It’s that time of year when we are crazy busy. The cows and calves, and the ewes and lambs, have trailed down from the grazing allotments on the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forests (which are geographically one forest). Once they have trailed back to pastures around the Home Ranch, we look at each and every animal. We sort off the calves and the lambs. Both are sold to buyers. The calves go on to be fed and eventually become tasty steaks and burgers. Some of the heifer calves go on to become cows. The wether lambs and the smut-faced lambs go on to become tasty lamb chops and holiday legs of lamb. The white-faced ewe lambs stay home to become ewes. We look at every cow and every ewe. The cows are pregnancy tested by our trusty vet, who calls out “pregnant” or “late” or “open”. The opens (not pregnant) are sold and the pregnants stay home to produce next spring’s calves. The ewes are checked, one by one. Most of them stay with the ranch. They will go to winter pastures, hang out with the rams, and have lambs in the spring. Some ewes are older, or lack teeth, but can go to gentler climes in the Midwest and remain productive. Some are not sound, and go on to become food in Mexico. It is a time of decision-making as we select the animals that can continue to sustain us. After the terrible losses of the 2022-2023 harsh winter, we cast a special eye. “Is she strong enough?” “can she survive a hard winter?” “will it even be a hard winter?” We are all still shell-shocked from last winter, and this adds extra perspective to these decisions which we make every fall.
In the meantime, we have to appreciate the blessings of fine weather and the joy of working with livestock.