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Tag Archives: Richard

Docking and shearing multi-tasking

Docking and shearing on Cottonwood Creek

Docking and shearing on Cottonwood Creek

This spring, for the first time in our experience, we have lambed our ewes in the wool.

This situation occurred, in large part, because shearing contractors cannot get enough foreign shearers through the broken H2A visa system, and not enough American shearers are available, even though shearing sheep pays very well. In our particular situation, our usual shearing contractor was not honest with us as to when his crew could realistically arrive, which left us with no time to find another shearer—a nearly impossible situation anyway.

By mid-May, we realized that we could not get the ewes sheared before lambing. I tried explaining the difficult situation to the ewes, but they refused to wait another week before giving birth. As a mother, I can relate to this. And also it was raining every day.

We did manage to find an American crew out of California, but they were able to shear only a day and a half before the rains and the lambs really set in. This left us with 6000 or so sheep left to shear, including the yearlings. The California crew said they could come back in June, after things slowed down, sort of. This was good, because the shearing contractors who depend on foreign (mostly New Zealand) shearers lose their crews as the visas run out in late May. I will say that hardly any American crews exist, and the industry needs its foreign shearers to “get the clip out.”

We did get through the lambing, which was inevitable due to the certainty of birth. This left us with several thousand wooly ewes, with lambs at side. At this point, we not only needed to shear the ewes, but we had several thousand lambs to dock.

We decided that we could shear and dock at the same time—in fact, that we had to. Luckily, our California shearing crew was flexible, and was willing to move their portable shed every day to the site of each ewe and lamb bunch. We set up corrals so that the ewes could run straight ahead into the shearing shed, and the lambs could be drafted off to side pens and into a docking line.

Usually, to minimize stress on sheep and human crew alike, we bring the ewes with lambs in in bunches of 300 or so. With the shearing/docking situation, we had to do each entire band at a time—typically 850 or so ewes, and their lambs—usually about thousand. We had to do this because we couldn’t separate the ewes and young lambs for more than a few hours. As I told the wool buyer, “Take a good look, because you’ve never seen this before and I hope you never see it again!”

Pepe, Richard, Meghan, Oscar, Cassie, and Jean Carlos on the docking side of things

Pepe, Richard, Meghan, Oscar, Cassie, and Jean Carlos on the docking side of things

waiting for the blades

Waiting for the blades

Siobhan at the cutting gate at Badwater

Siobhan at the cutting gate at Badwater

All hands, AND the cook!

All hands, AND the cook!

docking,shearing crew eating lunch

We all line up for Cassie’s hot lunch!

wool packer moving the bales of wool

wool packer moving the bales of wool

Tiarnan branding for Pepe

Tiarnan branding for Pepe

Antonio truimphant

Antonio truimphant

the view at Cherry Grove

the view at Cherry Grove

Ten pounds lighter

Ten pounds lighter

shearing at last!

shearing at last!

 

 

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April is (again!) the cruelest month

April is (again!) the cruelest month

Our prayers were answered, and April has brought us showers, sort of.  A week and a half of blizzards, wind and freezing weather has brought us blessed moisture, but at a terrible cost.  We know–really we do–that a foot of wet snow will bring us green grass in a few weeks.  We had begun to despair of much-needed moisture, and were trying to figure out how to get through the summer with dry conditions and no feed left over from last year.

While these storms have brought us up to above 100 per cent on our snowpack, they came while many of our neighbors were calving on the open range.  We are calving some of our cows and heifers, and shed lambing our purebred sheep, Hampshire and Rambouillet, which we raise our own bucks from. The winds were so high, and variable that it crept in every crack in the lambing sheds.  The oldest shed has a lot of cracks, which we usually figure are good for air circulation (less respiratory ills).  This time, for the first time I can remember, lambs actually died from the weather, in the shed.

On the Red Desert we were getting ready to trail out, but the high winds caused the sheep to blow out, and mix with a neighboring herd.  It took a few days to gather them up and sort them out, but they were finally able to “hit the trail” for the lambing ground.

We also lost several calves to the severe weather, but again, we had shelter nearby and I know that our losses were not nearly as bad as some of our neighbors who range calve.  Several of them said that they won’t know their losses until they gather the cows for branding.

The storms have done us more good than harm, because no moisture means no summer feed.  Some nice warm rains would be nice.

dead lamb in the lambing shed

dead lamb in the lambing shed

Cows and sheep huddled against the fences

Cows and sheep huddled against the fences

Snow-covered dead lamd

Snow-covered dead lamb

Live (!) calf in the calving

Live (!) calf in the calving barn

loader with dead lambs (wrong date on Richar's camera!)

Loader with dead lambs (wrong date on Richar’s camera!)

Pregnant ewes in sheltering in front of the lambing shed

Pregnant ewes sheltering in front of the lambing shed

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2013 in Animals, Folks, Peruvian sheepherders, Sheep

 

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