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Pregnancy Testing with Doctorbennoland

bringing in the heifers

 

Are they or aren’t they. The heifers are headed in to be pregnancy tested. We are lucky to have to two veterinarians in our community–Drs. Ben and Hallie Noland. Four-year-old Rhen calls Ben “Doctorbennoland” and the good doctor came to check out the heifers. McCoy, six, was mad because Rhen got to help while McCoy had to go to first grade and miss out out on the excitement.

Ben checking out a heifer

Rhen supervising

Megan and Eamon working the chute

Brittany and Kimmy

Meghan on the job too

That’s a good look for you, Doctorbennoland!

 

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2017 in Events

 

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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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Aquarians and heifers

January cake for Sharon, our neighbor Nikki, and Brian

January cake for Sharon, our neighbor Nikki, and Brian

 

The past few days have seen several birthdays, so we had a communal birthday party. Here is the cake that Megan made for the occasion. Nikki decided to stay home with her new baby, but her husband John came and we celebrated a combined 142 years of living. We had some discussion of the arrangement of candles.

Today, Tiarnan and I took a walk through the snow. He’s another Aquarian with a Valentine birthday.

It was a good day.

Tiarnan on a snowy day

Tiarnan on a snowy day

Squaw Mountain with plowed snow

Squaw Mountain with plowed snow

Tiarnan and the heifers

Tiarnan and the heifers

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2017 in Animals, Cattle, Events, Family, Folks

 

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This fall when the work’s all done…

Cows and calves in the Lower Meadow

Cows and calves in the Lower Meadow

It’s that time of year when we bring in the livestock–the cows and calves, the ewes and lambs–the time when we finish our summer’s work and prepare for the winter season. We sell most of the calves, and send many  of the cows to less snowy pastures for the winter. Some of the cows will go to our friends’ ranch near Laramie (where the snow is horizontal rather than vertical), Some will go to Nebraska. This means we bring them all in to the Home Ranch, work them, and load some of them on trucks.

First, we need horses

First, we need horses

Ready to bring them in

Ready to bring them in

And we need a crew--Eamon

And we need a crew–Eamon

Meghan and Peruanito

Meghan and Peruanito

Siobhan and Taylor

Siobhan and Taylor

McCoy checking things out

McCoy checking things out

Rhen on the job

Rhen on the job

Megan and Jeff

Megan and Jeff

 

Our neighbor John may be a belts and suspenders kind-of-guy

Our neighbor John may be a belts and suspenders kind-of-guy

calf on the lookout

calf on the lookout

ready to load

ready to load

Rhen supervising the truck

Rhen supervising the truck

Eamon watching the calves

Eamon watching the calves

 

 

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No Bull

Working the cows by the Elephant Corrals

Working the cows by the Elephant Corrals

It’s that time of year. In order for our calves to be born in a timely manner next spring, the cows must become pregnant now, or soon. Most of them will manage this in the traditional way, which involves a close, if brief, relationship with a bull–preferably one of our choosing. Some of the cows will have a close encounter with a straw of bull semen. What this encounter lacks in romance it makes up for in the quality of the afore-mentioned semen. Artificial insemination allows us to breed the cows to bulls which have been carefully selected for characteristics we like, while not having to buy and support very high-priced bulls. If, for some reason, the cows do not respond to the attention of Adam, Megan and Hallie–well–there’s always the actual bulls who are willing to work to ensure a spring calf crop!

Getting the cows ready for Artificial Insemination

Getting the cows ready for artificial insemination

Megan and Nikki bringing up the cows.

Megan and Nikki bringing up the cows.

Sam, our Wyoming Stock Growers Association intern, on the job

Sam, our Wyoming Stock Growers Association intern, on the job

Nikki with the flag

Nikki with the flag

Maeve--cowgirl in pink

Maeve–cowgirl in pink

Three Amigos--Chad, Eamon and Pat

Three Amigos–Chad, Eamon and Pat

Eamon pondering: Bull or No Bull.

Eamon pondering: Bull or No Bull.

 

 

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Branding Time

calves in waiting

calves in waiting

Branding season commences. We have most of our baby calves on the ground. We have to pick the right days for branding–after the calves are big enough to not be too stressed, but not so big that they will cause the branding crew too much stress. These calves have reached that “Goldilocks Moment”. In the last few days, we have branded one set of calves on the Home Ranch, and one set of calves in the desert at the Powder Flat Headquarters. We even had a photographer from the Library of Congress, Carol Highsmith, to document the great American branding. As usual, we had child labor on hand.

Nikki roping calves

Nikki roping calves

Mike Buchanan, McCoy and Rhen ready to go to work

Mike Buchanan, McCoy and Rhen ready to go to work

Cow and calf--at the ready

Cow and calf–at the ready

Rhen and Maura, on the job

Rhen and Mara, on the job

Meanwhile, back at the Powder Flat Ranch...

Meanwhile, back at the Powder Flat Ranch…

Nikki holding the calg

Nikki holding the calf

Mike, Megan and Jill wrestling a calf

Nikki, Megan, Mike Pierce and Jill wrestling a calf

Eamon with the irons

Eamon with the irons

Mike B. and Mike P. branding a calf with help from Kate

Mike B. and Mike P. branding a calf with help from Kate

Caro taking pictures of Mike B.

Carol taking pictures of Mike B.

 

Carol with cows

Carol with the cows

 

 

 
 

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Branding days

Three amigos ready for branding

Three amigos ready for branding

It’s the time of year to brand the calves. We have a mixed crew–all ages, but generally experienced. Here are photos from three brandings–hence the varied backdrops.  When we branded the desert calves at the McCullem Place, our long-time (not “old”!) friend Mike Buchanan helped us. Mike worked for my Dad back in the day, and spent a number of years managing the wild horse training program at the Wyoming Honor Farm. He’s back to cowboying now, in his spare time. When I introduced him to our young ranchhand, Cody said, “Mike Buchanan!  Everyone’s heard of him!”.

Most of the calves are branded, but we have lots of spring work ahead of us. We have had great rains, after an open winter. We were worried about the drought, but for now, we have blessed green grass growing.

Cody and Mike, ready to rope calves

Cody and Mike, ready to rope calves

Cody, Eamon and Mike

Cody, Eamon and Mike

Pat, tending the irons

Pat, tending the irons

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Randel and Brittant rassling

Randel and Brittany rassling

Meghan and Tiarnan

Meghan and Tiarnan

Seamus and Tiarnan, ready to help

Seamus and Tiarnan, ready to help (with McCoy a’horseback)

Siobhan briging in a calf

Siobhan bringing in a calf

Cody and Jayce at the McCullem Place

Cody and Jayce at the McCullem Place

bringing in the cows and calves

bringing in the cows and calves

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2015 in Animals, Cattle, Events, Horses

 

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