Sheep on the Winter Range: A Battle Against the Elements

February 02, 2024 1 min read

Sheep on the Winter Range: A Battle Against the Elements

There’s an old saying in Montana: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute!”. Well this last cold snap was one for the record books…

As the mercury plunged to a record breaking -37, a bone-chilling -50 with wind chill, daily chores became life threatening. Feeding the flock is non-negotiable. It is mandatory for the survival of our sheep.

sheep in the winter

We bundled up in our warmest Duckworth layers and braved the cold. A few hours later, all the tractors had gelled up. At these temperatures the diesel turns to wax and plugs the fuel lines, choking the engine to a permanent stop. Tom's tractor is down; we pivot to the old Chevy ranch truck, feeding by hand at a "warm" -20.

Pause, thaw, cool off. Shepherds break ice for water. Beaverhead River threatens flooding, the local community bands together to sandbag in preparation. Miraculously, not a single animal was lost. Survival is in our blood, forged in Montana's unforgiving winter crucible. In this battle, the ranch stands tall – a testament to grit, endurance, and Montana spirit.

The work is never done as we care for our flock. As we reflect on the coldest days, we are grateful for our Duckworth layers, truly embodying our saying; “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing”. 

sheep on the ranch in winter

Coming up next for the ranch is the season’s first shearing, but not before chilly temperatures and snow subsides.