Sunday, February 08, 2015

First Ewe. Last shepherd.

I walked for two days with Victor Hernandez as he trailed his sheep from their forage across US 285 from San Antonio Mountain in northern New Mexico to their late winter pasture in Mogote, Colorado just east of Antonito. Make that two epically muddy slogs through ankle deep sludge that left my shins aching for a week. Victor looks like he’s sauntering but I could barely keep up.

While Victor did the trailing it was the Australian Sheep Dogs, Daddy and Puppy, that did the real herding, nipping at the occasional tail to keep the flock moving.

Starting out on a diagonal course to US 285

Victor and the flock with the north flank of San Antonio Mountain in the background

Entering the pasture in Mogote. Hay and water at the ready.

I learned that Victor had been bivouacked with los borregos at San Antonio since September and had earlier grazed the sheep in the high mountains of the Cruces Basin.

The sheep, all descendants of single ewe from the 1920s, will be sheared on February 20 or 21 depending on the availability of the shearers. According to patron Andrew Abeyta there will be nicks and cuts aplenty, some of which can have deadly consequences. I will be there for the assembly line but hope to miss any mortal wounds.

Lambing will occur in March and in September the critters will be sold to the buyer in Center, Colorado at the sweet little price of $2.00 a pound give or take. Last year the Abeytas sold 400 at about 100 pounds per. Andrew was prompted to say, “I wish I had more at those prices.” Still there are no guarantees in the up and down market for baby sheep.

Did you know that most ewes birth twins or that the sheep eat snow to get their fluids?


Blacks Crossing said...

Two days of mud slogging is very unpleasant. One hour of mud slogging is tough. We can only imagine your shins seriously smarting. Our former neighbor and churro sheep registrar Connie Taylor had told us about most ewes having twins, but we did not know that they eat snow to get their liquids. That must by why churro sheep are perfect for the Navajo sheep herders.

Kudos on your amazing journey and photographs, Steve. We look forward to more about this project.

Jim Rogers Photography said...

I'm impressed with the info you packed in to that last posting. And your slogging makes me short of breath just thinking about it, all the while lugging your camera and probably gear in order to capture your usually superb photos. I guess the phrase "Keep on Truckin' " is not appropriate here, but with your sore shins, hate to tell you to "Keep on Slogging". Just leave it to say, I look forward to your continuing posts on this fascinating subject no matter how you do it.