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Tag Archives: Edgar

Cattle and sheep and dogs, oh my!

Ladder Ranch crew–Rhen, Eamon, Edgar, Leo, Pat

Rhen on the chute after guiding his Dad who was backing up the truck.

Sometimes we have multi-species days. Pat, Eamon, Rhen and Sharon headed to Powder Flat to load heifers on trucks so we could move them to spring country north of Dixon. We are full-on lambing at the Powder Flat headquarters, so there was plenty going on there already.

heifers heading for the truck

Eamon on Aspen, ready to trail up the road

meanwhile back at Powder Flat. . .

 

guardian dog puppy in training

burning old straw by the lambing shed

Leo and Rhen feeding a bum lamb

Ladder branding iron

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2021 in Animals, Cattle, Dogs, Horses, Sheep

 

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Early Lambing at Powder Flat

Hampshire ewe with comfy lamb

 

Each March, we lamb our purebred ewes, Hampshire and Rambouillet, in the sheds at Powder Flat. We raise our rams for the commercial range ewes from these two farm flocks. Luckily, we have a good crew and the early weather has been mild.

Pat and Edgar with pen for outdoor dining

guard dog hard at work in a circle of ewes

guard dogs on the job

guard dogs on the job

Hampshire ewe and twins

bum lambs in warm straw

Leo feeding the bum lambs

Meanwhile, Maria is hanging out with the bucks

 

 

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Migration

Shadows

As the elk and the deer
head down from summer’s grass
calves and fawns by their side
we gather cows, their calves and
hope for good weather.
We hook up the sheep camps,
move our community of critters—
ewes, lambs, dogs, horses.

The shepherds shift from early mornings,
lazy afternoons, fights with bears
and coyotes—
trying to find a camp spot among
tourists, campers, refugees from Covid.
At home, we stage the sheep, bringing them
bunch by bunch to pastures,
to the corrals

For sorting, for judging who stays,
who goes, some to the desert
some to farmers with soft fields and warm barns.
Lambs climb onto trucks—
first the heavies, born early,
next the lights,
and finally the peewees
headed for corn and lower country.

Now we follow the migration.

ewes trailing down from the Routt Forest

past the Bull Pasture

KIm supervising

Meghan at the sorting gate

lambs

under the sun

Anthony working the chute

ewes after sorting

Meghan loading the truck, with help

lambs loading on truck

Pepe and Oscar bringing them up

Pepe. Edgar and Bubba

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Buck testing–it’s pass/fail

bucks relaxing in the meadow

 

Each fall we test the buck herd. Geri Parsons, Optimal Livestock Services, comes to check our rams for fertility and health. At the same time, we look at their teeth, their feet and their general condition to make sure they are ready to romance the ewes in a couple of months.

ready to test

Geri, Edgar and Rhen

Oscar, Geri and Edgar

 

Geri in her portable lab

evening dust-up between bucks

 

 

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The Fall Sort

ewes trailing into the Sheep Mountain pasture

 

October 1st is the off-date for our summer grazing permits on the national forests. We spend a lot of time staging the trailing off of both cows and sheep. We consolidate sheep bunches, move them onto private pastures, and bring every ewe and lamb through our corrals and sheep chutes at the Home Ranch. We sort the lambs off the ewes. Some lambs will go to a feedlot to gain more pounds, and some will stay home and become replacement ewe lambs.

The ewes are sorted several way. Ewes with good health and good udders stay with our bunches. The “good old ewes” who are short on teeth but otherwise sound will go to buyers, usually in the Midwest, who can care for them for several more years, in conditions more forgiving than Wyoming’s Red Desert. The “killer ewes” or culls will go to slaughter.

All this involves a lot of moving parts, but when we’re done, we’re ready to move onto other late fall pastures before the long trail to the wintering grounds.

Meghan, Cora and Raul bringing up the sheep

ewes and lambs heading down the chute

 

Edgar and Cora at the sorting gate

Meghan and Leo

Meghan sorting lambs

 

ewes lambs in the corral

Pat, contemplating

Cora is a working mother. Puppies for sale!

 

 
 

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Shearing 2019

ready for the shearers

 

 

heading up the chute


Alejandro helping ewes up the chute

bucks ready for a fleecing

shearing with skill

 

down the ramp

Ten pounds lighter!

shorn sheep

 

Cora with wool packer

wool ready to pack

Oscar and Meghan

Pepe processing ewes

all hands and the cook

 

 

 

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The last of the lambs to the feedlot

early morning truck ready to load

up to the chute

the last lambs waiting in the corral

Meghan on the job

Oscar, Edgar and Pepe bringing up the lambs

guard dog and horses supervising

Pepe

 

 

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Sorting Gate Haiku

ewes heading for the sort

 

Ewes through the dodge gate,

dart left, duck right, straight ahead—

Destiny awaits.

Edgar at the sorting gate

guard dog hard at work

Avencio catching a ewe

 

in the corrals

Rhen helping Avencio and Oscar to doctor a ewe

crossing the Battle Creek bridge

 

 

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In Like a Lamb

Hampshire ewes with her twin lambs

 

For us, rain, sleet, snow or shine, March always comes in like a lamb. We raise our own rams, Hampshire and Rambouillet, and the ewes start lambing March 1st. After the winter wait, the long months of lambs growing in the womb, we get to see these babies. With them lies our future. Their future, likewise, depends upon us. It is a long time between lambs on the ground and rams, dusted with iron oxide, jumping out of the horsetrailer to join the ewes, starting the cycle anew.

In the shed

Ladies in waiting, protected by guardian dog puppies

ewes and puppies

Oscar helping a lamb find a mom with a skin graft

Edgar and Oscar conferring

plenty of feed on hand

Oscar with his lambing crew, Tiarnan and Seamus

Babies in a box,
waiting for milk replacer,
or a new mama

Luis feeding a baby lamb

 

 

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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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