Ask a herder #2
I had a less than awesome week at work last week, so when one of my favorites came into the office on Thursday afternoon an impromptu field day Friday was planned. He is on my County Committee and I spent most of Friday helping him out, getting out and seeing the country and it was an almost perfect Friday....cold wind and all.
I know at least one of my readers, plus me is interested in range sheep operations and as with most things....no two range sheep operations are the same. Even as they winter graze the same BLM allotment, they are quite different.
Q: You don't have any black sheep, what do you use for markers?
A: As soon as we are done shearing, we "paint" our markers red. As the wool grows out it is only on the outside edge so their wool can still be sold after the next year's shearing.
Q: Do you have to keep the died wool separate?
A: Yes, it doesn't affect the quality of the wool, but it is kept separate to be washed a little differently.
Q: What are the blue marked sheep (as they are coming from quite a ways away. The answer would have been quite obviously were they closer)?
A: Those are the bucks. Oh I get it blue for boys. Well I never thought of it that way, but now that you mention it, I think that is what we were going for.
|Gathering the herd for a corn breakfast|
Q: Where are your herders from?
A: Nepal. We are the only outfit in American that brings in H2A workers from Nepal. They work well for us because they come from the mountains of Nepal. They are used to being out in the country and being self sufficient. A lot of them have never worn a pair of shoes. We have a difficult time convincing them that they need a pair of boots when they first get here.
Q: You only have 1 herder per herd and they each have their own camp, why?
A: Yes, we run slightly smaller bands of sheep and have one man per camp. Because they are on their own a lot more, we also pay them higher than most outfits that run 2 men per band.
Q: How many sheep do you run in a band?
A: About 1200
Q: Do your herders cook?
A: They are excellent cooks, they love cauliflower and rice, staples in the Nepali diet. They don't eat beef though.
Q: Why do you shear later than most in the area?
A: We like to keep the wool on as long as we can because of the brutal spring storms that we can get around here. We also put our bucks in later so that we are lambing when wildlife is. We figure that wildlife knows best so we try to follow their patterns. Lambing later means that we can shear later.
Q: Where are your guard dogs from?
A: Most of our dogs are Russian breeds, they are tough, aggressive dogs. We need those big, aggressive dogs both here, but they are really important when we get into wolf and grizzly country. Even our herd dogs aren't afraid to start a scuffle with the coyotes, they usually rely on the guard dogs to come in to finish the fight.
Q: Do you move camps by teams or by pickup?
A: We use a pickup to move our camps. Since our herders are alone in camps, we are the only people they see on a regular basis. Also because most other outfits have Spanish speaking herders, even when they see other camps, communication is limited. We like to check in and catch up with them everyday or two at the most. They enjoy spending a few minutes just chatting to break up the monotony of winter sheep camp. They will use the teams to feed though.