I stand with the bees!
Dandelions’ sweet bounty,
Spring’s ready nectar
October 1st is the off-date for our summer grazing permits on the national forests. We spend a lot of time staging the trailing off of both cows and sheep. We consolidate sheep bunches, move them onto private pastures, and bring every ewe and lamb through our corrals and sheep chutes at the Home Ranch. We sort the lambs off the ewes. Some lambs will go to a feedlot to gain more pounds, and some will stay home and become replacement ewe lambs.
The ewes are sorted several way. Ewes with good health and good udders stay with our bunches. The “good old ewes” who are short on teeth but otherwise sound will go to buyers, usually in the Midwest, who can care for them for several more years, in conditions more forgiving than Wyoming’s Red Desert. The “killer ewes” or culls will go to slaughter.
All this involves a lot of moving parts, but when we’re done, we’re ready to move onto other late fall pastures before the long trail to the wintering grounds.
Every year, we end up with a number of bum (orphan) lambs. They are motherless due to a variety of circumstances. Some ewes have more lambs than milk. Sometimes a ewe dies, leaving an actual orphan. Some lambs are weak, or injured, or just lost.
We sometimes are asked why these motherless lambs are called “bums”. It’s because they are “bumming” milk from their compatriots, or at least the most successful ones do.
This year, we have ended up with more bums than usual, partly due to our decision to lamb all the almost two-year-old ewes in the sheds. They did produce more lambs than milk. These are lambs that might have died on the range, so we are glad to have them back at the Home Ranch. This year, we decided to go all in, and raise them in an “organized” manner.
Raising bum lambs involves a lot of extra time, labor and money, as we purchase lamb milk replacer, which costs somewhat more than illegal drugs. This year, our efforts to supplement the lambs has been aided by Lady, the livestock guardian dog mom. We put her and her seven puppies with the multitudes, figuring it would be a good bonding experience for lambs and puppies alike.
Little did we expect that Lady would take her responsibilities so seriously.
It is only early February, but we do have lots of young animals around. We have had more than one litter of Livestock Guardian Dog puppies (hence the difference in sizes), a litter of Border collies, last summer’s colt crop, and–oh yes–one lamb. The little ones are fun, but soon we will have scores of lambs and calves on the ground, so this is the calm before the storm. Barring bad weather, which we have definitely not had, I consider the time between when the bucks go into the ewes in mid-December, and when the purebred lambs and the heifers’ calves start arriving in early March to be the lull. How can it be going by so fast? And why do I still feel so busy?
Pat and I celebrated New Year’s Day by visiting our employees, cows, horses, dogs and birds at Powder Flat (the sheep were a little father out). We could do this because we spent New Year’s Eve partying hardy with Pat’s Mom Marie, 98; Maeve, 8, McCoy, 4; and Rhen, 2. The cows are enjoying the bounty brought by last summer’s rain. They are still grazing, and looking fat and happy in spite of a couple of 30 below nights. We also admired two–count ’em two, litters of Livestock Guardian Dog puppies–seven each. That means puppies for sale! We also visited with last summer’s colts and a lot of birds who are enjoying the corn and hay.
Each year, our friends Rodney and Janet Fleming come for a visit from Iowa. It is a true busman’s holiday. The Flemings raise sheep in Iowa, and they come to see us so that they may visit sheep camps, participate in general ranch work and visit about dogs and sheep. They also pick out a couple of ram lambs to take home to their ewes in Iowa. We raise both Hampshire and Rambouillet rams to breed to our own commercial ewes. This gives us the opportunity to select for the traits we want, and that the rams, who have never been pushed on grain, are hardy when it comes time to go to work under sometimes tough conditions in Red Desert winters.