A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Sheep Herder

Sun Valley, Idaho

I had an opportunity to talk with the guy who lives in the trailer featured on the other day's post.  He is of one company in the Ketchum area of Idaho grazing sheep.  He said he's the fifth generation in his family in the sheep business.  It's not something you get rich doing as you will see.

They bring the sheep down from their grazing areas during the second week of October and herd them down Main Street in Ketchum.  Its a big deal for the town with a parade and all the other festivities that go with the event.  The sheep are then loaded up and trucked off to one of two places for winter grazing and lambing.  One is BLM (Bureau of Land Management - a Federal agency) land at Wendover, Utah.  This is one of the places we go to stay near the Bonneville Salt Flats.  They have to pay the BLM ten cents per head per day for grazing rights!  Other sheep are trucked all the way to Bakersfield, California where they have to pay thirty to sixty cents per head per day!!  Here he mentioned sorting out those for sheering and lambing at Bakersfield.  He didn't mention sheering and lambing for the Wendover bunch.  I didn't ask why the two different locations as my head was spinning at the per head per day fees.  Anyway, the trucking of sheep is completed in November.

Come April the sheep from both places are trucked back to Idaho in April.  They are unloaded near the Craters of the Moon National monument southeast of here.  We drive by the Monument on our way here from Arco where Honey's Park is.  There the fresh grass of spring is just beginning to sprout and the sheep will work their way up into the high country following the new growth as it ascends in altitude.  Yep, they are once again paying ten cents per head per day for Idaho grazing.  The process is repeated come October.

Like I mentioned its a business they barely make any money at when its all said and done.  I told him what I wrote about it seems like a peaceful occupation compared to herding cattle.  He said no way would he deal with cattle that yes, it is a very mellow tranquil life raising sheep. 


  1. Seems like pretty cheap sheep to be able to feed them on $3.00 a month! I'll bet Beans costs more than that! :) I'd be curious to know how the sheep earn money as opposed to just what it costs to graze them. The sheep herders must be doing okay to still be doing it after five generations.

  2. We lived in Bakersfield for 4 years and there is a very large Basque community there--founded by the Basque shepherds who would come over and tend sheep and save their money. The Basque restaurants had great food. Maybe Bakersfield is just a "sheep-friendly" place to spend some time.

  3. Are these sheep destined to be meat or are they raised for their wool?

  4. Nobody ever makes any money out of farming - but you never see a farmer riding a bicycle!


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