Conversation between Buck and Rambo or Breeding season on the Ladder Ranch
There’s a rumor goin’ ‘round, ‘bout some ladies to be found–
the boss is hookin’ up the trailer, gassin’ up the truck
(The trailer lights aren’t working, again, but oh well.)
I’m hopin’ that you’re right, and it seems that time of year— they’ve been pourin’ out the grain, dashed red powder on our backs, lots of hay, and we all look fat and ready—well, you know.
Last year all the ladies loved my tuxedo vibe.
My black face is debonair, my moves make me look fine.
I jumped out of the trailer, and I think they liked my leap.
Ha—that woolless blackface face can’t compare with wooly charms, and HOW ABOUT these curly Rambouillet horns. They love those! I’ll rub them on this hay bale and that will make them shine.
We have to wait all year, just hangin’ with the guys—
they keep us in buck prison, and we KNOW how that can be.
It’s the ladies that we want, with their pretty ewey charms
YES! The boss says time to get to work, but it’s not work at all, we can whisper those sweet nothings, but you know they’re loved and left. raisin’ lambs on grassy meadows, while we move back to bachelor digs.
Our lambs are happily ensconced at Harper’s Feedlot near Greeley. They are eating corn and growing every day. Pat, Tiarnan and I went to visit them recently. The weather is warm–too warm for this time of year–so all the lambs on the feedlot are doing really well.
Purebred Hampshire and Rambouillet sheep, ready for the sort.
Much of our lives revolves around reproduction…sometimes encouraging it, sometime avoiding it, but always managing it. Sheep reach sexual maturity at a relatively young age, so in July we must remove the buck lambs, born in March, from their mothers and the ewe herd. The conventional wisdom, at our latitude(about 41) is that ewes can be bred in any month with an “R” in it. It’s a bit more complicated than that, depending on factors such as the breed and nutrition, but we have learned not to overthink it. Suffice it to say that if you don’t want to be lambing at Christmastime or so, it’s a good idea to remove intact buck lambs from their mothers in July. We don’t want to wait until “AuRgust”!
Since we raise our own bucks, and they are getting to be pretty big guys, we put them into the corrals at the Johnson Ranch, where they summer north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The buck lambs who pass the test to be replacement rams are weaned and taken to the Home Ranch, far away, we hope, from any ewes.
These guys will miss their moms, but they get to grow up to be dads.
Which one of these is not like the others? Pepe, Adolfo, Apolinario and Max are taking a lunch break.
We have started lambing the purebred ewes at Powder Flat. They are the moms of our future bucks and many replacement ewe lambs, and we lamb them earlier so these lambs will be older when it’s time for them to become working sheep. Our hard-working crew of Peruvian employees are supported by frequent visits from Meghan and her crew.
Rambouillet ewe looks after her twins
Here’s looking at ewe.
Tiarnan with a Hampshire lamb
Hampshire ewes and lambs hanging out by the heifers
Purebred Rambouillet ewe with five–count ’em five!–lambs
We have an amazing birth announcement. The Finn folk may brag about their multiple births, but, for the first time ever (for us, at least), we have a Rambouillet ewe with quints. They are doing well (with some supplemental milk) AND she gave us a 64’s spinning count fleece!
This Hampshire ewe doesn’t want to be outdone, but I suspect only two–maybe three–of those lambs are hers.
Each year, our friends Rodney and Janet Fleming come for a visit from Iowa. It is a true busman’s holiday. The Flemings raise sheep in Iowa, and they come to see us so that they may visit sheep camps, participate in general ranch work and visit about dogs and sheep. They also pick out a couple of ram lambs to take home to their ewes in Iowa. We raise both Hampshire and Rambouillet rams to breed to our own commercial ewes. This gives us the opportunity to select for the traits we want, and that the rams, who have never been pushed on grain, are hardy when it comes time to go to work under sometimes tough conditions in Red Desert winters.
Meghan and Rodney bringing up the Hamp buck lambs
Jean Carlos coming to help with his entourage of guard dog puppies
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.