said. “It’ll be fun!” I said…and it was.

Pat contemplating the shorn ewes

 

 

 

 

 

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Llama Drama

Beulah, Maria and the bucks

There was lots of llama drama
At the shearing shed tonight,
Mama Beulah and Maria
Put up a worthy fight.

“Can’t you see it’s cold out,
Can’t you see our frosty breath?
It’s not weather fit for shearing.
No fleece could bring our death!”

 

 

“We have barns to give you shelter,
We have cozy straw for bed,
There will be no frozen llamas,
You have no need for dread”

“But we can see those rams
Who have lost their wooly coats,
They no longer look majestic,
They look more like hairy goats.”

Pepe and Maria

“Step right up here, ladies,
To the Ladder Ranch salon.
You’ll soon sport the latest style,
Your wavy locks will soon be gone.”

“No, we like our flowing locks.
We like it long and swirly,
We like it warm and thick.
Our best look is llama curly”

 

 

“Your new look will be most stylish.
Your new look will be most sleek.
You’ll have the latest, greatest ‘dos,
Your llama glamour all will seek.”

“Whoa, what is all this racket?
What is this clank and clatter?
We don’t want a crew cut hair cut!
Our opinion doesn’t matter?!”

Holding the spitting mad llama

“Never mind those four strong guys,
Just ignore that noisy shearer,
Lie right down here on the platform.
There’s no need for fear here.”

“Wait, I’m on my back now!
You’ve stretched me stem to stern!
Those blades are on my skin!
Are you sure that it won’t burn?”

“Don’t struggle so, my llama,
Soon this shearing will be done.
From your fleece you’ll soon be parted,
And your hide will soon see sun.”

“No—I won’t take this lying down,
It will make this llama sad.
Why, this humiliation
Just makes me spitting mad!”

“Now you can look just lovely,
With your new stylish trendy ‘do,
You can join your sheep friends,
With a cut that’s cute and new!”

Edgar assisting with the shearing of Beulah

“No, I don’t want this summer haircut,
Can’t you tell that it’s still cold!
I don’t like those noisy clippers
I don’t like this strongarm hold!”

“We can let her go now,
Her shearing is complete.
Oh, yuck! What is this vile goo
That’s spattered on my feet?!”

“That’s my mama llama spit,
You deserve that sticky blast.
Maybe next year you’ll remember
And this trim will be my last!”

 

 

Yup, it was lots of llama drama
At the Ladder Ranch tonight,
If you don’t mind a little spit
They’re quite the stylish sight!

Beulah and Maria, looking like the camelids they are!

 

 

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Working Mom and Daughter

Cora and her mom Sadie on Monday

Here’s Sadie on Wednesday

Cora checking her e-mail

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2017 in Animals, Dogs

 

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