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Tag Archives: livestock guardian dogs

January ewes on the Red Desert

ewes grazing on Cyclone Rim allotment

 

Today was a Goldilocks Day–not too hot, not too cold, and not windy at all. I took our banker, Kim Brown, from the Yampa Valley Bank in Craig, Colorado out to the Red Desert to take a look a the sheep. Conditions were perfect, with enough snow for the ewes to water on, but not so deep that they couldn’t access the dried grasses which we count on for winter feed. Everyone looked happy–the ewes, the bucks, the dogs, and Pepe, Leo and Guillermo.

Pepe unloading dog food–we buy a pallet a week

guard dog checking us out

a curious Hampshire ram lamb, also checking us out

the last of the corn

sheep on the skyline at Chain Lakes

guard dogs on the job

Guillermo, Kim and Pepe in Cyclone Rim

 

 
 

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the fall sort

crossing the Battle Creek bridge

Fall days are the time of year when the cattle and the sheep come down from their summer grazing on the the national forests. We bring them all to the Home Ranch, and sort them through the corrals. The ewes bring with them their whole entourage–herders, horses, Border collies, livestock guardian dogs. For a couple of weeks, we manage a rotating menagerie of sheep, dogs and–pigs? We keep a few feeder pigs over the summer to provide winter pork, but in the meantime the pigs consider themselves free-range critters who are likely to show up about anyplace. The guard dogs are suspicious of the pigs, but the pigs don’t care. I am reminded of “Babe” and wonder if we couldn’t train them to herd livestock. They are utterly indifferent to the dogs, who are puzzled by the pigs.

Meghan bringing up the ewes and lambs

multiple guard dogs relaxing as the sheep come in

Mike watching the gate

That’ll do, pig

Meghan bringing the sheep into the pens

another bunch across the bridge

boys, bales and Squaw Mountain

Pepe and Eamon working the chute

pigs on the job

fall sheep with Squaw Mountain

 

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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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After the sort, before the trail

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2020 in Animals, Dogs, Sheep

 

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Autumn in the Routt National Forest

Dog Days of September

 

October 1st is drawing near. In our world, that is the off-date for most of our National Forest permits. We are now staging both the cows and the sheep to trail down to the Home Ranch in a few days. Here’s Pepe and Modesto, our excellent long-time herders, with their ewes and lambs, ready to come off the Forest. We have had a record year for predator losses, in spite of their efforts and the efforts of our valiant Livestock Guardian Dogs. Since we know how many ewes and their lambs went up in July, and Pepe and Modesto (and the other herders) keep track of other deaths, we will soon have an idea of how terrible these losses have been.

Pat and Pepe in Big Red Park

Pat and Modesto near Independence Creek

Modesto’s ewes and lambs

 
 

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Life in the North

ewes in the Bighorn Basin

Faithful blog readers know that due to extreme winter conditions in the Red Desert, our usual wintering ground, we have trucked most of our ewes north to the sugar beet fields in Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin. The Bighorn Basin is several hundred miles to the north of us, almost to the Montana border, but is also several thousand feet lower, and less snowy. We have some ewes who experienced “early conception,” probably due to a rogue buck lamb who escaped docking. At Powder Flat, we are set up for shed lambing (usually in March) and have a great crew. Pat and I went up to visit the ewes and herders, and to collect the pregnant ewes and bring them home to lamb. The Bighorn Basin is also experiencing an unusually snowy winter, though for them it is several inches of snow, not several feet. We have a good crew there too–Pepe, Modesto, Alejandro and Joel. It’s a long ways from home, but has feed available for the ewes.

ewes near Burlington

Border collie on the job

Tres Amigos

pregnant ewes ready to load

Modesto and Pepe

Home at last

Dogs give a welcome home

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2020 in Animals, Dogs, Family, Folks, Peruvian sheepherders, Sheep

 

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The Night Before Christmas on the Wintering Ground

with apologies to Clement Clark Moore

 

When what to their wondering eyes should appear

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the ranch,
not a creature was stirring ‘neath sage nor on branch.
The feed pile was heaped, all ready for morn.
when sheep could devour their sweet breakfast corn.

 

The ewe lambs were nestled all snug in the brush
while ‘round them ewes lay still in the hush,
near bucks red with paint, their bright metal bells,
reflected the moonlight’s wintery spells.

Then out in the desert there arose such a clatter,
the guard dogs leaped up to see what was the matter.
Away to the bedground they flew in a flash
barking and growling, on alert for a clash.

The moon on the sage flat showed new-fallen snow,
giving lustre of midday to sheep bedded below,
when, what to their wondering eyes should appear,
but Santa’s own feed wagon, pulled by Mule deer.

The feed sled it brimmed with alfalfa and hay—
this wagon he pulled instead of a sleigh.
More rapid than pronghorns, his coursers they came.
He whistled and shouted and called them by name.

“On Bucky, on Bambi, on Fawna and Devin,
on Woody, on Forest, on Jumper and Kevin,
to the top of the rim, we’ll fly with good cheer,
With a nose glowing green, our leader, John Deere!”

As ice flakes that before the wild blizzard they fly,
through snowstorms and wind, they mount to the sky,
and up to the sheep wagon, on to the feed ground,
came Santa’s sled, where goodies abound.

With Santa attired in Scotch cap and wool,
in fleece-lined gloves—his white beard so full—
he wore arctic Sorels, a snug Carhartt coat
a red and green glad rag covered his throat!

His eyes how they twinkled, his nose how it froze!
He blessed his wool socks, which made comfy his toes!
Above that warm beard, his cheeks were all rosy.
He was glad for his woolens, which kept him all cozy.

The wagon’s pipe glowed, from the fire beneath,
while woodsmoke encircled the camp like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a round little tummy—
all those cookies and milk—those goodies were yummy.

He was chubby and plump, like a ewe eating corn.
He went right to work, for soon would come morn.
He winked and he whistled, the dogs soon drew near,
Border collies and guard dogs looked up at his deer.

For herders he brought new winter attire,
and coal for their stockings to add to the fire.
The dogs all got bones, still covered with meat,
new coats for the horses, from heads to their feet.

For the sheep, Christmas magic, with a nod of his head,
their fleece grew an inch to warm their chill bed.
He gave ewes a blessing:  they’d all carry twins,
for this winter season is when it begins.

He mounted the wagon, called, “Gee” to his team
and off they all soared like a sheepherder’s dream.
Then I heard him exclaim as he flew with his deer,
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good year!

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2019 in Animals, Dogs, Poetry, Sheep

 

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From the Red Desert to Badwater

The sheep are making our annual trek from wintering ground on the Red Desert to the Badwater Pasture, where we will shear the sheep before heading on to the Cottonwood lambing grounds.

Seamus and Cora getting ready to cross under I80

heading for the gate

under I80

Fireworks, anyone?

map of the checkerboard

heading for the Union Pacific railroad overpass

the dogs trail too!

some can ride

!

 

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Pregnancy checking on Cyclone Rim

Ladies in waiting for Geri.

We raise our own replacement ewes from the best of our Rambouillet commercial ewes. We select about 1500 of these ewes, checking them for fine consistent wool, good body type, twinning, open faces, and other traits. The rest of the ewes, who are good but not as good, are bred to Hampshire (blackface) rams. We breed the replacement moms to the Rambouillet rams that we also raise.
When these lambs are born in May, they are more vulnerable to harsh weather conditions than the cross-bred lambs, who have hybrid vigor. The twin and triplet lambs are more at risk since their Mom has multiple lambs to care for. We have lambing sheds where we can give the ewes and their multiple lambs extra care and shelter. It is key to know which ewes are carrying the valuable and vulnerable twins and triplets.
Luckily for us, we can call on Optimal Veterinary Services to test our ewes mid-pregnancy. We set up our corrals, and Geri Parsons’ testing tent, on top of Cyclone Rim—a high range on the Red Desert. That’s where Avencio and his sheep are. The winter has been dry, so we have moved up chasing snowdrifts for water for the sheep. Geri, and her partner, Dr. Cleon Kimberling, “have lab, will travel”. Doc didn’t come this time (too far to ride his bike!), but we gathered employees and family members to work as the ground crew. We were lucky to have good weather with almost no wind—not always the case on Cyclone Rim!
Geri set up her tent next to the chute. As each ewe stopped, she checked them with an ultrasound machine, then called “single”, “twin”, “triplet”, and occasionally “open”! We then marked each ewe. The ewes pregnant with multiples will be sorted into a separate bunch when we shear in a few weeks. Then they will head to the lambing sheds for TLC.

Cora and Sadie on the job

view from the back

guard dog on the job

Friends

Siobhan and Tiarnan sorting

Tiarnan in Geri’s chute

Siobhan at the chute

Tiarnan with the sorting flag

Pat and Tiarnan behind the sheep

Meghan and Oscar working the chute, Geri’s tent in place

Brian working the chute

A perfect day on Cyclone Rim

Maeve,Meghan and Tiarnan

Day’s end

 

 

 

 

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Romance on the ides of December

Avencio unloading the bucks

 

The ides of December means that it’s time to put the rams in with the ewes. Romance in December brings lambs in May. A sheep’s gestation is five months less five days. I wish we could predict now just when the shearers will arrive and what the weather will be like on the 10th of May.

on their way…

Bucks in their working clothes

romance is in the air

Guard dog checking out his new charges

 

 
 

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