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Fog instead of shearing

Shearing shed in the fog

Shearing shed in the fog

The time has come to shear the early lambers. We raise our own bucks out of our purebred Hampshire and Rambouillet ewes. These girls lamb in late February and March, so we like to get their wool off before lambing is well underway. Of course, we have some babies on the ground already.

The shearing crew showed up right on time–well maybe a couple of days late due to weather, but that is actually on time. We had to haul the shed into the Powder Flat Headquarters with a tractor due to mud. We managed to get a half day in, and shear most of the whitefaces. We were ready to start bright and early the next morning, but…fog, in February. This meant that the ewes in the wool were, not exactly wet, since it was 17 degrees, but frosted. We knew that with some sun, and maybe a breeze, they would be dry enough, after lunch, to start shearing. But no. The fog didn’t burn off until afternoon, and the air was absolutely still. Finally Meghan said, “I’m calling it. We’ll try again tomorrow.”

Ewes coming in for feed

Ewes coming in for feed

ewes on the run

ewes on the run

bringing in the sheep

bringing in the sheep

Catching a ewe who has just lambed

Catching a ewe who has just lambed

Frost on the wool hanging from the fence

Frost on the wool hanging from the fence

Heifers with more frost

Heifers with more frost

This bull is glad he doesn't need to be sheared.

This bull is glad he doesn’t need to be sheared.

In the meantime, the bulls came in for water.

In the meantime, the bulls came in for water.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2017 in Animals, Events, Sheep

 

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Shearing 2016–It begins

waiting for the shearers on Cottonwood Creek

waiting for the shearers on Cottonwood Creek

Shearing the sheep is one of the most essential tasks that is accomplished all year. It is also one of the most uncertain. It is critical for the health of the sheep, the success of the lambing, and the impact on our bottom line, as we sell the wool to be made into natural, non-oil-based fabric. Shearing, next to the weather, is the part of the business that we have the least control over. The shearing contractors are dependent on the Department of Labor processing their visa applications in a timely manner, since most shearers are from New Zealand and other foreign lands. Shearing is a highly paid skill, but not enough American workers are available to fulfill the need. Each year, the arrival of the shearing crew is more uncertain. We were glad this year when our crew arrived after only a few predictable and unpredictable delays. The early lambers have been sheared and are lambing away. Now, after a few more days’ weather delay (rain, snow, high winds), we plan to shear the “main line”.

Ciro shearing first ewe

Shearing first ewe

unshorn ewes in shed

Unshorn ewes following the guard dog into the pen

Maura helping out

Maura helping out

McCoy and Pepe brining up the ewes

McCoy, Meghan, and Pepe bringing up the ewes

Pepe--volleyball fan

Pepe–volleyball fan

 

 

careful shearers

careful shearers

shorn ewes heading out the door

shorn ewes heading out the door

lined up for lunch

 

 

 

 

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Seamus and sheep camp

Seamus checking out the sheep camp at the last (!) shearing/docking on Cottonwood

Seamus checking out the sheep camp at the last (!) shearing/docking on Cottonwood

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2015 in Animals, Events, Family, Folks, Sheep

 

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Docking and shearing multi-tasking

Docking and shearing on Cottonwood Creek

Docking and shearing on Cottonwood Creek

This spring, for the first time in our experience, we have lambed our ewes in the wool.

This situation occurred, in large part, because shearing contractors cannot get enough foreign shearers through the broken H2A visa system, and not enough American shearers are available, even though shearing sheep pays very well. In our particular situation, our usual shearing contractor was not honest with us as to when his crew could realistically arrive, which left us with no time to find another shearer—a nearly impossible situation anyway.

By mid-May, we realized that we could not get the ewes sheared before lambing. I tried explaining the difficult situation to the ewes, but they refused to wait another week before giving birth. As a mother, I can relate to this. And also it was raining every day.

We did manage to find an American crew out of California, but they were able to shear only a day and a half before the rains and the lambs really set in. This left us with 6000 or so sheep left to shear, including the yearlings. The California crew said they could come back in June, after things slowed down, sort of. This was good, because the shearing contractors who depend on foreign (mostly New Zealand) shearers lose their crews as the visas run out in late May. I will say that hardly any American crews exist, and the industry needs its foreign shearers to “get the clip out.”

We did get through the lambing, which was inevitable due to the certainty of birth. This left us with several thousand wooly ewes, with lambs at side. At this point, we not only needed to shear the ewes, but we had several thousand lambs to dock.

We decided that we could shear and dock at the same time—in fact, that we had to. Luckily, our California shearing crew was flexible, and was willing to move their portable shed every day to the site of each ewe and lamb bunch. We set up corrals so that the ewes could run straight ahead into the shearing shed, and the lambs could be drafted off to side pens and into a docking line.

Usually, to minimize stress on sheep and human crew alike, we bring the ewes with lambs in in bunches of 300 or so. With the shearing/docking situation, we had to do each entire band at a time—typically 850 or so ewes, and their lambs—usually about thousand. We had to do this because we couldn’t separate the ewes and young lambs for more than a few hours. As I told the wool buyer, “Take a good look, because you’ve never seen this before and I hope you never see it again!”

Pepe, Richard, Meghan, Oscar, Cassie, and Jean Carlos on the docking side of things

Pepe, Richard, Meghan, Oscar, Cassie, and Jean Carlos on the docking side of things

waiting for the blades

Waiting for the blades

Siobhan at the cutting gate at Badwater

Siobhan at the cutting gate at Badwater

All hands, AND the cook!

All hands, AND the cook!

docking,shearing crew eating lunch

We all line up for Cassie’s hot lunch!

wool packer moving the bales of wool

wool packer moving the bales of wool

Tiarnan branding for Pepe

Tiarnan branding for Pepe

Antonio truimphant

Antonio truimphant

the view at Cherry Grove

the view at Cherry Grove

Ten pounds lighter

Ten pounds lighter

shearing at last!

shearing at last!

 

 

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Oscar and Tiarnan on the job

Oscar and Tiarnan shearing at Badwater

Oscar and Tiarnan shearing at Badwater

 
 

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The “no guilt” early shearing

 

Antonio and the unshorn ewes

Antonio and the unshorn ewes

In mid-winter, we shear the ewes that are going to lamb in March. When it goes well, we even shear before lambing starts!  We do this for several reasons. Even though it seems early to shear, all goes better if the wool is off before the first lambs hit the ground. We raise our own bucks, which means that in order for them to be “of age”–at least some of them, by next winter, late winter/early spring is the time to be born. It is important for the ewes to be out of the wool for a couple of reasons. In cold weather, if the ewe is not cold, it doesn’t occur to her that her lambs might be cold and she should seek shelter. And when those lambs are looking for nourishment, it is helpful if tags of wool are not hanging down in strategic locations. Anyway, thanks to Cliff and Donna of Hoopes Shearing, we have spent two days shearing the early lambing ewes and the mature bucks. What did the bucks do wrong, you might ask? Well, then we don’t have to figure out how to get them staged for the main shearing in April (April, right Cliff and Donna?).

Often, well actually, always except for this year, it is pretty cold in mid-February and we feel guilty removing wool coats from the sheep while we are all wooled up in sweaters and long underwear. I don’t know if we have weather or climate change to thank, or blame, but this week, we had ideal shearing weather–not too cold, not too warm–Goldilocks Weather.

We do have a few lambs on the ground, due to errant buck lambs–born last March–you get the picture.

Sorry, but it was too dark in the shed to get shearing shots!

unshorn ewes, Brittany, Gyp, Antonio, shorn ewes--in that order

unshorn ewes, Brittany, Gyp, Antonio, shorn ewes–in that order

free at last!

free at last!

 

 

Rambouillet ewes, after the blade

Rambouillet ewes, after the blade

Sharon, working the pink chute

Sharon, working the pink chute

Donna loading fleeces into the brand new packer

Donna loading fleeces into the brand new packer

 

which has a few glitches...Antonio and Oscar pushing out the first bales

which has a few glitches…Antonio and Oscar pushing out the first bales

Justin, who keep the wool packer working!

 

 

 

 

 

Maeve and Seamus checking out the new bales

Maeve and Seamus checking out the new bales

Siobhan trying to push her siblings off the wool bale

Siobhan trying to push her siblings off the wool bale

Seamus and Maeve dueling with livestock working sticks

Seamus and Maeve dueling with livestock working sticks

brands of growers on the side of the purple Hoopes Shed (with lime green accents and the pink chute)

brands of growers on the side of the purple Hoopes Shed (with lime green accents and the pink chute)

Pat through the chute

Pat through the chute

ewe, ready to lamb

ewe, ready to lamb

before

before

during

during

shorn Rambouillet bucks

after

No

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Aussies on the job

Ladder Ranch is host to many folks, some paid, some unpaid, and some even paying. Over the years, we have formed many wonderful friendships with the visitors who pass through our landscape. This year, we have had the great fun of hosting Will and Ali, Aussies who showed up at just the right time (right after the cook had quit and just as lambing was getting under way). They have jumped right in and helped with everything from soup (that would be Ali) and once docking commences–to nuts. Here they are helping with the shearing of the yearling ewes. I observed, “It looks like Ali is doing all the work, while Eamon and Will are standing around bullchatting.” Will responded, ” Yup, that’s pretty much what they say back home.”

Ali working--Eamon and Will visiting

Ali working–Eamon and Will visiting

Eamon and Will on the move, but Eamon's dog is actually bringing up the sheep!

Eamon and Will on the move, with Eamon’s dog, Chica, actually bringing up the sheep! Actually, it took all hands AND the dog to get the job done.

We also like child labor--Seamus and Maeve work the chute.

We also like child labor–Seamus and Maeve work the chute.

 

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