Declining numbers of sheep trailing through county

Butch Theos counted more than 500 vehicles passing through his herd during a five hour period Saturday on the trail.

Butch Theos counted more than 500 vehicles passing through his herd during a five hour period Saturday on the trail.
RBC I Meeker’s sheep men have trailed through town on their way to the Utah desert for the winter, with fewer numbers than in the past. The industry has declined over the years.
Many herds have decreased in size and some have liquidized completely.
“Twenty years ago there were around 20,000 ewes making the trip,” said Martin Inda, herd manager for Nick Theos Ranch. “This year I would say there were about 12,000.”
Many reasons account for the sheep industry shrinking over the years. The number of ewes trailing is smaller but the ranchers hope to make it to the desert with as many ewes as they had when they start down the trail.
There are several reasons the residents of Meeker are seeing fewer ewes make the trip each year. It’s a demanding industry that is labor intensive. There are fewer people coming back to run the family ranches and therefore, the operations are being sold.
The sheep demand a lot of land and they are meant to be grazed out in order to perform the best.
The limits on predator control are continually putting an end to operations. With all of these restraints and the market on lambs being low in the past, many sheep men have sold out.
Another reason fewer sheep have been through town is due to the danger of trailing them through traffic.
“We have to put flag people in the front and back and people still don’t pay attention,” said Angelo “Butch” Theos, owner of Swallow Fork Ranch. “We counted 550 cars go through the sheep from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m.”
Even with all the dangers associated with trailing, there are advantages. There are two main reasons producers take their sheep down the trail.
“The cost of trucking is much higher,” Theos said. “Being on the trail allows us to utilize the land on the way down there and save the winter land for eight days.”
With fewer sheep numbers, local producers will finish trailing this season and begin grazing the Utah desert.