After we rescued the misguided GPS traveler on the morning of July 4th, we moved on to rotating the bucks to a new pasture across the Little Snake River. Even though the grass is greener on the other side of the Little Snake, the bucks were not enthusiastic about crossing. It did not involve any swimming (although shorn sheep can swim). This was not, so to speak, our first rodeo, and we knew that eventually they would see it our way. It took a lot of whistling, throwing of sticks, calling back the dog, roping and pulling a couple of bucks across to serve as a “draw”, but we eventually prevailed. Our crew included Pat, Meghan, Bridget (on loan from Arizona), Siobhan, Bubba and me, plus Belle the Border Collie.
Bubba pulling the buck across the river
Siobahn and Pat
Siobhan, Meghan, Bridget and Bubba trying to convince the bucks
Lambing is closely followed by docking the new lambs. This means literally docking the tails, to protect against flystrike, earmarking and paint branding to indicate ownership, castrating to make management easier and to create better meat quality, vaccinating to protect health, and a look at each and every lamb for problems to address. It makes for long days, but also adds camaraderie and teamwork to our hard-working crew! A good lunch is sure to appear. No one has trouble sleeping at the end of the day
We brought the heifers, recently gathered at Powder Wash, to the Home Ranch. The unloading crew was Eamon, Rhen, Sharon and Siobhan. Our equipment included a mop in lieu of a “poking stick.” This exercise fulfilled home schooling requirements for animal science, mathematics and physical education.
Today, we gathered, trailed and sorted cattle in the Powder Wash. It was a great home-schooling experience for Siobhan, Tiarnan, Rhen and Seamus (helping but camera-shy!). We were joined for a time by three young mustang stallions, evidently kicked out of their herd and looking for friends.
Today, Siobhan and I were on a routine drive, all within a mile of home. when we got very stuck. We were checking the horses and the cats. We followed the tractor’s tracks. Alas, we have had approximately two feet of new snow in the last couple of days, and it was actually warm. It was, by any measure, a bluebird day. This meant that the frozen trail, packed by the tractor, was mushy. Sure enough, we sunk into what I thought was a soft drift, and, ahem, spun out and became inexorably stuck.
Siobhan recalled that when gathering cattle from this meadow in sunnier days, her phone had service. I pointed out that we were close to home and could walk there in probably 15 minutes. She convinced me to walk a few hundred yards, find cell phone service, and call home for a tractor rescue. Soon Wilber, bless him, came with the tractor to pull us out. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it might be, as we got stuck four, count em’, four more times. Finally, with a lot of plowing and pulling, we were on our way to check on Eamon and Megan’s cats, who were very glad to see us.
Bear in mind that it was 44 degrees, and we were within an easy walk of home. It was not comparable to the time that Siobhan and Pat were stuck overnight on the Red Desert, with only gritty M&Ms to sustain them. Siobhan and I did spend three hours of quality time together, and the cats were really happy when we showed up!
July 1st brings the on-date for the Forest grazing permits. We worked Modesto’s bunch at the Johnson corrals, in the Routt National Forest. We not only counted the ewes and lambs, but put numbered paint brands on the “marker” ewes, and gave Rhen an opportunity to practice his mutton busting.
Cora keeping an eye on the sheep.
Belling number 2, Juan supervising
numbering the marker ewes
Rhen practicing mutton busting
Siobhan and her team of Border collies
Counted, belled and numbered–heading for summer pasture
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
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
The rams hang around for ten and a half months, waiting for the day when they are called to go to work, fathering lambs for the next season. We put the bucks in over a period of days and weeks. We figure that the first bucks to go in with the ewes are getting tired, so we send reinforcements. They sometimes resent being worked through the chutes, but are happy to jump out of the trailers to join the ladies. When we were loading them, I said, “Hop in boys–all the corn you can eat.” Meghan said, “All the ladies you can breed!” I added, “…and all the wind you can tolerate.” Such is the life of a buck in the winter.
(STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo.) August 29, 2017 – A helicopter flight over the Big Red Fire today gave fire personnel a more accurate view of the incident size and as a result the fire is now being reported at 529 acres.
The fire has grown over the last few days due to timely winds, group and single-tree torching, and then subsequent short to mid-range spotting of the fire into unburned areas on the Routt National Forest.
Despite the large increase in reported acreage, management of the wildfire remained the same as it has been, with emphasis on firefighter and public safety, utilizing trigger points to engage the fire where there is a high probability of success, and monitoring fire behavior. This management approach is consistent with other recent area fires in similar fuel types.
The main focus of 70 personnel working the fire has been to utilize Forest Roads 500, 500.1B, and 500.1A to establish fire line along the southern boundary of the fire.
Private land near Big Red Park and an active Forest Service timber sale (Blue Duck Salvage) could be at risk if the fire moves south.
An area closure remains in place, temporarily closing part of the 500 Road and its’ subsequent spur roads, as well as Forest Trail 1204.1A.
The Big Red Fire was discovered on Saturday, Aug. 19 in north Routt County, Colo. It is burning in mixed conifer, which includes spruce, fir, pine, and both live and bug-killed timber.
The wildfire is located just north of Big Red Park, along Forest Road 500, and approximately five miles south of the Colorado/Wyoming state line.
It has been determined that the fire was caused by lightning, with initial response by Forest Service and County staff.
Although unplanned, wildfires such as the Big Red Fire have the potential to reduce hazardous fuels and improve forest health.
InciWeb will be used as the primary means of information distribution for the Big Red Fire. An incident page will be updated at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5551/. The Forest Twitter account, @FS_MBRTB, will also be used for fire updates.
Our crew headed into the trees to look for cows and calves
Patrick and Sharon O'Toole are ranchers in the Little Snake River Valley on the Wyoming-Colorado border. They represent the fourth generation on the six-generation family ranch. The O'Tooles raise cattle, sheep, horses, dogs and children on their high country ranching operation. The transhumance operation stretches from north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado to Wyoming's Red Desert.
Pat has served in the Wyoming House of Representatives, the Western Water Policy Commission, and is currently President of the Family Farm Alliance, representing irrigators and water users in the western United States.
Sharon is a writer and poet. She writes extensively on western issues, and the relationship between landscape, animals and people. She is widely published as an author, essayist and editorial commentator.
Sharon's father George, 89, passed away December 25, 2010. He lived much of his life in the house where he was born, and remained active in the day-to-day life of the ranch. Mr. Salisbury was a decorated World War II veteran, a former member of Wyoming's House of Representatives, and former President of Wyoming's Board of Agriculture.
Pat and Sharon have three children. Their daughter, Meghan and her husband Brian Lally, live on the ranch with their children, Siobhán, Seamus, Maeve and Tiarnán. Meghan also served on the Wyoming Board of Agriculture, and she and Brian are active in community service. Daughter Bridget lives in Denver with her husband, Chris Abel, where she works in public relations and he serves agriculture in the food business. Son Eamon and his wife Megan live on the ranch with their sons, McCoy and Rhen. Eamon is a horseman and natural resource manager, and Megan is a nurse.
The blog traces the activities and life on the ranch, from the mundane to the fabulous.