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Are having your "own" sheep really better?


Pippin's person
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From a couple of other threads running at the moment, I started to wonder about having one's "own" sheep--specifically in terms of trialling (of course there are many non-trial reasons for having sheep).

 

Given that time and money are limited--it almost sees like it might be quite advantageous to spend the money it would cost to have your own operation on really traveling around and buying sheep time at other folks' operations. That maximizes the opportunity to work different kinds of sheep on different fields in a way that working your "own" sheep really doesn't.

 

Is that nutty? Are there people who do well in Open (by well, I'll say something like "qualify for the National Finals") without having their own sheep?

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It depends (my pat answer, eh?). Are you talking about training or trialing? I think it would be difficult to train a dog just using other people's sheep. Seasoning and trialing a trained dog might be possible but i'd still think difficult. You need to travel to season a dog but part of me thinks working on particular problems or training issues (trained dog or not) is probably better done where you know the setup, sheep, and can set things up for success. And just think about all that travel time you could be spending training the dog, not to mention doing your own practical work at home.

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Having your own sheep, preferably a producing flock not just a bunch of non-breeding ewes or wethers, will teach you things about sheep you don't even realize you're learning. I remember the first time (at a trial) I heard a distinctive "bah" from set out and a high, thin answer from behind the far fence, and without even turning around, I could tell it was an anxious ewe calling her young lamb(s), and that run was going to be extra challenging for whoever was at the post. If it had been me, it would have factored into my handling. That was a big difference from earlier years when I'd just go out and try to work "some sheep." Just a small example.

 

Liz S in SCentral PA

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Personally, I think it depends on how you use your own sheep. I handle our sheep with a dog daily, maybe not to formally train or school but I try to find work for them, even if it to just hold a gate while I clean a pen.

 

We are to the point in training with many of our dogs where we are looking for new places to go with different livestock. Call it seasoning, we try to get down to Southern Iowa a time or two before taking a young dog to their first trial. We have found that taking our sheep to different places when we do demos has given us an advantage also, the sheep act different, being unfamiluar with their surroundings giving the dogs a different perspective on the same livestock.

 

After each of these outings I come home to problem solve issues that came up while working at the new place. Often times the problem can be found here at home on our stock, it's just a matter of being creative and setting it up in a fashion that causes it to manifest.

 

I know of many that have their own sheep/livestock but only take a dog to their sheep when they are training, general chores are done without a dog. IMO, they are missing the best expirences their dogs could have, especially when it comes to proper behaivor in the presence of livestock when the dogs assistance is not needed.

 

Deb

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The biggest benefit I get from having my own sheep is that I have learned to read them. At the last trial I ran in, I got the pen without looking at my dog. I knew he'd cover the pressure. The sheep had been difficult to pen- I was watching them. It was walking the dog up at the right moment that got the sheep in the pen. If the woman who'd run before me had flanked her dog 1/2 second earlier, she would have had the pen. It was all about being able to read the stock.

 

I also prefer a producing flock. Aside from the income from market lambs (and the lamb in my own freezer), each year there are fresh sheep to work. Sure, my old ewes get heavy & dogged, but I can sort off the yearlings & weaned lambs and have lighter sheep. Plus, I can go out and work for 10 minutes here and there if that's all the time I have instead of having to set aside time to travel somewhere.

 

Then again, I'm kinda nuts, and I had sheep before I had the dogs... But, oh, how much easier it is WITH the dogs!

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I think it depends on your access to other sheep. Personally, I don't miss the work and expense of having to own them! :D I've got three local places I can go to and work my dogs. They're within 20 to 40 minutes' drive and my dogs have been going to these places since they were pups. Only one place is an actual training facility. The other two are just friends with sheep and dogs, whom I sometimes help out with work and projects. So, my dogs get to do practical work as well as receive trial training, and they learn how to just "hang out" around the sheep while I help a friend fix fence or whatever. I think it's a nicely-rounded education for my dogs.

 

But I also realize I'm blessed in my circumstances. The only *down* side I might see to owning one's own sheep is that you do have to breed the ewes to keep a turnover and avoid over-dogged sheep. That's a job in itself! :D

 

Still, my future concern may one day be finding access to BIG enough acreage, if and when I get to the point I'm ready to move Nick up to Open.... :rolleyes:

Cheers ~

 

Gloria

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Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

For forty years we had a commercial flock of a hundred but presently keep only twenty training ewes. Although I trial farther and can practice on a number of different flocks, not having our own sheep is a profound disadvantage.

 

Hearing a car horn at ten pm used to mean: "Sheep in the county road". Pain in the ass, but great dog work. Pouring rain and the rams get out with the ewes. Maiden ewe drops her lamb and panics, bleating back into the flock. Ewes yarded up in two foot deep snow - hundreds of yards from the feeders. Great dog work. A ewe singles in the field, wait an hour then send the dog to fetch both. What the sheepdog and you learn from necessity is more profound and lasting than any training or mentoring can provide.

 

And there's the relaxation factor. After trial tuning and tuning a dog, it is a great relief for handler and dog to walk into the field, send the dog and start putting the hay out. Sheepdogs enjoy the challenge of a trial but they thrive on routine, undemanding, sheepwork.

 

Yes, deliberate training is important. Yes,introduce your sheepdog to range sheep, goats, rank hair sheep, wethers . . . they are postdoc work. But the utter and absolute foundation is daily chores.

 

In the past, with a commercial flock, I trained sheepdogs up from puppies and sometimes bought started dogs. Absent a commercial flock, I do not believe I could train up a youngster to open trial standard.

 

It is possible to have a small commercial flock - say twenty breeding Kathadins or Dorpers. Anyone hoping to one day win an open sheepdog trial should consider starting such a flock. If you don't factor in your time, you can break even, get tax breaks and an education.

 

 

 

Donald McCaig

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All very helpful responses--thanks. From the lack of response, I'm guessing that no one really knows of anyone who has qualified for the Open finals without having their own sheep.

 

 

all of my friends around here that have qualified/run in the National Finals have their own sheep; maybe not a big flock but a flock they keep either at their own place or at a rented farm

 

cynthia

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I wholeheartedly agree with everything Donald said. I just cannot imagine how a person could give either themselves or their dogs the "well-rounded" education that having a breeding flock gives. I think one point that sometimes gets a bit forgotten is that in order to really run a dog well (on whatever stock), one has to learn to read the stock, and to do it well. I just can't see that happening when one gets to sheep even twice a week. It's the issues and problems that arise when doing all those chores with stock that are the best teachers, I think,

A

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All very helpful responses--thanks. From the lack of response, I'm guessing that no one really knows of anyone who has qualified for the Open finals without having their own sheep.

 

Actually I do know a handful of handlers that have qualified for the Nationals but do not have their own sheep. Not saying that is the preferred way to go but it is certainly possible.

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I don't think Julie had her own sheep when she qualified Twist for the finals for the first time. She can correct me if I'm wrong there!

 

I can say I think it is a distinct disadvantage to not have one's own sheep. There is something to be said for walking out into your own back yard (or rented pasture) to work your own sheep. I love to farm-sit - the day to day chores are great for me and my dogs, and I just plain love the sheep. When I was living on two incomes getting my dogs out wasn't a big deal. Now it is a much bigger deal, and my young dogs are not nearly as far along as Nick was at their age - and I suspect a good deal of it has to do with me just not being able to get them out as much. We'll get there - but it'll take much longer.

 

Just my $0.02.

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And at this point I would just add that "qualifying" for Finals is a whole 'nother ball game than being "competitive" at Finals, :rolleyes:

A

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Sorry, Julie--I wasn't referring to your situation. I was responding to the "handful of handlers"; I would consider you to be an exception, :rolleyes:

A

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All I know is this.

 

Sweep the Broom and I had to catch and walk home, 3 5 month old scottie lambs,

Lamb Brain, flighty, split aparts that know how to use brush.

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All I know is this.

 

Sweep the Broom and I had to catch and walk home, 3 5 month old scottie lambs,

Lamb Brain, flighty, split aparts that know how to use brush.

 

 

Now I'm picturing Tea's sheep dodging off into the brush and going all Green Beret in there ... creeping on their bellies, tying clumps of scotch broom to their heads for camouflage ...

 

Trouble is, they really might! :rolleyes:

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Greetings all ~

 

I've been pondering this discussion and there is a lesson to learn: namely, that to succeed in trialing, particularly the higher levels, one needs to avail themselves of every chance to work and work with sheep. For me, owning my own sheep is a physical and financial impossibility. Our 3 rented acres supported 5 sheep for the summer, but our grass is done and they've since gone back home. We're simply not set up to keep sheep year-round, nor could we afford hay to feed through the long months of no grass. (Not to mention our landlord charges extra for livestock on the place. We presume previous tenants abused the property with their livestock.)

 

So, as I work my way up to Pro-Novice and hopefully, one day, to Open, my only hope is that I can soak up sheep savvy in other ways. I help friends and my trainer with their sheep chores at every chance, from stock handling at trials to lambing, banding, vaccinating, ear tagging, doctoring, and hauling to market or trailering out to pick up sheep my friends have bought. I also take every chance to simply sit out with sheep and graze them, and let my dog(s) monitor where they drift. I love doing that duty, because I think it teaches a dog patience and calm. Plus it's just plain restful to the soul. Too, I always take my pups with me when I go help my friends with non-sheep projects like fixing fence or digging ditches or whatever, where the pups have to just hang out and ignore the sheep dozing nearby.

 

I know it's not the same as daily exposure to sheep, but I like to think I'm a fair bit wiser than I was when I started all this 10 years ago. I still have lots to learn, but ... I'm hoping my education won't be too desperately lacking. After all, I'm stepping into USBCHA trialing because I dare to dream. :rolleyes:

Cheers ~

 

Gloria

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