Volunteers flock to the Barthelmess sheep shearing!

Hello! My name is Casey Gallagher, and I am a 2nd term Big Sky Watershed Corps (BSWC) member serving for the Milk River Watershed Alliance in Malta! “BSWC is an AmeriCorps program that assists Montana’s watershed communities to make a measurable difference in local conservation efforts while strengthening the experience of young professionals.”

BSWC members are scattered across 27 different host sites in Montana, from Hamilton to Sidney. Many host sites are in Western MT, in or around cities like Bozeman, Missoula, and Helena. I truly feel like I have had one of the best “Montana” experience’s being placed in Malta. I wanted to share the opportunity to learn from the land stewards that are working every day on ranches and farms in Eastern MT. After attending the Barthlemess’s sheep shearing in 2017, I knew this would be the chance to round up volunteers in 2018.

Eight BSWC members from Helena, Livingston, Bozeman, and Sidney came out to volunteer at the shearing. And they were certainly put to work! Members helped corral sheep, move them up the chute, collect the wool, vaccinate, and help prepare meals. Two were lucky enough to give shearing a try! The experience was a new one for all the members!

Members were able to visit with Leo and his family, the shearers, and the friends that came to help. The members learned about sheep, the art of shearing, the conservation practices incorporated into the operation, the mutual relationship between livestock and the greater sage grouse, and the trials and tribulations that lead them to where they are today.

“I know for me, it was my first, hands-on experience with ranchers and ranch work. Chatting with Leo and herding the sheep with him was a wonderful experience, as I got to pick his brain and learn about his process and his experiences working in a field that I have had absolutely no experience in. It gave me a new outlook on farm and ranch work, the difficulties that are involved, and the knowledge required. And they were all just so kind! Darla and Leo were wonderful hosts and so generous. It made volunteering my time for them an absolute joy.”- Taylor Mudford, BSWC member serving with Friends of the Missouri Breaks.

Upon leaving the ranch, the members talked about the shearing for the rest of the night! There was such positive excitement around the knowledge they all gained! The members were incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to learn while getting their hands and boots dirty. The physical exhaustion was well worth it!

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