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Pregnant!

Dr. Warner McFarland making a life-altering determination

It’s the time of year when we pregnancy check the cows. Dr. McFarland uses a combination of ultra-modern ultrasound googles and old-fashioned palpation to determine if the cow is pregnant (the best option), open (the worst option) or late. He calls out his judgement, one after another, as the cows step into the chute for their pregnancy test. The pregnant cows will spend the winter in Laramie, eating hay and gestating. The open cows will be sold–either to become hamburgers or to be given another chance to breed. The lates are sold to someone who likes the cows, and likes to calve later. Our calendar for calving is fixed by the seasons and by our grazing permit on and off dates. We can’t calve too early, or we will surely meet with cold and snow (still a possibility). We can’t calve too late, or the cows will already be on the National Forest permit. If the calf survives predators, it will still be young and small when we ship in the fall. The calves were sorted and shipped a few days ago, so now it is time to start the cycle anew.

Brittany, bringing up the cows on Fancy, an adopted wild horse.

Eamon

Pat and Warner, talking cattle

the dogs think they could be helpful…if only

Brittany

Pat and Jeff in a stare down with a cow

and pregnant!

 

 

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New ewes at Powder Flat

Julie Hansmire talking sheep

We recently bought a nice set of Merino yearling ewes from Colorado producer Julie Hansmire. We loaded the ewes near Edwards and trucked them to our headquarters at Powder Flat.

off the truck

That haystack looks pretty tasty!

Settling into their new home

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2017 in Animals, Sheep

 

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New Flume on the Salisbury Ditch

Meghan, Pat and Cora checking out the new flume

Tiarnan and Battle Creek

Rock structure with headgate

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2017 in Dogs, Family, Farming

 

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Pat and Siobhan looking for cows

Pat and Siobhan near Sheep Mountain

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2017 in Animals, Cattle, Family, Folks, Horses

 

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Branding calves in the mountains and on the desert

 

It’s time to brand those calves which have been born this spring. We’ve been branding calves both in the mountains and the desert. We have our good crew of employees, friends and family on hand to help us with this endeavor.

Ready to gather: Cookie, Mike, Eamon and Karen

Siobhan and Dice

Taylor bringing in the cows

Mike and Tiarnan conferring

McCoy on the job

 

Pat and Cookie have a lot of irons in the fire!

Calves in waiting

Looking for the branding crew

Rhen and McCoy at work

David and Joe

 

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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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Bulls! Heifers!

McCoy waiting to fly

McCoy waiting to fly

Eamon is working on his pilot’s license, so he decided to combine business with education. Eamon, Pat, McCoy and Eamon’s flight instructor, Ryan, flew to Texas to shop for bulls and to Nebraska to check on our heifers that are wintering there.

Our new bull--unfortunately, they couldn't hook a stock trailer onto the airplane.

Our new bull–unfortunately, they couldn’t hook a stock trailer onto the airplane.

McCoy checking out the bulls

McCoy checking out the bulls

Heifers on cornstalks

Heifers on cornstalks

Heifers on feed in Nebraska

Heifers on feed in Nebraska

McCoy, Eamon and Pat with the heifers

McCoy, Eamon and Pat with the heifers

Home Ranch from the air

Home Ranch from the air

 

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Animals, Cattle, Family, Folks

 

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