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Hard winter, loading at Chain Lakes

herd of sheep on Chain Lakes allotment

We are experiencing the worst winter in decades. We trailed the ewes to their usual wintering grounds on the Red Desert, north of Wamsutter, Wyoming. We got there in early December, right on schedule.  Most winters, snow falls, then blows into drifts, leaving bare ground where the ewes can graze on dried grasses left from the summer. My Dad used to say that when that country is good, it’s great, and when it’s bad, it’s awful. Well, this year it is awful. It started snowing in mid-December. We were two days late putting the bucks into the ewes because the part of Interstate 80 we need to traverse, between Creston Junction and Wamsutter was closed. We normally just feed some extra corn or cake while the bucks are in, but we have had to purchase and bring in extra feed as the landscape has gotten buried in snow. All our neighbors in the region have been trucking their sheep out of their desert winter pastures to their home ranches. Sometimes in bad winters, it is possible to find a place to take the sheep where they can graze. This year, the bad conditions reach from Nevada to Nebraska. In mid-January, we brought four truckloads of sheep closer to home on the Dixon ranch, where we are already feeding some cattle. These were the thinner ewes. Since then, we have been trying to evacuate the rest of the sheep, but have been unable to line up trucks since they are busy hauling so many sheep. We are grateful to Sweetwater County Road and Bridge, and our neighbors who are plowing in the oilfield.

We were supposed to load the rest of the sheep all last weekend, but a major storm came in and closed all the roads, locally, on the Red Desert, and especially on I80, which has been littered with accidents every time they try to open it. Our sheep truckers are just waiting for the conditions to allow it. As soon as everything is plowed, we will load the rest of the sheep and come to safer grounds. We’ll still have to feed alfalfa and cake, but both the sheep and our herders will be close to home. Here’s some photos of the loading of the sheep in mid-January.

Here’s the semis coming in very early in the morning.

Ewes trailing in to the corrals

Meghan and Leo waiting at the corrals

ewes following truck

Sheep coming in, trucks waiting

getting the corrals ready

ewes on drifts

guard dog with the sheep

Three guard dogs, sheep, drifts

truckers

loading

sheep in corrals, drift behind

setting up the chute

oilfield tanker passing

Modesto, who went with with the sheep to Dixon

Meghan and Modesto

The team of Belgium horses that we’re feeding with at Chain Lakes

Eamon and Chandler

unloading at the Dixon ranch

Marty’s “Sheepman” truck

Fed Ex truck near Dixon

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2023 in Events

 

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January Day at Powder Flat

Powder Flat house in the winter

 

After a series of winter storms brought on by the “atmospheric rivers” hitting California, then flowing on towards us, we have more than enough snow. The Snotel near our mountain headquarters is measuring 160 per cent of average.

Our crew at the Powder Flat headquarters, Edgar and Alejandro, have been doing a great job of keeping all the animals safe and fed.

 

sheep in the corral

solar panels

2022 lambs on feed

winter lambs

Pat with lambs

winter gold

livestock guardian dog on the job

Do Not Enter

 

 

 

“Do Not Enter” the road to Powder Flat from the folks building the power line

 

Maria the llama with her sheepy friends

antelope gathering in a herd–a sign of a hard winter

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2023 in Animals, Dogs, Family, Folks, Llamas, Sheep

 

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Working the yearlings in winter

Meghan at the Terrill corrals

 

Today was the best day we’ve had in a while to vaccinate the ewe lambs. They are on their wintering grounds near Powder Wash. Last week was bitter cold as a “bomb cyclone” with the unlikely name of Winter Storm Elliot swept down from the Arctic. It caught us on the southern end, and we only had two or three days of wind and terrible cold. It was far worse to the east of us as the storm swept across the Midwest and the Northeast. Today, it warmed up to about 30 degrees, with only some wind, so Meghan gathered up her crew of Eamon, Chandler, Filomeno, and McCoy, Maeve and Rhen to vaccinate Alejandro’s ewe lambs. The ewes on the Red Desert “blew out” as they walked before the wind. The herders waited out the storm in their camps, then found the ewes when the cold and wind died down. The Farmer’s Almanac says we are on the borderline between a harsh winter and a mild one.

coming down the chute

Alejandro with his ewe lambs

Meghan, Filo and Aleja

Meghan with vaccine gun at the ready

time to relax

 

 
 

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Fall Work

Cows in the JO

 

I once told a cook that we were only really busy in the summer. As the year wore on, he commented “I didn’t know summer lasted until November!”

So here we are in November, and it seems like  the fall work just keeps coming. Here’s some pics of cows, calves, ewes, lambs, dogs, horses and folks who help us out.

in the corral

Eamon and dogs at the ready

Casey and Bubba

Eamon, Bubba and Casey having a meeting

ewes and lambs in the Dixon corral

lambs onto the truck, Nevada bound

sea of sheep

Meghan and the loaded truck

beaver dam across Battle Creek

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2022 in Animals, Cattle, Dogs, Horses, Sheep

 

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Sheep camp

sheep camps

I mentioned to some acquaintances that I couldn’t attend a Zoom meeting because I was busy moving sheep camp, it became apparent that they had no idea what I was talking about. However, they applied a humorous interpretation, speculating about what sheep camp might entail. They envisioned sheep playing volleyball, rowing boats, perhaps attending a crafts class. . .. All this made me wish that I were a graphic artist and could sketch sheep involved in summer camp activities. Alas–that is not my skill.

What I am actually doing, along with Meghan, is moving the sheep camps (portable homes) as our herders trail the sheep from the Home Ranch environs to fall pastures north of Dixon, Wyoming. These pastures also happen to be our lambing grounds in May and June. When the ewes left here in late June, their lambs were toddlers. They faced down bears and coyotes as they grazed on the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forests in the summer months. The predators exacted their toll, but the sheep were defended by the herders and the Livestock Guardian Dogs (aka Big White Dogs). Now the sheep return with their almost grown lambs. They will graze on fall pastures on Cottonwood Creek until it is time to trail north to winter country on the Red Desert.

Leo on the trail with the sheep

herder, sheep and Baker’s Peak

Loco Creek

guard dog on the job

along the Savery Stock Driveway

coming down the hill

sheep running under trailer parked on the Driveway

heading for fall pasture

 

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2022 in Animals, Dogs, Folks, Horses, Peruvian sheepherders, Sheep

 

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Yearling ewes, and Solano, from Badwater to the Forest

Alejandro on the trail with the yearlings

After lambing, we trail the ewes and lambs to grazing allotments on the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forests, where they find green grass, fresh water, and bears and coyotes. The on-date is the first of July, and we stage the trailing, one day apart–one bunch after another. When the ewes, lambs and herders and settled on their summer grazing grounds,  it is time for the yearling ewes to start on the trail. They have been grazing in the high desert Badwater pasture since shearing in late April. They follow the traditional trails, including the Savery Stock Driveway, to their high mountain allotment in the Medicine Bow.

Solano with his backpack

The yearling herder Alejandro likes to keep an orphan lamb each year, and raise it as a pet. This summer he has two bum lambs, including one which was lost on the trail and picked up by our neighbor, Jock–an avid bicyclist. Alejandro still has his pet from two years ago, Solano. I was startled to see that Alejandro had “repurposed” a dog food bag into a backpack for Solano. I’m not quite sure what he was meant to carry. Solano is quite the sheep. Sometimes he follows Alejandro on his horse, and sometimes he hangs out with the dogs or the sheep. I like to say that Solano is “no ordinary sheep.”

Jock bringing me the lost lamb on his bicycle

Tiarnan with Alejandro’s pet lamb

lamb and Tiarnan

midday break at Loco Creek

Guard dog mom and pups catching a ride

yearlings on the march

 

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Lambs losing their tails, gaining vaccine

ewes and lambs on Cherry Grove

We’re almost done lambing and it’s time for docking      the lambs and getting everyone ready for trailing and summer’s grazing on the Routt and Medicine Bow National Forests. Sheep are naturally long-tailed, and if those tails are not cut short early in life, they can have problems later with manure and flies. The assembly line process also includes earmarking, castrating the males, vaccinating for diseases and a stamp with a paint brand. The ewes also receive a fresh brand and everyone is counted. We usually run two docking lines with all hands on deck, and bring up a hot lunch and plenty of cold drinks.

ewes and lambs ready to go

docking crew working two lines

Seamus vaccinating

hats and lunch

after docking

 

 

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Shearing at Badwater

wooly ewes waiting for the shearers

It’s that time of year again. The shearers have shown up and shearing is underway. Each year it takes a lot of moving parts for fleeces to roll off the sheep and into the big bales. Our shearing crew are contractors who come out of California. We are their last client of the season. This is good because they are not under pressure to move on to the next producer, but nerve-wracking because we want to have the ewes shorn in time to trail to the lambing grounds north of Dixon. Lambing starts around May 10th.

We were fortunate with the weather this year. We had a snowstorm right before we were ready to start. The weather cleared and was warmish and nice for most of the week, allowing us to get through the “main line,” as the wool buyers call the running age ewes. The yearlings were next, followed by a brief, but not killer storm–always a worry for freshly shorn sheep.

Our crew packed up their portable shed–the shearing equivalant of a food truck–and moved to Powder Flat. The early lambers and the rams were there, and soon they too had given up their winter coats. Beulan and Maria the llamas were also shorn, much to their spitting disgust, but they are ready for summer.

wooly ewes with wagons

waiting in the corral

shorn ewes, ready to lamb

Frank and Gramps, son and father, on the job

Modesto and Eamon counting sheep

shorn ewes with birds

Edgar with unshorn llamas at Powder Flat

 

shearer at work

Meghan and Maria

Megan with Beulah

Beulah, freshly shorn

the wool packer baling the fleeces

bales of wool

fleeces in line

 

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Leaving the Red Desert, on to shearing

sheep trailing under Interstate 80

It’s time for us to leave the Red Desert, as we do every year in mid-April. One bunch a day crosses a day apart for three days. This year road construction started on the third day, which meant to sheep had to be escorted by the pilot car. Since the railroad overpass can be dangerous and difficult, we were glad for the assistance. The ewes only have to travel about a mile and a half on WY Hwy 789 before they enter Rodewald’s pasture. Our neighbors, the Rodewalds, let us cross their private land to get to the Badwater Pasture, Shearing starts soon! (Photo credits to Meghan Lally and Linda Fleming

 

off the highway and on to the right-of-way

 

trailing south

Pilot car escorting the sheep

crossing over the railroad bridge

through Rodewald’s gate

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2022 in Animals, Sheep

 

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January ewes on the Red Desert

ewes grazing on Cyclone Rim allotment

 

Today was a Goldilocks Day–not too hot, not too cold, and not windy at all. I took our banker, Kim Brown, from the Yampa Valley Bank in Craig, Colorado out to the Red Desert to take a look a the sheep. Conditions were perfect, with enough snow for the ewes to water on, but not so deep that they couldn’t access the dried grasses which we count on for winter feed. Everyone looked happy–the ewes, the bucks, the dogs, and Pepe, Leo and Guillermo.

Pepe unloading dog food–we buy a pallet a week

guard dog checking us out

a curious Hampshire ram lamb, also checking us out

the last of the corn

sheep on the skyline at Chain Lakes

guard dogs on the job

Guillermo, Kim and Pepe in Cyclone Rim

 

 
 

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