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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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Snow Day

Maeve, Rhen and Tiarnan building the first snowman of the season

 

 

Rhen and Maeve making snow angels

Tiarnan’s snow angel

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2017 in Events, Family, Folks, Nature and Wildlife

 

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Flyfisherkids on Battle Creek

Maeve with her first fish.

 

Our friend, Flyfish Randy, was a recent guest. He arrived with the mission of teaching the kids to fish, preferably one at a time. Here’s photographic evidence of his success!

McCoy showing off his Rainbow trout.

Tiarnan’s fish was “this long”!

 

Rhen with the very fattest fish.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2017 in Folks, Friends, Nature and Wildlife

 

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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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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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Fall Gather

cows-coming-out-of-forest

Leaving the Routt National Forest

 

 

 

It’s that time of year again. It seems like we were just trailing the cows and calves onto the Forest for summer grazing. Our “off-date” has rolled around already. We mustered 19 horses and riders, including the six grandkids, to gather the cattle and bring them down to a lower pasture on private land. The calves are looking nice and chubby, and the cows are looking forward to weaning.

Pat with kid crew

Pat with kid crew

Siobhan on Coco with Cinnamon

Siobhan on Coco with Cinnamon

Cinnamon taking a break

Cinnamon taking a break

Maeve--the stylish cowgirl

Maeve–the stylish cowgirl

Seamus and Dot

Seamus and Dot

Tiarnan and Daisy

Tiarnan and Daisy

Rhen and McCoy on the job

Rhen and McCoy on the job

McCoy, Rhen and Eamon

McCoy, Rhen and Eamon

Peanut contemplating the speed limit

Peanut contemplating the speed limit

Jim, looking for cows

Jim, looking for cows

Eamon has dogs at the ready!

Eamon has dogs at the ready!

 

 

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