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Summer Trail


Eamon, Rhen and McCoy trailing cows and calves onto the Forest

 

July 1st is the on-date for our cows and calves, and ewes and lambs to enter their grazing permits on the Routt National Forest. Since there are several herds, they trail on in stages over several days. We do a lot of planning amongst our crew, with our Forest Service range conservationists, and with the neighbors.

We also work with the Range Cons regarding trailing dates to give them to opportunity to count on, if they wish, and to coordinate the trailing of other permittees who have the same on date. Since it’s mid-summer, we have to start at sunrise so that we can be on the Forest before the heat of the day sets in.

Sunrise, with sheep in the rear-view mirror.

Forest bound

Almost there

and through the Forest gate

Let the summer grazing begin!

 

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Docking 2017

Belle helping the humans

Go that-a-way!

When most of the lambs are on the ground, we are faced with the next big task–docking. This is a major job which involves handling each and every lamb which has recently been born–giving it an earmark, castrating it if it is a male, judging if it is replacement quality if it is a female, vaccinating for enterotoxemia and tetanus, cutting the tail, and last, but not least, stamping on a paint brand. This operation involves a lot of moving parts with a lot of coordination of critters and people. It calls for all hands and the cook!

Heading into the corral

Bringing up the ewes

Docking crew ready to go

McCoy, with the docking crew and the Dinkum Docker

Siobhan taking a break

Rhen and Tiarnan–the happy dockers!

 

Tyler, German, Juan and Rafael at the docking board

German holds lamb while Kimmy castrates

Jaime putting a lamb into the Dinkum Docker

Tyler and Jaime

the multi-talented Kimmy vaccinating

Rhen branding for Pepe

Brittany counting tails

After the docking

Luka supervising lunch

Time for rest and contemplation of tails

 

 

 

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Guard dogs coming in

Here’s the guard dogs checking things out as we bring the lambs in to dock in the Cottonwood Pasture.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Animals, Dogs, Sheep

 

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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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Lambs on the ground

Mama ewe on the alert

 

 

It must be spring! We’ve got lots of baby lambs on the ground. We lamb the purebred Hampshires and Rambouillets in March at Powder Flat. These babies grow up to be rams and replacement ewes, and a few will even become 4-H lambs.

Thanks to our great crew–Edgar, Luis, Uribe and David for all your hard work and long nights. Now we pray for warm rains and green grass.

Home on the hay pile

morning in the corral

Rhen with a crossbred lamb

Rhen watching Luis on the run

NOT wanting to lie down with the lion

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in Animals, Sheep

 

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To lamb or not to lamb, that is the question

If it’s March, it must be time to pregnancy test. We breed the best of our Rambouillet ewes to Rambouillet rams, thereby ensuring a new crop of replacement ewe lambs, as well as their brothers/cousins. Since purebred whiteface lambs are more vulnerable at birth, especially the twins, we pregnancy check the moms so that the ewes carrying twins can lamb in the sheds. The rest of the Rambouillet ewes are bred to our Hampshire rams. Their lambs have hybrid vigor and usually do fine with drop lambing on the range. Our friend Geri Parsons from Optimal Livestock Services comes up each March at mid-pregnancy to check the ewes and call out “single”, “twins”, “open” and even “triplets”. Meghan and her crew appropriately marked the ewes with a paint dab on their heads to signify their status for later sorting. Geri usually braves chill winds and long drives for several days to accomplish this task. Here’s some photos of this year’s pregnancy checking.

Ewes, waiting for the verdict

Pepe at the chute, Geri’s office in the tent

 

It was REALLY MUDDY!!!

Chris bringing up the ewes

Pregnancy testing crew–Sam the Border collie, Modesto, Maeve, Meghan, Pepe, Tiarnan, Geri, Chris

 

the view from Eagle’s Nest, looking east

 

 

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Adios, old year

from our Christmas tree

from our Christmas tree

New Year’s Eve morning dawned bright and clear. We had a huge pile of wood to burn from an old building we had taken down. We had livestock to tend, bucks to work, and resolutions to make.

 

Ewes on winter pasture

Ewes on winter pasture

Adopted wild horses eating hay at sheep camp

Adopted wild horses eating hay at sheep camp

Hampshire buck saying "Put me in, Coach!"

Hampshire buck saying “Put me in, Coach!”

Bringing the bucks up the chute

Bringing the bucks up the chute

The All-Girl sheep moving crew--Taylor, Siobhan and Meghan

The All-Girl sheep moving crew–Taylor, Siobhan and Meghan

Meghan and Pat sorting

Meghan and Pat sorting

Rambouillet ram out the cutting gate

Rambouillet ram out the cutting gate

Meghan, Siobhan and Taylor with the bucks

Meghan, Siobhan and Taylor with the bucks

McCoy checking things out

McCoy checking things out

Pat, with his fire-tending assistants--Seamus, McCoy, Tiarnan, Rhen and Maeve

Pat, with his fire-tending assistants–Seamus, McCoy, Tiarnan, Rhen and Maeve

Sharon with the fire-tending crew (McCoy un-photo bombed)

Sharon with the fire-tending crew (McCoy un-photo bombed)

Maeve, Seaus and Meghan

Maeve, Seamus and Meghan

Out with the old, in with the new

Out with the old, in with the new

Horses grazing with the last sunset of 2016

Horses grazing with the last sunset of 2016

 

 

 

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