The sheep, herders, dogs, and horses are all safe and sound on our hay meadows near Dixon. All the grass is still buried under snow, but we can get to them with feed every day, and bring alfalfa and cake to them (except when the highways are closed, which is pretty often). It took several more days to ferry all the sheepwagons, panels and other equipment off the Red Desert and to the Dixon ranch headquarters. It continues to be especially brutal in the area we evacuated the sheep from, on the Chain Lakes allotment. Hay prices are high due to demand from impacted livestock producers and state game agencies. These historic winter conditions stretch through northern Nevada, Utah, northwestern Colorado and southern Wyoming. Wyoming’s Governor Gordon has declared an emergency. Spring still looks like a long ways away!
Tag Archives: Muddy Mountain
Third grade teacher Cindy Cobb is famous for her field trips. The most famous field trip is to see the mating dance of the Greater Sage Grouse, which is amazing. The kids have to show up to the school at 5 a.m. or so to board the bus for the dancing grounds on our lambing grounds. Last year when my grandsons McCoy and Tiarnan were in third grade, they missed the cool field trips because the coronavirus had closed the school, This year, the fourth graders joined the third graders on the trek to see the lek where the male grouse dance and hoot in their attempt to attract the hens. Wyoming Game and Fish Department Biologist Phil Damm accompanied the students on the bus and explained what they were seeing. These kids know the ways of the birds and the bees!
We sorted two bunches of sheep, starting at sunrise. It was a cold morning, but beautiful.
One of the largest Greater Sage Grouse leks in southern Wyoming lies right on our lambing grounds below Muddy Mountain. We don’t start lambing until after the lekking season is past, but sometimes we go up just to watch the birds courting. It reminds me of a singles bar scene, where a bunch of guys show up and try to pick up a lady. The guys are the ones with the big white puffy chests, and the hens are the smaller brown ones. A lot of hooting and chasing around goes on, and I’m not too clear one why one guy becomes the chosen one. And these guys don’t seem to stick around for rearing chicks!
This particular area is slated for oil and gas development, and it has also been proposed for addition into Wyoming’s Sage Grouse core area, which would give some extra protections to the birds. It is also the nexus of a proposed mitigation area for the Grouse, which are awaiting a status determination from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Sure enough–as soon as we finished shearing and started lambing, a cold, windy, snowy storm moved in. While we are happy to see the much-needed moisture, we have scrambled to try to save lambs. We estimate we lost about 150 lambs due to the severe weather. Our lambing grounds on Loco got a foot of fresh snow and we couldn’t get in there for several days. The herders were well-provisioned but couldn’t do much except get the ewes into sheltered areas.
This is the first year we have lambed ewes through our new shed on the private land on Cottonwood. We had preg tested the mothers of the replacement ewe lambs in March, and we sorted the mothers of twins into a bunch to be shed lambed. Our crew piled the straw bales to create wind breaks at each end of the shed, and were able to save most of the new lambs in the shed. We lamb later than most of our neighbors, and it is always a gamble.
Pat took our Partners friends to watch Greater Sage Grouse dance on our BLM lambing grounds near Muddy Mountain. According to the Wyoming Game & Fish, it is the largest lek within 3,000 square miles. We told our visitors, “You’re from the Government, and we’re here to help you.”