Daughter and mother,
my right-hand canine duo—
Cora and Sadie.
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.
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.
The ides of December means that it’s time to put the rams in with the ewes. Romance in December brings lambs in May. A sheep’s gestation is five months less five days. I wish we could predict now just when the shearers will arrive and what the weather will be like on the 10th of May.
All is green and warm. It’s hard to believe that we are not far away, in time, in temperature, from fall. Soon we will see frosty mornings, golden leaves, and critters headed for lower climes. For now, we hang onto these long sunny days. Each sunrise the sun sneaks south, while we breathe warm breezes, a little longer.
It is only early February, but we do have lots of young animals around. We have had more than one litter of Livestock Guardian Dog puppies (hence the difference in sizes), a litter of Border collies, last summer’s colt crop, and–oh yes–one lamb. The little ones are fun, but soon we will have scores of lambs and calves on the ground, so this is the calm before the storm. Barring bad weather, which we have definitely not had, I consider the time between when the bucks go into the ewes in mid-December, and when the purebred lambs and the heifers’ calves start arriving in early March to be the lull. How can it be going by so fast? And why do I still feel so busy?
Today we put the bucks into the ewes on the Red Desert. Bucks in on December 15th means that we can look for the first lambs to arrive on about May 10th. The bucks have waited for many months to be reunited with their lady loves. The ewes seemed glad to see them too, although for them, a brief–very brief–dalliance means that they spend five months pregnant and five months raising lambs. Of course, it guarantees the ewes a good living, and a whole lot less boredom than the rams face the rest of the year. We were blessed to receive a badly needed snow the day before, ensuring winter water for the sheep. It was a Goldlilocks snow–not too little and not too much, and the 15th dawned bright and sunny.