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Riding Rough Stock

Rhen practicing for mutton busting

Tiarnan, winning her over with a hug

 

Riding Rough Stock

The rough stock waits in the chute.
Riders tug, straighten their chaps,
screw down their hats, squint and gauge
the critters they aim to ride.

“Now, folks” chants the announcer,
“The third go-round, Mutton Busting.
The riders are six and under,
weighing less that fifty pounds.”

 

Tears flow as a young rider
hugs tight to his father’s leg,
snuffles into the dusty denim.
“Cowboy up!” A brave nod.

A brother and sister–busters both–
adjust the numbers pinned to
their shirts, tug at the safety vests,
exchange cowboy hats for helmets.

This is serious business.
The rider drops onto the back
of the ewe with the wary look.
This isn’t her first rodeo.

Some grab the bucking strap
snugged behind her front legs—
a handhold on the shorn sheep.
Some wrap their arms around her neck.

“Let me tell you about this critter,”
Blares from speakers overhead,
“She’s known as Baaaaad Bessie—
and she’s never been ridden!”

The rider swallows, and nods,
and the chute gate flies open!
The ewe bolts like lightening
spies the white line dusted in the dirt,

And jumps! The youngster tilts
and turns, seeking mom, or dad,
and grips harder on every wooly bit.
The ground looks hard.

Then boom, the dirt rises up,
grit fills teeth, nose and eyes,
suddenly flooded with tears.
The crowd cheers, and claps.

Angelic, the Rodeo Queen appears,
smelling sweet—with hugs and smiles,
and a salute to bravery,
with a dollar bill, a shiny ribbon.

The mutton buster remembers
how the bronc riders do it,
brushes off the dirt and the tears,
and waves to the crowd.

 

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2018 in Animals, Family, Folks, Poetry, Sheep

 

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Shearing 2018

Wooly ewe with bell
Photo by Elizabeth Campbell

2018 shearing is complete. The crew showed up in a timely manner, the ewes moved through in an orderly manner, and we thanked our lucky stars because many years bring problems, from weather to a late crew to the late arrival of our sheepherders from Peru.

First the ewes trailed from their winter pasture on the Red Desert to Badwater, which is spring and fall country. The shearing crew showed up and set up their shed and baler. We brought the bunches through, staging them for the trail south to the lambing grounds. We got two days of rain, which was welcome, but finished in time to trail several days ahead of lambing.

We then moved on to Powder Flat, where the ewes who had lambed in March were still in the wool, and the bucks, still in their red “working clothes”, awaited. We had a glitch when my dog, Cora, hit the automatic locks on the pickup as I was hauling the shearing shed to Powder Flat. Unfortunately, the pickup was at the main gate (fondly know as The Portal), and my phone was inside. After several hours, which included a long walk, much unhitching and hitching and dragging heavy vehicles around with a tractor, we were able to haul the shed to the waiting shearers and get started. Pat brought the extra keys, liberating the truck and the dog.

After two half days, all were sheared and ready to head into the spring season and events.

Border collie with sheep
Photo by Elizabeth Campbell

Ewes, waiting to be sheared at Badwater

Sharon at Badwater

Wooly sheep in chute
Photo by Elizabeth Campbell

 

Newly sheared ewes

 

 

ewes at Badwater shearing

shearing, with shed and truck

David on the wool bales

Hampshire bucks waiting for the shearers

Rambouillet bucks

shorn ewes with lambs at Powder Flat

Rhen supervises the loading of the chute

Riley and Siobhan, back to back

Rhen at the Craig Wool Warehouse

 

 

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From the Red Desert to Badwater

The sheep are making our annual trek from wintering ground on the Red Desert to the Badwater Pasture, where we will shear the sheep before heading on to the Cottonwood lambing grounds.

Seamus and Cora getting ready to cross under I80

heading for the gate

under I80

Fireworks, anyone?

map of the checkerboard

heading for the Union Pacific railroad overpass

the dogs trail too!

some can ride

!

 

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Pregnancy checking on Cyclone Rim

Ladies in waiting for Geri.

We raise our own replacement ewes from the best of our Rambouillet commercial ewes. We select about 1500 of these ewes, checking them for fine consistent wool, good body type, twinning, open faces, and other traits. The rest of the ewes, who are good but not as good, are bred to Hampshire (blackface) rams. We breed the replacement moms to the Rambouillet rams that we also raise.
When these lambs are born in May, they are more vulnerable to harsh weather conditions than the cross-bred lambs, who have hybrid vigor. The twin and triplet lambs are more at risk since their Mom has multiple lambs to care for. We have lambing sheds where we can give the ewes and their multiple lambs extra care and shelter. It is key to know which ewes are carrying the valuable and vulnerable twins and triplets.
Luckily for us, we can call on Optimal Veterinary Services to test our ewes mid-pregnancy. We set up our corrals, and Geri Parsons’ testing tent, on top of Cyclone Rim—a high range on the Red Desert. That’s where Avencio and his sheep are. The winter has been dry, so we have moved up chasing snowdrifts for water for the sheep. Geri, and her partner, Dr. Cleon Kimberling, “have lab, will travel”. Doc didn’t come this time (too far to ride his bike!), but we gathered employees and family members to work as the ground crew. We were lucky to have good weather with almost no wind—not always the case on Cyclone Rim!
Geri set up her tent next to the chute. As each ewe stopped, she checked them with an ultrasound machine, then called “single”, “twin”, “triplet”, and occasionally “open”! We then marked each ewe. The ewes pregnant with multiples will be sorted into a separate bunch when we shear in a few weeks. Then they will head to the lambing sheds for TLC.

Cora and Sadie on the job

view from the back

guard dog on the job

Friends

Siobhan and Tiarnan sorting

Tiarnan in Geri’s chute

Siobhan at the chute

Tiarnan with the sorting flag

Pat and Tiarnan behind the sheep

Meghan and Oscar working the chute, Geri’s tent in place

Brian working the chute

A perfect day on Cyclone Rim

Maeve,Meghan and Tiarnan

Day’s end

 

 

 

 

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In Like a Lamb

Hampshire ewes with her twin lambs

 

For us, rain, sleet, snow or shine, March always comes in like a lamb. We raise our own rams, Hampshire and Rambouillet, and the ewes start lambing March 1st. After the winter wait, the long months of lambs growing in the womb, we get to see these babies. With them lies our future. Their future, likewise, depends upon us. It is a long time between lambs on the ground and rams, dusted with iron oxide, jumping out of the horsetrailer to join the ewes, starting the cycle anew.

In the shed

Ladies in waiting, protected by guardian dog puppies

ewes and puppies

Oscar helping a lamb find a mom with a skin graft

Edgar and Oscar conferring

plenty of feed on hand

Oscar with his lambing crew, Tiarnan and Seamus

Babies in a box,
waiting for milk replacer,
or a new mama

Luis feeding a baby lamb

 

 

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What goes in must come out

The bucks have finished their winter work.

 

It’s a buck’s life. These boys only work six weeks a year, but it’s an important six weeks. Without them, we would have no baby lambs in the spring. Of course, it falls to the ewes to be pregnant for five months, and then to spend another five months or so raising lambs.

As for the bucks, they are ready for some rest. In a few weeks, they start looking for something to do, which usually involves trying to escape wherever we want them to be. They were glad to see the ewes on Cyclone Rim in mid-December, but now it’s time for them to leave the ewes and return to their bachelor ways. They go home the same way they left–one horsetrailer at a time.

Guillermo, Tiarnan, McCoy, Rhen and Seamus bringing the bucks up

up the chute

Oscar and Guillermo loading the trailer

Oscar and Guillermo and the loaded trailer

last buck jumping out

Home at last! Here are the bucks with fresh hay in the Mouse Pasture.

 

 
 

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Through a lens, iPhonely

Winter sheep with southerly sun

Pat’s birthday present was a new set of lenses for his iPhone. Here’s some photos he took at Powder Wash trying out the new lenses. Watch this space for future pics.

If the blackface and some of the whiteface ewes look roundish in these photos, that’s because they will start lambing in a month or so. You can also see how little snow there is. The winter continues to be warm and dry, and we continuously check the weather report for promises of snow. My Dad always said that a wet spring beats a hard winter, so we can hope!

 

Powder Mountain

ewes on the feed line

Powder Rim

Which one of these is not like the others? (Hint–look at the color of the ears.)

Cattle and sheep co-existing symbiotically

H

 

 

 

 
 

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