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Almost Spring lambs

Pregnant ewes waiting

Pregnant ewes waiting

We have started lambing the purebred ewes at Powder Flat. They are the moms of our future bucks and many replacement ewe lambs, and we lamb them earlier so these lambs will be older when it’s time for them to become working sheep. Our hard-working crew of Peruvian employees are supported by frequent visits from Meghan and her crew.

 

Rambouillet ewe looks after her twins

Rambouillet ewe looks after her twins

Here's looking at ewe.

Here’s looking at ewe.

Tiarnan with a Hampshire lamb

Tiarnan with a Hampshire lamb

Hampshire ewes and lambs hanging out by the heifers

Hampshire ewes and lambs hanging out by the heifers

Tiarnan and Siobhan playing in the corn

Tiarnan and Siobhan playing in the corn

Antonio, Meghan, Siobhan and Oscar

Antonio, Meghan, Siobhan and Oscar

 

 

 

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Loading wool

Filo, trucker, Antonio, Pepe and Jenri with the loaded wool truck

Filo, trucker, Antonio, Pepe and Jenri with the loaded wool truck

After all our adventures with shearing (and we still have a few ewes to shear and lambs to dock!), we loaded the first load of wool today. Most of it is bound for the U.S. military. Here is our intrepid loading crew, including the Utah trucker who came to haul it. One more load to go!

The trucker said his Dad helped him buy this semi after he returned from eight years in the Marine Corps--three tours in Iraq and one in Afganistan.

The trucker said his Dad helped him buy this semi after he returned from eight years in the Marine Corps–three tours in Iraq and one in Afganistan.

 

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Docking and shearing multi-tasking

Docking and shearing on Cottonwood Creek

Docking and shearing on Cottonwood Creek

This spring, for the first time in our experience, we have lambed our ewes in the wool.

This situation occurred, in large part, because shearing contractors cannot get enough foreign shearers through the broken H2A visa system, and not enough American shearers are available, even though shearing sheep pays very well. In our particular situation, our usual shearing contractor was not honest with us as to when his crew could realistically arrive, which left us with no time to find another shearer—a nearly impossible situation anyway.

By mid-May, we realized that we could not get the ewes sheared before lambing. I tried explaining the difficult situation to the ewes, but they refused to wait another week before giving birth. As a mother, I can relate to this. And also it was raining every day.

We did manage to find an American crew out of California, but they were able to shear only a day and a half before the rains and the lambs really set in. This left us with 6000 or so sheep left to shear, including the yearlings. The California crew said they could come back in June, after things slowed down, sort of. This was good, because the shearing contractors who depend on foreign (mostly New Zealand) shearers lose their crews as the visas run out in late May. I will say that hardly any American crews exist, and the industry needs its foreign shearers to “get the clip out.”

We did get through the lambing, which was inevitable due to the certainty of birth. This left us with several thousand wooly ewes, with lambs at side. At this point, we not only needed to shear the ewes, but we had several thousand lambs to dock.

We decided that we could shear and dock at the same time—in fact, that we had to. Luckily, our California shearing crew was flexible, and was willing to move their portable shed every day to the site of each ewe and lamb bunch. We set up corrals so that the ewes could run straight ahead into the shearing shed, and the lambs could be drafted off to side pens and into a docking line.

Usually, to minimize stress on sheep and human crew alike, we bring the ewes with lambs in in bunches of 300 or so. With the shearing/docking situation, we had to do each entire band at a time—typically 850 or so ewes, and their lambs—usually about thousand. We had to do this because we couldn’t separate the ewes and young lambs for more than a few hours. As I told the wool buyer, “Take a good look, because you’ve never seen this before and I hope you never see it again!”

Pepe, Richard, Meghan, Oscar, Cassie, and Jean Carlos on the docking side of things

Pepe, Richard, Meghan, Oscar, Cassie, and Jean Carlos on the docking side of things

waiting for the blades

Waiting for the blades

Siobhan at the cutting gate at Badwater

Siobhan at the cutting gate at Badwater

All hands, AND the cook!

All hands, AND the cook!

docking,shearing crew eating lunch

We all line up for Cassie’s hot lunch!

wool packer moving the bales of wool

wool packer moving the bales of wool

Tiarnan branding for Pepe

Tiarnan branding for Pepe

Antonio truimphant

Antonio truimphant

the view at Cherry Grove

the view at Cherry Grove

Ten pounds lighter

Ten pounds lighter

shearing at last!

shearing at last!

 

 

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Lambing time

Bum lambs--sometimes we have more lambs than mamas with available milk

Bum lambs–sometimes we have more lambs than mamas with available milk

goat mama fostering lambs

goat mama fostering lambs

For many years, our lambs have been born on the open range, under the care of herders. Lambs usually come into the world under one of three management systems. Shed lambing calls for a lot of management, and a lot of labor, as the new moms and baby lambs are brought into the protection of sheds, and placed in “jugs” (little pens). In the past, we have lambed in sheds in March. We raise our own rams and for a number of years, we have shed lambed our farm flocks of Rambouillet  and Hampshire ewes, who are the moms of the replacement bucks.

Most of our ewes “drop lamb.” Pregnant ewes are tended by herders. Each morning and evening, they ride through the sheep and “cut the drop.” This means that the ewes with brand-new lambs are “dropped” back, while the still pregnant ewes are moved ahead to fresh ground. This requires a large landscape, with the ewes scattered among sage and grass. In a few days, the ewes and their baby lambs have had a chance to “mother up” and are gathered into a bunch. When these flocks of ewes and lambs are put together, and the lambs are docked, they will trail on up to the Forest for the summer months.

The third way of lambing is open range lambing. Some producers with large tracts of private land build tight fences, concentrate on predator control, and let the ewes lamb without assistance.

Shed lambing saves the most lambs, due to one-on-one (or two, or three, or even four) attention. Drop lambing still involves a lot of labor, and has the advantage of keeping the sheep on clean ground. The herders ride through the sheep constantly and help any that require assistance. The disadvantage of drop lambing is vulnerability to bad weather, and increased exposure to predators, from coyotes to ravens. The weather has been more volatile the past few years, with spring storms killing hundreds and hundreds of lambs.

In an attempt to reduce our losses to weather, we have constructed a couple of large sheds in the last two years.  The investment in infrastructure has been considerable, but our goal is to save lambs, and give ourselves, and the sheep, more protection against the vagaries of weather. This involves a lot of work for us and our employees.

On the range and in the sheds, our employees and family members are working to keep the ewes and lambs healthy. It has rained every day since we started lambing, and we are lambing in the wool, due to the shearing contractor not showing up. Even the ranch cook has helped out, after bringing hot lunches to the shed every day. Way to go, crew!

Brittany, all-around ranch hand, bringing ewes and lambs in from the corral.

Brittany, all-around ranch hand, bringing ewes and lambs in from the corral.

 

ewe and lambs get a ride in the bucket--a speedy ride to the shed

ewe and lambs get a ride in the bucket–a speedy ride to the shed

Lambing shed full of jugs and lambs

Lambing shed full of jugs and lambs

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Two-year-old ewe with triplets

 

Pepe, real men fill pink water buckets

new shed, waiting for tenants

new shed, waiting for tenants

Pepe putting a skin graft on a lamb to be adopted by a new mom

Pepe putting a skin graft on a lamb to be adopted by a new mom

Antonio, drop lambing on Muddy Mountain

Drop lambing on Muddy Mountain

Antonio helps a ewe on the Loco lambing ground

Antonio helps a ewe on the Loco lambing ground

Rain, sleet, snow--intrepid lamber!

Rain, sleet, snow–intrepid lamber!

Adolfo, Avencio, Brittany, Pepe, Julia, Benoit, Filo, Eduardo, Leo

Adolfo, Avencio, Brittany, Pepe, Julia, Benoit, Filo, Eduardo, Leo–our French house guests helped out too!

 

Julia and Benoit--Au Revoir

Julia and Benoit–Au Revoir

 

 

 

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scenes from Powder Flat

puppies on the run

puppies on the run

puppy  with shadow

puppy with shadow

Pat with young bulls

Pat with young bulls

 

Tiarnan, Seamus, Maeve and puppies playing in the corn

Tiarnan, Seamus, Maeve and puppies playing in the corn

Border collie puppy hanging out on the corn sacks

Border collie puppy hanging out on the corn sacks

Hampshire ewes

Hampshire ewes

 

Siobhan with Lulu

Siobhan with Lulu

Antonio, Meghan, Oscar, Brittany and Gyp--hard at work

Antonio, Meghan, Oscar, Brittany and Gyp–hard at work

some early lambs

some early lambs

ewes with water bottles

ewes with water bottles

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2015 in Animals, Cattle, Dogs, Horses, Sheep

 

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The “no guilt” early shearing

 

Antonio and the unshorn ewes

Antonio and the unshorn ewes

In mid-winter, we shear the ewes that are going to lamb in March. When it goes well, we even shear before lambing starts!  We do this for several reasons. Even though it seems early to shear, all goes better if the wool is off before the first lambs hit the ground. We raise our own bucks, which means that in order for them to be “of age”–at least some of them, by next winter, late winter/early spring is the time to be born. It is important for the ewes to be out of the wool for a couple of reasons. In cold weather, if the ewe is not cold, it doesn’t occur to her that her lambs might be cold and she should seek shelter. And when those lambs are looking for nourishment, it is helpful if tags of wool are not hanging down in strategic locations. Anyway, thanks to Cliff and Donna of Hoopes Shearing, we have spent two days shearing the early lambing ewes and the mature bucks. What did the bucks do wrong, you might ask? Well, then we don’t have to figure out how to get them staged for the main shearing in April (April, right Cliff and Donna?).

Often, well actually, always except for this year, it is pretty cold in mid-February and we feel guilty removing wool coats from the sheep while we are all wooled up in sweaters and long underwear. I don’t know if we have weather or climate change to thank, or blame, but this week, we had ideal shearing weather–not too cold, not too warm–Goldilocks Weather.

We do have a few lambs on the ground, due to errant buck lambs–born last March–you get the picture.

Sorry, but it was too dark in the shed to get shearing shots!

unshorn ewes, Brittany, Gyp, Antonio, shorn ewes--in that order

unshorn ewes, Brittany, Gyp, Antonio, shorn ewes–in that order

free at last!

free at last!

 

 

Rambouillet ewes, after the blade

Rambouillet ewes, after the blade

Sharon, working the pink chute

Sharon, working the pink chute

Donna loading fleeces into the brand new packer

Donna loading fleeces into the brand new packer

 

which has a few glitches...Antonio and Oscar pushing out the first bales

which has a few glitches…Antonio and Oscar pushing out the first bales

Justin, who keep the wool packer working!

 

 

 

 

 

Maeve and Seamus checking out the new bales

Maeve and Seamus checking out the new bales

Siobhan trying to push her siblings off the wool bale

Siobhan trying to push her siblings off the wool bale

Seamus and Maeve dueling with livestock working sticks

Seamus and Maeve dueling with livestock working sticks

brands of growers on the side of the purple Hoopes Shed (with lime green accents and the pink chute)

brands of growers on the side of the purple Hoopes Shed (with lime green accents and the pink chute)

Pat through the chute

Pat through the chute

ewe, ready to lamb

ewe, ready to lamb

before

before

during

during

shorn Rambouillet bucks

after

No

N

 

 

 

 

 

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New Year’s Day at Powder Flat

Winter cows at Powder Flat

Winter cows at Powder Flat

Pat and I celebrated New Year’s Day by visiting our employees, cows, horses, dogs and birds at Powder Flat (the sheep were a little father out). We could do this because we spent New Year’s Eve partying hardy with Pat’s Mom Marie, 98; Maeve, 8, McCoy, 4; and Rhen, 2. The cows are enjoying the bounty brought by last summer’s rain. They are still grazing, and looking fat and happy in spite of a couple of 30 below nights. We also admired two–count ’em two, litters of Livestock Guardian Dog puppies–seven each. That means puppies for sale! We also visited with last summer’s colts and a lot of birds who are enjoying the corn and hay.

Antonio and Tiarnan check out guardian litter number one

Antonio and Tiarnan check out guardian litter number one

Four noses:  Tiarnan, Antonio, guardian dog Mom, pups--litter 2

Four noses:                                                                      Tiarnan, Antonio, guardian dog Mom, pups–litter two

Antonio, Pat, Oscar, Tiarnan and Eduardo at Powder Flat

Antonio, Pat, Oscar, Tiarnan and Eduardo at Powder Flat

Mother and child reunion

Mother and child reunion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Future cavvy

Future cavvy

Birds of a feather

Birds of a feather

 

 

 

Battle Mountain and Baker's Peak from the west

Battle Mountain and Baker’s Peak from the west

 

 

 

Baker's Peak and Mount Oliphant

Baker’s Peak and Mount Oliphant

Winter grazing at Powder Flat

Winter grazing at Powder Flat

Powder Flat headquarters with Powder Mountain to the north

Powder Flat headquarters with Powder Mountain to the north

 

And on the way  home--the ones that got away, from the hunters

And on the way home–the ones that got away, from the hunters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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