Tag Archives: sheepherders

Shearing–at last!

Unshorn white ewes in the front, black ewes in the back

Each year, we plan, and we plan, and we plan. Other than the weather, the annual shearing of the sheep is the most critical step in the ovine year over which we have little control. For their health and well-being, and for our financial bottom line, each sheep must be shorn each spring. We shear later than most other producers in our region, due to our high altitude and the dates dictated by our federal leases. This means that all the days the shearing crew loses throughout the spring due to weather, mechanical problems and other delays, pile up at the end while we anxiously await their arrival. We plan our trailing schedule around the anticipated commencement of shearing. We leave our winter quarters on the Red Desert around April 15th and head for our Badwater pasture, some five trailing days to the south. We like to shear there before trailing on to the Cottonwood lambing grounds, where the lambs start dropping about May 8th. May 8th also happens to be our “on-date” for the BLM portion of the lambing grounds, and it is pretty close to the date that the green grass starts popping.

It is another five or six days trailing from our Badwater pasture to Cottonwood, so ideally, the shearing is done by May 1st. This year, we scheduled shearing to commence on May 25th. If all goes well, it takes about six days to shear all the pregnant ewes, so this is still cutting it pretty close. It is stressful for the ewes to be shorn so close to lambing, but it is better for ewes, lambs and lambers for the shearing to be done. We have the facilities to shear on our private land on Cottonwood, but it is always a balancing act to make sure there is enough green grass there to sustain the ewes  before, during and after the shearing takes place.

As it happened, the shearing crew was able to arrive on May 2nd, due to weather, wind and other circumstances. We made the executive decision to send on one band of ewes on to Cottonwood, while we sheared the other two winter bunches at Badwater. It is hard on the ewes, heavy with lambs, to trail with the additional 10 pounds of wool on their backs. It is worse to be lambing on the trail, while we follow behind with horse trailers, picking up ewes with newborns. So we tried to find a balance, with the ewes carrying the replacement ewe lambs going ahead to be sure to be on the lambing grounds.

The shearing crew, Hoopes Shearing, is an eclectic international group of professional shearers. The contractors, Cliff and Dawna Hoopes, spend much of the year lining up visas to ensure that they have a crew on hand. This year’s crew was a multinational group of Aussies, Kiwis, Americans and even one Japanese guy. As it happened, the wool packing machine broke down on day two. “Don’t worry,” I told them. “We are in the oil field, and we can find a mobile welder.” Sure enough, we were able to find a welder who could travel to our broken down packer and repair it.

We had some problems due to stress on the ewes from being sheared so close to lambing. We also had stress on Meghan and Sharon since the ranch cook quit right before shearing. We were feeding our ground crew and the shearing crew, and the crew back at the ranch, AND working on the ground crew. We did manage, and nobody went hungry.

Everyone did their jobs, and the sheep did get sheared, first at Badwater and then at Cottonwood. We still have to shear the yearlings, since the Hoopes crew had to move on to other pregnant ewes.

Ewes in waiting

Ewes in waiting

Waiting their turn

Waiting their turn

Wool packing crew at work

Wool packing crew at work

After the breakdown of the press, a lot of wool was waiting to be bales.

After the breakdown of the press, a lot of wool was ready to be baled.

Out of the shed

Out of the shed

Shorn ewes waiting to be sprayed for keds

Shorn ewes waiting to be sprayed for keds

Flags flying over the purple Hoopes shed, Judas sheep in front

Flags flying over the purple Hoopes shed, Judas sheep in front

Siobhan and Edison give water to a stressed ewe

Siobhan and Edison give water to a stressed ewe


Ty running the wool press

Ty running the wool press

Herder with horses

Herder with horses





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Fire on Battle Creek, Day Two

Pepe and Brian moving sheep, HInman Fire, 2002 photo by Keri Greet

Pepe and Brian moving sheep, HInman Fire, 2002
photo by Keri Greer

Our fire has a name now.  We have three bands of sheep, with herders, dogs, horses and camps, in fairly close proximity to the fire.  We’ve moved them, and warned the herders to be ready to move out quickly if necessary.  At this point, the fire seems to be burning along, without any sudden or life-threatening moves.  The Medicine Bow National Forest is chock-full of dead beetle-killed pines, which are bound to burn.  As long as the fire doesn’t get out of control, it is doing a lot of good.  Of course, as I discussed with my friend Alex, whose home is very close to the fire, “The sheep can move.  Your house can’t.”
Here’s a report from the Forest Service website

West Battle Creek Fire


Approximate Location

41.126 latitude, -107.12 longitude

Incident Overview

West Battle Creek Fire Area - July 23, 1 P.m.Image options: [ Enlarge ] [ Full Size ]

– Approximately 103 acres in the Sierra Madre Range, Medicine Bow National Forest

– The fire is 5% contained.

– A local Type III Incident Command Team took over command of the fire early Tuesday, IC is Jerrod Delay

– Located in the West Battle Creek drainage, near the confluence with Haggarty Creek. Two miles west of the Huston Park Wilderness boundary, one mile south of Wyo Hwy 70, Battle Highway.

– Initial attack mid-day Monday by U.S. Forest Service engine (Brush Creek/Hayden Ranger District) and Carbon Co. engines

– Tuesday afternoon weather will be hot and dry with gusty winds. Potential for fire growth is high. Minimal fire growth Monday night

– Resources working the fire include one USFS and one local engine, one Type II hand crew, one Type II bulldozer, one Wildland Fire Module, one SEAT and a Type III helicopter. Other resources that will be arriving on scene include five Type VI engines, two Type II hand crews and a Type I helicopter as needed.

– Fire is burning in heavy, beetle-killed lodgepole pine and mixed conifer. Steep, rugged terrain with difficult access

– Cause is currently unknown

– Isolated cabins in the area

Basic Information

Incident Type Wildfire
Cause Unknown
Date of Origin Monday July 22nd, 2013 approx. 12:00 PM
Location T 13, R 87W, Section 1
Incident Commander Jerrod Delay

Current Situation

Size 103 acres
Fuels Involved Heavy beetle-kill lodgepole pine, mixed conifer

Unit Information

USFS Shield

Medicine Bow National Forest & Thunder Basin National Grassland
U.S. Forest Service
2468 Jackson Street
Laramie, WY 82070

Incident Contact

Fire Information
Phone: 307-745-2378

Incident Cooperators

National Wildfire Coordinating Group U.S. Forest Service Bureau of Land Managemen Bureau of Indian Affairs Fish and Wildlife Service National Park Service National Association of State Foresters U.S. Fire Administration
Content posted to this website is for information purposes only.

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