Sunday, March 15, 2015

The lambing season

Alfonzo Abeyta
The whole sheep wrangling odyssey began almost a century ago when Alfonzo Abeyta’s father Amos helped with his uncle’s sheep and was paid in orphan or “penco” lambs for his efforts. Those pencos became the foundation of the Abeyta flock which this year numbers around 325.

Alfonzo took the baton from his dad and now the tradition is being preserved by son Andrew and grandson Amos. Both Alfonzo and Andrew remember that their first job was stomping on the wool to compress it as much as possible before bagging it. They were both about six when they started.

Andrew and Amos Abeyta
Throughout March and part of April a whole new generation of Abeyta sheep will enter this bleating world. Last Friday the precious little critters were squirting out wherever I turned, some of them, maybe two dozen, were pencos like the original sheep. Around fifteen ewes died in the untimely chill that descended on the San Luis Valley right after the shearing. "The cold weather was pretty hard on the sheep" lamented Andrew. I asked him if he lost more than normal this year and he responded that he had.

One lamb coming up

Managing the lambing circus is like herding cats 16 hours a day. Andrew and Amos Abeyta were showing the wear and tear of the ordeal already and still have a month to go. The crux of the effort is keeping mom and the babies together. Ewes have a notoriously short attention span and will forget the first lamb while birthing lambs two or three. My ewe of choice bore triplets so mother and children were herded into the same pen as quickly as possible. The ewe had no particular interest in feeding the youngsters and was given a hefty push by Amos.

Family unit

Ewes know their lambs by smell and will reject penco lambs. The pencos have to be hand fed goat’s milk from a repurposed water bottle. The scrum to get some of that magic elixir is a battle royal. Gloves highly recommended. When I asked Andrew how he knew that each lamb had been fed he said he could tell by their full tummies. How sweet is that?

Bottle Babies
Work release

Amos corralling strays

Andrew and a straggler


John Farnsworth said...

Over the top, Steve. Does Cuba have a role in this part of the program?

Steve Immel said...

Cuba was there but my photos of him were kind of blown out due to the on camera flash I'll take another look and see if one of him should be added.

Blacks Crossing said...

I cannot wait for Connie Taylor to read your blog. I forwarded it to her. She will identify with it in a huge way, as lambing is very clear in her memory, along with keeping a weapon handy when the coyotes would come for a night-time snack during the season. Your photographs and words told this story well. Thank you for going forward with the project, one with which not many in the western world identify in this day and age, and it is important.