RSS

Tag Archives: Badwater

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!

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Oscar and Tiarnan on the job

Oscar and Tiarnan shearing at Badwater

Oscar and Tiarnan shearing at Badwater

 
 

Tags: , , ,

Kid Rescue

Tiarnan, rescued by  Sky Hook

Tiarnan, rescued by Sky Hook

We are enjoying blessed rain. However, Pat had to rescue Tiarnan from the mud at Badwater.

 
 

Tags: , , , ,

November–from fall to winter

Battle Mountain from Brown's Hill

November is a month of transition. We ship the calves and start moving the cows and the ewes to their wintering grounds. The lambs are on feed, and the calves are either sold, or selected as replacements and on winter feed. The cows are pregnancy tested and their fate determined. It’s a lot to be thankful for when fall segues into winter and we settle in for the long months of quiet and cold.

moving cows near the Chivington Place

moving cows near the Chivington Place

rider moving cows below Powder Mountain

rider moving cows below Powder Mountain

Welcome(???) to the Powder Flat Headquarters--part ofour wintering ground

Welcome(???) to the Powder Flat Headquarters–part of our wintering grounds

Ewes on the reservoir, ready to trail north

Ewes on the reservoir, ready to trail north

ewes near the communication towers, Badwater Pasture

ewes near the communication towers, Badwater Pasture photo by Oscar

 

 

cows crossing the creek photo by Oscar

cows crossing the creek
photo by Oscar

the little bulls at Powder Flat

the little bulls at Powder Flat

Heifers at the Flying Triangle

Heifers at the Flying Triangle

the deer are settling in for the winter, too

the deer are settling in for the winter, too

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 27, 2014 in Animals, Cattle, Sheep

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Shearing–at last!

Unshorn white ewes in the front, black ewes in the back

Each year, we plan, and we plan, and we plan. Other than the weather, the annual shearing of the sheep is the most critical step in the ovine year over which we have little control. For their health and well-being, and for our financial bottom line, each sheep must be shorn each spring. We shear later than most other producers in our region, due to our high altitude and the dates dictated by our federal leases. This means that all the days the shearing crew loses throughout the spring due to weather, mechanical problems and other delays, pile up at the end while we anxiously await their arrival. We plan our trailing schedule around the anticipated commencement of shearing. We leave our winter quarters on the Red Desert around April 15th and head for our Badwater pasture, some five trailing days to the south. We like to shear there before trailing on to the Cottonwood lambing grounds, where the lambs start dropping about May 8th. May 8th also happens to be our “on-date” for the BLM portion of the lambing grounds, and it is pretty close to the date that the green grass starts popping.

It is another five or six days trailing from our Badwater pasture to Cottonwood, so ideally, the shearing is done by May 1st. This year, we scheduled shearing to commence on May 25th. If all goes well, it takes about six days to shear all the pregnant ewes, so this is still cutting it pretty close. It is stressful for the ewes to be shorn so close to lambing, but it is better for ewes, lambs and lambers for the shearing to be done. We have the facilities to shear on our private land on Cottonwood, but it is always a balancing act to make sure there is enough green grass there to sustain the ewes  before, during and after the shearing takes place.

As it happened, the shearing crew was able to arrive on May 2nd, due to weather, wind and other circumstances. We made the executive decision to send on one band of ewes on to Cottonwood, while we sheared the other two winter bunches at Badwater. It is hard on the ewes, heavy with lambs, to trail with the additional 10 pounds of wool on their backs. It is worse to be lambing on the trail, while we follow behind with horse trailers, picking up ewes with newborns. So we tried to find a balance, with the ewes carrying the replacement ewe lambs going ahead to be sure to be on the lambing grounds.

The shearing crew, Hoopes Shearing, is an eclectic international group of professional shearers. The contractors, Cliff and Dawna Hoopes, spend much of the year lining up visas to ensure that they have a crew on hand. This year’s crew was a multinational group of Aussies, Kiwis, Americans and even one Japanese guy. As it happened, the wool packing machine broke down on day two. “Don’t worry,” I told them. “We are in the oil field, and we can find a mobile welder.” Sure enough, we were able to find a welder who could travel to our broken down packer and repair it.

We had some problems due to stress on the ewes from being sheared so close to lambing. We also had stress on Meghan and Sharon since the ranch cook quit right before shearing. We were feeding our ground crew and the shearing crew, and the crew back at the ranch, AND working on the ground crew. We did manage, and nobody went hungry.

Everyone did their jobs, and the sheep did get sheared, first at Badwater and then at Cottonwood. We still have to shear the yearlings, since the Hoopes crew had to move on to other pregnant ewes.

Ewes in waiting

Ewes in waiting

Waiting their turn

Waiting their turn

Wool packing crew at work

Wool packing crew at work

After the breakdown of the press, a lot of wool was waiting to be bales.

After the breakdown of the press, a lot of wool was ready to be baled.

Out of the shed

Out of the shed

Shorn ewes waiting to be sprayed for keds

Shorn ewes waiting to be sprayed for keds

Flags flying over the purple Hoopes shed, Judas sheep in front

Flags flying over the purple Hoopes shed, Judas sheep in front

Siobhan and Edison give water to a stressed ewe

Siobhan and Edison give water to a stressed ewe

 

Ty running the wool press

Ty running the wool press

Herder with horses

Herder with horses

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , ,