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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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Lambs on the ground

Mama ewe on the alert

 

 

It must be spring! We’ve got lots of baby lambs on the ground. We lamb the purebred Hampshires and Rambouillets in March at Powder Flat. These babies grow up to be rams and replacement ewes, and a few will even become 4-H lambs.

Thanks to our great crew–Edgar, Luis, Uribe and David for all your hard work and long nights. Now we pray for warm rains and green grass.

Home on the hay pile

morning in the corral

Rhen with a crossbred lamb

Rhen watching Luis on the run

NOT wanting to lie down with the lion

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in Animals, Sheep

 

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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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Scenes from Almost Solstice

Rainbow over Powder Rim

Rainbow over Powder Rim

Feral horses on Racetrack

Feral horses on Racetrack

Yemerson with his sheep near Upper Powder Spring

Yemerson with his sheep near Upper Powder Spring

Guardian dogs chowing down on whole kernel corn

Guardian dogs chowing down on whole kernel corn

Filo with guard dogs

Filo with guard dogs

Yearling ewes and old ewes

Yearling ewes and old ewes

Unloading the bucks

Unloading the bucks

Bucks spot the girls

Bucks spot the girls

Horse on the Red Desert

Horse on the Red Desert

 siobhan and Meghan with Siobhan and Meghan with Rhen photo-bombing

Lambs on Harper feedlot

Lambs on Harper feedlot

Almost Solstice sunset

Almost Solstice sunset

Sunset over Sandman Mountain

Sunset over Sandman Mountain

 

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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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Bringing in the cows

Taylor and Casey bringing in the cows and calves

Taylor and Casey bringing in the cows and calves

 

Fall, and the work is getting done. We’re sorting the cows and calves, and getting ready to ship the steers next week. Rhen couldn’t believe that they could do it without him, so he waited for the cattle to come in, then rode with Aunt Meghan.

Rhen kept an eagle eye, just in case his Dad was behind those cows!

Rhen kept an eagle eye, just in case his Dad was behind those cows!

Meghan on Peruanito

Meghan on Peruanito

they're in!

they’re in!

Rhen's Dad--home at last

Rhen’s Dad–home at last

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2016 in Events

 

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