We just sold three years worth of wool. In 2020, the Trump trade war with China, and Covid 19, caused the previously decent price of wool to plummet. We decided to keep that year’s clip in hopes of higher prices in the future. We’d heard stories of sheep producers who had held their wool throughout the Depression, then sold several year’s worth for good money when the United States entered World War II and needed wool for uniforms and other strategic goods. In 2021, the wool market and the trade situation had not improved, so we kept a second year’s clip. We have a large shed where we can store the wool, so were not accruing storage charges at a wool warehouse. This year, we visited with the wool buyers, who advised us that the world political situation was not improving, but that prices were up somewhat. We decided to sell the 2020, 2021 and 2022 clips, which required two semis with long flatbeds. The first truck driver was from Uzbekistan, and spoke limited English. He was very cautious and conscientious, and when the wool was loaded, strapped and tarped, it looked as neat as could be. The second truck driver was from Denver, but spoke fluent Spanish, which was very helpful with our Spanish-speaking employees who were loading the truck. He even helped load the bales of wool, which weigh 400-500 pounds each. The wool was secured and headed for San Antonio. Our fine Rambouillet wool is usually sold to another buyer who uses it for U.S. military uniforms. We think this fine wool will end up in mills in Italy. The blackface wool goes on to become blankets and sweaters. The shed looks empty without three years worth of wool bales stacked up.
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Every year we buy several loads of corn to feed to the ewes on the desert. We will put the rams in with the ewes in a couple of days, and it is important that their nutrition is optimal. Nothing is better than corn for flushing the ewes. In late November, we had the first load of corn delivered. Now, in almost mid-December, that load is almost gone, but the ewes have found it very tasty and nutritious.
Every fall, we have what we call “the good old ewes.” These ewes are still sound, but aren’t quite up for another winter on the Red Desert. They are Minnesota bound. Sheep producers around Pipestone can offer them a comfier life at a lower altitude, with more shelter. They will be able to produce lambs and wool for several more years.
It’s that time of year when the long days of summer have come to an end. Since early summer, the cows and calves, and the ewes and lambs, have grazed the Forest. Their only responsibilities have been to gain weight and avoid predators. The cows have had the added task of consorting with bulls and getting pregnant.
Those days are gone, and it is now time for the calves and lambs to leave their mothers and move on to the next stage of life. The nights are noisy as the cows and ewes call for their departed offspring. The older moms probably give a sigh of relief as their mothering duties have been fulfilled for another turn of the seasons.
After all our adventures with shearing (and we still have a few ewes to shear and lambs to dock!), we loaded the first load of wool today. Most of it is bound for the U.S. military. Here is our intrepid loading crew, including the Utah trucker who came to haul it. One more load to go!
The last truckloads of cows came in from Laramie last night. Due to mechanical problems, we ended up unloading after dark. I tried to take pictures without a tripod. The results were spooky, or maybe artistic.