sheep ranching

Sara Hossani

Last Monday saw the close of the public comment period concerning a proposed rule put forth by the U.S. Department of Labor that could cause serious harm to Wyoming’s sheep industry. Currently, most sheep herders in Wyoming are foreign and hold what are called H-2A visas. Under those visas, they are required to be paid $750-dollars a month and be provided room and board.

Rebecca Martinez / Wyoming Public Radio

The U.S. Department of Labor is considering whether to institute a new rule that would raise the required pay of foreign sheep herders with visas.

The rule would increase pay from $750 dollars a month plus room and board to $24-hundred dollars a month plus room and board. Those in the sheep industry say the increase could put them out of business and they apparently aren’t crying wolf.

Melodie Edwards

When it comes to the spread of disease from domestic sheep to bighorn sheep, it’s not that different from the arrival of Europeans in the Americas when small pox and other diseases killed millions of indigenous people. Without a built-in immunity, pneumonia can wipe out an entire bighorn sheep herd in no time. And that’s why, last week, the Wyoming legislature passed a pair of historic bills that will effectively keep the two species apart.

Billings Gazette

Tuesday, the Wyoming house passed two bills that would lay out a strategy for keeping domestic sheep and bighorn sheep separated. Domestic sheep carry a bacteria that can spread pneumonia to bighorns, wiping out whole herds. But Wild Sheep Foundation Director Kevin Hurley has problems with the bills, especially Senate File 133, which sets aside funds to remove a herd of transplanted bighorns from the Wyoming Range    

The Tronstad Ranch

Wyoming has a long tradition of sheep ranching.  The first flocks arrived with Mormon pioneers in the eighteen-eighties. By the early nineteen-hundreds there were six million sheep and Wyoming led the nation in wool production.  Now, there are fewer than 400-thousand sheep in the state and competition in the global market is stiff.  But Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards visited one family that believes that—against all odds--the life of the flockmaster is worth keeping alive.