Philp helps family maintain sheep productionWritten by Christy Hemken
Raised at Lysite on the family ranch, Liz moved to the Hidden Valley location, bordered on one side by the Wind River, after her family’s ranch corporation and her brother Frank Philp both bought irrigated land on neighboring places. Now those farms produce hay and silage and provide pasture for lambs brought home in the fall.
“We wanted to start feeding lambs and we’d always liked it down here, so when we heard about this farm and the next one over for sale we bought them and added to our operation in 1981,” says Philp, who moved there in 1996.
Of growing up at Lysite, Liz says she liked it there, and she liked being able to go out to the ranch. “When I was growing up it was mostly a ranching community and everybody had sheep, life revolved around ranching,” she says. “There used to be a stockyards and they’d ship a lot of lambs and stock from there.”
She says in the 1980s people started selling their sheep off and the wool warehouse in Lysite that used to be full of wool now only houses Philp wool. “We used to go play in the wool sacks before they loaded them out on the railway,” she notes.
The Philp lambs, which are included in the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative, are summered on Green Mountain Common Allotment, then trailed to the Gas Hills in the fall for weaning before being trucked to Hidden Valley. Following another vaccination for overeating they’re readied for the trip to Powell where they winter on beet tops.
In March they’re brought back to Hidden Valley where they’re sheared before selling begins in April and May.
“Our lambs are born late because it’s so cold on Green Mountain Common Allotment,” says Philp. “But that works out for the co-op because they get through the glut of the rest of the lambs by the time ours are ready, though we try not to keep them too long to avoid selling them as mutton.”
The Philp flock is composed of Rambouillet ewes, with Suffolk and Hampshire bucks. “They make nice lambs,” says Philp.
The ewes winter in the Gas Hills through December, when they’re trailed to Hidden Valley and put on purchased pasture, usually alfalfa stubble, and sometimes hay and silage before being moved back out on the range the first of May.
Philp says a ranch responsibility primarily hers is keeping up with the bills and paying the help, of which there are seven to 10 employees. In the winter she looks after calves, which are brought to the feedlot after weaning through mid-January when the steers start going to market, followed by the heifers not chosen as replacements.
Replacements are summered at Lysite, while cows are run in the Gas Hills.
“The most challenging part of raising sheep is the price of purchased feed and pasture, and predators,” says Philp, adding the ranch keeps herders and dogs to protect their sheep, and that Fremont County has two APHIS Wildlife Services employees.
“The dogs work pretty well, but we still lost a significant number of lambs after we docked last spring,” she says. “There are too many coyotes out there.”
Philp says she also sells some puppies from the Great Pyrenees. “They sell themselves,” she says. “People like the dogs and call me asking for them. They get along well and aren’t too aggressive with sheep or people.”
She says her family first started using guard dogs in the early 1980s after getting some from the experiment station in Dubois, Idaho.
The Philps hire herders through Mountain Plains Ag Service in Casper, of which Philp is on the board of directors. “There are changes to the regulations all the time, and they’re becoming more stringent with what the workers can’t do – narrowing down their jobs – and they have to live in mobile housing,” she says.
One improvement that’s helped the family’s farming operation is the pipeline recently installed by the Midvale Irrigation District in the valley. “That’s wonderful for the sprinklers, and way more efficient,” she says. “Our ground is sandy and during the drought especially we’d run out of water because it’s so hard to keep wet.”
After installing two sprinklers, the rest of the farm is still in gated pipe, with plans for two more pivots as funds allow.
In addition to helping with her family’s ranch operation, Philp has also been a member of the Wyoming Livestock Board since last spring. She also enjoys being involved with the Fremont Fiber Arts Guild, with which she’s knitted and dyed her own wool and fashioned a chair and loveseat from willows on the ranch and from South Pass.
Of the Philp family operation’s future, she says, “We’re just going to hang onto what we’ve got and stay in the sheep business. I think sheep and cattle are a good use of the range and resources that are there.”