It’s that time of year again. We have lots of baby calves who need vaccines, brands and earmarks before they head up to the Forest with their mothers. We have a great crew this year. Everyone knows how to work together to minimize stress on both cattle and people.
Spring is finally springing. It’s been coldish with intermittent snows. Just when we think it’s going to warm up and grow some grass, another snow storm comes through. Luckily for us, we did not get the calf killing Holy Week blizzards that buried North Dakota and eastern Montana. We got an inch of rain at the Home Ranch the other night, which took off our covering of snow. Finally, it’s warming up into the 60’s, which is good because we are expecting the shearers in the next few days.
The McCullem Place is part of our Powder Wash ranch west of Baggs. It serves as spring pasture for some of the cows and calves. The homestead era headquarters is mostly gone, so we set up portable corrals, brought in the cows and calves, and processed the calves. These are some of the Akaushi-cross calves so we also had to take a snip of ear to check their bloodlines. We built an old-fashioned fire to heat the branding irons. We had another great crew of family, friends and employees.
It’s shipping time for the calves. Some of our calves, born last spring, will leave the mountains and their mamas and head to buyers who will feed them for market. Some heifer calves are sold to a buyer who will raise them to be replacement cows. Some heifers calves will stay with us to become our future cow herd. In every scenario, we bring the cows and calves into the corrals at the Home Ranch, sort them, wean them from their mothers who are already pregnant with next years calves, and send the calves to their various homes, and the cows to winter country.
Tate, and multiple Border collies, bringing up the cows
Bubba watching the gate
Pat and Bubba watching the cows
through the rails
Eamon sorting, Ned the brand inspector watching from the fence
We’ve been trailing and back-riding for a week, as the cattle come off the summer grazing grounds. The cows and calves have been on the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forests since June and July. They graze in large rotations and we ride through them almost daily. They don’t want to leave since the weather is still warm. They see no reason to leave perfectly good feed and water. We’ve been watching the Middle Fork Fire, to the south of our allotments. It’s been burning in ungrazed areas, although there are plenty of beetle-killed pines everywhere. We’re glad to be out of the Forest with this season of fire.
On the road
home to the meadows
Pat D. and Tiarnan
cows trailing near the Midnight Ranch
riding crew at lunch (photo credit, Pat Danscen)
through the horse’s legs (photo credit, Pat Danscen)
Tiarnan and Battle Mountain
Tate, Sharon and Liberty the filly (photo credit, Pat Danscen)
Sharon and Seamus the horse (photo credit, Pat Danscen)
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we have lot of new baby calves being born. We’ve had some fresh snow, but the temperatures are decent and the mamas are doing a good job. It warms the heart to see these new babies!
It finally stopped raining long enough to allow us to brand some calves. Clouds were threatening, but with lots of good help, we got through them. They were, as my Dad used to say, “Big enough to get ahold of.”
The cows and their calves have happily spent the last three months grazing on the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forest. October 1st is the off date for our Forest grazing permit. Friends and family help us as we bring the cattle down from their summering grounds.
Patrick and Sharon O'Toole are ranchers in the Little Snake River Valley on the Wyoming-Colorado border. They represent the fourth generation on the six-generation family ranch. The O'Tooles raise cattle, sheep, horses, dogs and children on their high country ranching operation. The transhumance operation stretches from north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado to Wyoming's Red Desert.
Pat has served in the Wyoming House of Representatives, the Western Water Policy Commission, and is currently President of the Family Farm Alliance, representing irrigators and water users in the western United States. He is active with several conservation and agricultural organizations.
Sharon is a writer and poet. She writes extensively on western issues, and the relationship between landscape, animals and people. She is widely published as an author, essayist and editorial commentator.
Pat and Sharon have three children. Their daughter, Meghan and her husband Brian Lally, live on the ranch with their children, Siobhán, Seamus, Maeve and Tiarnán. Meghan has also served on the Wyoming Board of Agriculture and the Environmental Quality Council, She and Brian are active in community service.
Daughter Bridget lives in Phoenix with her husband, Chris Abel, where she works in health care communications. Chris works in the food distribution business.
Son Eamon and his wife Megan live on the ranch with their sons, McCoy and Rhen. Eamon is a horseman and natural resource manager, and Megan is a flight nurse. Eamon is a member of the Wyoming Beef Council and is active in the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
The blog traces the activities and life on the ranch, from the mundane to the fabulous.