Jump to content
BC Boards

farmers and working dogs


Recommended Posts

Reading through all of Lanas and Bobs posts finds me sitting here emphatically nodding my head.

When apprenticing with different folks it also lends credibility to oneself. This will make it much more likely a farmer would let one use a dog and learn as long as mutual respect is earned.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 100
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Do you belong to your state or local sheep breeders association?

 

Yes, I do. I consider myself a producer and not a hobbyist. There is some interest in dogs, but most farms are set up to work without them. Most producers can move their flock with a bucket of grain. A dog could help with chute work, but without proper training and handling, a dog could be a huge liability in this task as well. There is more interest in LGDs than herding dogs. To be honest, I rarely need a dog in my operation, and I move stock frequently in my pasture management scheme.

 

Dogs can be very hard on livestock (and fences). Until I owned my own sheep, I couldn't appreciate the stress my dogs were causing on livestock. But then, I was training my dogs on dog hobby flocks, and the goals of hobbyists is much different than producers. A dog hobby flock keeps sheep, primarily wethers, to train dogs in as much open space as possible. A producer is concerned mostly with forage management (small paddocks) and rate of gain on lambs/ewes. Many hobbyists I know have giving up on lambing entirely. After three years, I am still trying to balance the two almost opposing goals of dog training and sheep production.

 

I think there is very little work for the sheepdog on a small farm.

Link to post
Share on other sites

And while I find that, on our small farm, there is not a lot of work for a working stockdog, what work the dogs do for us is very significant - it reduces stress first of all on us, and it reduces stress on the livestock (cattle) because it expedites the work that needs to be accomplished.

 

A small amount of work does not equal not being extremely useful.

Link to post
Share on other sites

When I was a kid I saw the ranches work dogs on cattle. This was mostly in the Siskiyous and in Yolo county.....whoa...a long time ago. Later as a young adult in Cut Bank Mt.

( I paid little attention because I wanted to jump horses. But it must have made an impression on me.)

 

I started our ag project here 8 years ago and knew I would not do it without a dog. Because we have to forage the sheep loose.....and in a single day a dog may gather fields, negotiate narrow trails through deep forest and work roads. Then sort in small pens, load rigs, unload and help catch strange sheep for me to shear. Shed off ewes to milk.

And to me the hardest thing is to work at the mobile slaughter. I really respect my young dogs that have done this. And my dog Gunny and my friend Pat who showed me how.

In the spring and summer, the work load is reduced as I can put up netting in the big fields. But during the winter the sheep forage/browse on indigenous brush on the trails. The project owns 8 acres, but we have access to hundreds.....no morgage/no taxes/no fence repair....good work for young people. But you need to be outside in any weather for 4 to 6 hours each day.

 

I have had help from many folks that trial...Thank you all for your help.

And I have had help from two old cattlemen who have never seen a trial and my two slaughtermen friends both of whom work dogs and have never trialed.

 

The greatest praise I think my dogs ever had was the compliment from one of these men.

 

And this year I was asked to talk about foraging stock loose at the Cattlemen's winter school.

Where I handed out buisness cards from Open handlers who teach and train.

 

I needed two dogs to replace my old dogs and I bred my Taw and Sweep. After I had had enough requests from farmers that wanted one of their pups. I am keeping two pups. I did alot of research. Maybe enough, maybe not. I sure talked to alot of folks I respect. But these pups will come back to me if they don't work out. And I put in my contract where the farmers must go to get their young dog started. (Those same open handlers that teach and train.) I also gave them info on how to keep their pups, not watching stock...etc....

I also relied heavily on Eileen's contract.

 

And told them I will hire a pro to come out and help them if needed. This will also help me know about this cross.

 

And I have to add I have had handlers come out and show surprise at the ammount the dogs must do. And Respect how hard some of it is. And give pointers. The dogs also had to do things at a relatively young age. Because two of my old dogs had problems with their health. If dogs don't work out...well I'm sunk. If you are miles away from home on unfenced land and your dog, quits, sulks or is a coward you are sunk.

 

If I got to catch a ferry and the dog can't quietly safely load the rig and do it so I make the boat I might miss a sale.

 

If I am moving stock at the slaughter yard and my dog grips wrong...the feds won't pass the carcass and I'm sunk.

 

I have learned, believe me, by doing.

 

 

 

we are surviving

 

By sales of lamb to resturants interested in the slow food movement. By sale of hand made clothes, soap made from sheep tallow, hides naturally tanned, breeding stock. And Brush clearing

etc. And we have about 120 head of breeding ewes. ( Not counting dairy goats or calves.)

 

All this is carried by the swift paws of my dogs.

 

and I know I have alot to learn...and it is a joy.

Link to post
Share on other sites

[quote name='Wendy V' timestamp='1297685072' post='382444'

 

I think there is very little work for the sheepdog on a small farm.

 

Hi Wendy, I'm not sure I agree with this sentence. Compared to trailing 600 sheep every day, I guess a small farm has smaller needs. I have a 'small' farm but like you consider myself a producer as it is my only income. (hubby works off farm and pays mortgage, but my income tax says farmer) I can unequivocally say that I could not do my job without my dog(s).

 

Producers in my area tend to invest thousands of dollars in equipment to handle sheep. I can do most of the same thing with the dogs. Yes, I have some pens set up...but I can sort off my sheep in as short a time with the dog, as those with equipment. I may not be sorting or trailing sheep all day, but I do it enough that the dog is needed. Every chore I do (other than tractor things) is ably helped by the dog. I've learned the hard way that moving sheep without the dog is usually impossible. Even with a grain bucket. (obviously the sheep have learned to move for the dog....wish I could remember that when I think I can do it myself)

 

I do hear some producers say the same thing....that they don't have the work for a dog. I don't know what to say other than if I don't have a dog I'm always cursing myself for not bringing one along......

 

Thousands of dollars in equipment versus a few thousand for a trained dog.......

 

I think Pearse says it most wisely..........you get to take the dog home with you....

 

Nanc

Link to post
Share on other sites

[quote name='Wendy V' timestamp='1297685072' post='382444'

 

I think there is very little work for the sheepdog on a small farm.

 

Hi Wendy, I'm not sure I agree with this sentence. Compared to trailing 600 sheep every day, I guess a small farm has smaller needs. I have a 'small' farm but like you consider myself a producer as it is my only income. (hubby works off farm and pays mortgage, but my income tax says farmer) I can unequivocally say that I could not do my job without my dog(s).

 

Producers in my area tend to invest thousands of dollars in equipment to handle sheep. I can do most of the same thing with the dogs. Yes, I have some pens set up...but I can sort off my sheep in as short a time with the dog, as those with equipment. I may not be sorting or trailing sheep all day, but I do it enough that the dog is needed. Every chore I do (other than tractor things) is ably helped by the dog. I've learned the hard way that moving sheep without the dog is usually impossible. Even with a grain bucket. (obviously the sheep have learned to move for the dog....wish I could remember that when I think I can do it myself)

 

I do hear some producers say the same thing....that they don't have the work for a dog. I don't know what to say other than if I don't have a dog I'm always cursing myself for not bringing one along......

 

Thousands of dollars in equipment versus a few thousand for a trained dog.......

 

I think Pearse says it most wisely..........you get to take the dog home with you....

 

Nanc

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll add my own tuppence to Tea's eloquent and thoughtful post.

 

Yesterday a friend and I went to visit a local small-holder who raises fine-wool sheep. My friend initially met these people because they were driving by and saw my friend outside working her dogs, and stopped to talk. They invited her to come see their place, and yesterday was the day.

 

These people have three border collies, all older. All very well bred. The youngest is 7 and from one of Bill Slaven's breedings. However, these people don't really know how to train their dogs, so they've always just used whatever talents the dogs naturally possessed. The woman wants to learn better, so I walked out with her and her dogs and showed her a couple simple things.

 

This lady's dog is very nice, but you can see he's missed some foundation work. He's too pushy and tends to be one-sided. She didn't know how to fix this, so I watched her and the dog, and thought up a couple simple things for her to work on. The dog is very bidable, and his good breeding shows. He'll do anything she asks, if she just makes it clear what she wants. When we finished, she was doing the exercises I showed her and the improvement was immediate. We have an invitation to come back, which we'll take them up on.

 

This lady and her husband have been raising sheep for 40 years. She doesn't want to trial. She just wants a more efficient dog. These are the people the border collie world needs. Like Tea, like countless others, they simply need a talented partner to make the work more efficient.

 

I'm reaching out to just one sheep farmer. But that's one sheep rancher more. This is where the border collie originally came from, farmers both large and small. That's why I think it's important we nurture these ancient roots.

 

Sometimes opportunities knock where you least expect them. I think the trick is to be a little lucky and a lot open.

Respectfully submitted,

 

Gloria

Link to post
Share on other sites

Tea - what you experience is not what you would find here in Michigan. As grazing management becomes more widespread, the sheepdog becomes more useful, but this is the land of the row crop and large pasture areas are hard to come by.

 

Nancy - I am a new producer and I shepherd on the cheap, meaning minimal equipment, pasture lambing, etc. I use my dogs, of course, but I could do so without one as well, with the investment in handling equipment, which would only be a couple thousand dollars. Most of my sorting is done because I sort sheep to train the dogs, not because it is needed on a daily basis. It isn't. Even in a pasture lambing set-up, I rarely enter a paddock with a dog because I utilize small electrified paddocks and don't want to panic ewes with small lambs. I do most of my docking/castrating,catching of lambs with a leg crook. I could not get close to the ewes with a dog by my side.

 

Most sheep producers in this state are old and aging, set in their ways and already own their handling equipment. Anyone new can only afford small parcels because land prices are bid up by row crop farmers. The state sheep extension specialist (a neighbor) runs 150 ewes on 35 acres, practices pasture lambing, rotational grazing and grazing of off-farm crop residuals, all without a dog.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with Nancy. I raise market lambs (three-tier production system) and am just now hoping to expand into the handspinner's market as well. While I don't have hours of work for my dogs every day, like Nancy I also don't have any sort of handling system so everything I do WRT care and maintenance of my sheep is done with a dog. If I need to trim feet or worm or doctor, a dog holds the sheep in a corner while I do what I need to do. If someone comes to buy a sheep off the farm, a bucket of grain might not be sufficient to help me get the sheep up and then single off the chosen one. Even if I'm gate sorting, a dog is invaluable. And pushing sheep onto a trailer? Even if they're hungry, they aren't necessarily inclined to load themselves with a bucket of corn being rattled in their faces, but they sure do with a dog pushing from behind.

 

When I moved and my sheep were still at the old place and I was running back and forth, the value of a dog for just the smallest chore (feeding) was brought home pretty quickly--it had been raining, the wool sheep were wet, and I had no dog to hold them off me when I walked into their pasture with feed. It was a mob scene, and I was drenched by wet wool and run over by hungry sheep. I've never quite gotten the bucket training thing--the last thing I want is sheep mobbing me when I have a bucket in hand.

 

And to be honest, even though I have perhaps the world's mellowist ram, I wouldn't dream of going into his space without a dog. One year when I had older ewes trying to steal lambs from new mothers, discovered just at dark, a good lambing dog was essential. And at the old place, if I was having predation issues with my poultry (who roosted in the barn), I could send a dog out in the dark to gather the flock and bring them into the barn area, knowing all would be accounted for, so that the guard dog could prevent access to the poultry (the sheep pasture was separated from the barn area).

 

I can operate on a shoestring (no handling eqipment, no mechanized equipment, mostly open pasture, etc.), because of my dogs. Without them I don't think I'd bother.

 

So while small producers may not have the same needs as large producers, I think I can safely say that even small producers can benefit from having a dog.

 

J.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Dear Sheepdoggers,

 

I have never known a sheep farmer, 1000 ewe or 30 ewe flock who had one good sheepdog who was ever again without one. They change the way you farm. Instead of bringing feed and water to the sheep (DEEP SNOW ANYONE?) you bring the sheep in. If you walk among them in a far pasture and one needs attention, you attend to her. You needn't fetch the flock back to handling facilities. In the winter, when big, wet wooly ewes are desperate to get to the feed bunks, the dog keeps them off until you have all the feed down. No, you don't need to close the gate.If the river floods - as ours has - you can bring your terrified sheep through kneedeep swirling water to safety. When you load lambs for market, the dog puts them into the truck/trailer without fuss and at the market he'll scoot underneath a truckload of lambs to fetch them onto the loading dock.

 

Many sheep chores are repetitive: every day whatever the weather. In many years of rearing sheep, I've been frozen, soaked, roasted, mudded and done some sheep surfing but in all those years, I've never been bored.

 

Because my friend is always eager to help. He goes out with me when my hired men stay home by the fire.

 

My friend accompanies me in the 3am when I need to check that dropped ewe who tripletted last year. When I can't see my hand in front of my face, I send him after the flock. He doesn't seem to mind bad weather and though sometimes he pauses so I can pluck the ice between his toes, he goes until it packs up again. He brings his thistled paw to my attention. He hates thunder and lightning, but he's never quit on me. He'll face a cross ram six times his body weight and keep my wife safe.

 

And, over the years, he and I have had some remarkable conversations, some of which I've mentioned elsewhere.

 

Donald McCaig

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry, but this made me pause. Why would a dog be by your side, if you wanted to get near to the ewes?

 

If you don't use a tool correctly, of course you won't get useful results from it.

 

Puzzled in South Central PA

Liz S

 

 

Huh. I missed that post. I think we must be missing her point, because of course one can't get near the ewes with a dog beside them. When I help friends with banding or vaccinations, I use the dog to hold the sheep to me.

 

~ Gloria

Link to post
Share on other sites

Back to farmers...

 

I just got off the phone with a x-bull rider that raises rodeo stock, he has worked with us to get more handle and control over his dogs discovering how useful a dog that does more then bite can be. He told me that this past weekend he was contacted to try to salvage a show bull that had escaped from the local fairgrounds. Valued at $4,000.00 hand raised on the loose, they tried the bucket, tried the farm dog that only heels-just got the bull angrier, he was their last hope and the next option was a bullet and hamburger. He was able to get the bull caught up with his female, granted it was not an easy go, the bull was mad, looking to hurt whoever he could line out and was not dog broke but his little bitch was able to get the bulls respect and move it over to a farm where it could be corralled. This little dog is a tough little thing with a heck of a nose bite, but she also takes her directions and will stop.

 

The part that I am the most proud of is that this friend has another dog that is even tougher that can only be managed when you are close to him, he said that he knew that he didn't have enough handle on that dog to get the job done and didn't bother to drop him, a couple of years ago he would have tried to do it with the tougher dog thinking that more dog would be better then a correct dog that listened.

 

Anyway, as someone said above, sometimes the opportunities to show good dogs working to the farmers just happens. The phone call was to give us a heads up and to expect inquiries from down his way, many onlookers wanting to know where to find those types of dogs and who can help train them, he's referring them our way as we are who helpped him. I don't expect any follow up calls, but you never know, it might be 5 years from now and just 1, but that will be enough, or one or two of those cattle producers may look at the cattledog trials at the state fair differently this year and find help from one of our other handlers. I think that is something that some don't realize, we don't see the return on our time investment often times for many years, we have had 1st time calls this past winter from people who saw our dogs 3 years ago, they took a business card and hung on to it.

 

Deb

Link to post
Share on other sites

Cowboys are often convinced border collies are too soft. They don't like a dog with lots of eye, they prefer something with some bite and dash, and there you get the mixed breeds.

Plus, without proper understanding of what a border collie is bred to do or knowledge of how to train it, they sometimes get their britches in a twist because "the damn dog won't get out of the gate." They don't know the dog is trying to fetch the cows to them, they just want the dog to drive the cows, instead.

 

 

But I wish I could think of some good suggestions as to how the working border collie could get some better press, and reach the attention of those folks beyond the blacktop's end. They're out there - we have the cowdog trials in Winnemucca every year. Somehow, though, the border collie and its champions need to overcome some old, closely-held misconceptions about what the border collie as a useful dog can really do.

 

I totally agree. So true that many cowboys here in the high desert think BCs are often too soft to work the "dog-fighting" range cows and seem to think BCs won't drive cattle, but mess up the drive by pushing them back to you etc.

 

Unfortunately over the years on many issues I have noticed, a person just have to show them wrong by doing something, they didn't think is possible. They don't just take your word for it, but have to see it with their own eyes.

 

So it's not the easiest thing trying to convince them about the greatness of border collies, if you don't have a chance to show them in actual working conditions, what your dog can do...handle the cattle work/cows and have also enough stamina/endurance to make about 30 mile circles to gather the herd, considering that the ground is usually fairly rough with the sharp rocks etc.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I totally agree. So true that many cowboys here in the high desert think BCs are often too soft to work the "dog-fighting" range cows and seem to think BCs won't drive cattle, but mess up the drive by pushing them back to you etc.

 

 

That is what started this whole thread, how to educate the farmers/ranchers what a BC is and how to best use them.

Link to post
Share on other sites

That is what started this whole thread, how to educate the farmers/ranchers what a BC is and how to best use them.

 

All I can say, there are different needs for farmers and ranchers, depending totally on their operation and outfit. The ranchers I know have pretty much their mind already set up about dogs and are fairly opinionated, so no talk will change their mind(plus, they have had their bad experiences before and have been told a lot of BS, too)...they have to see the dog working.

 

IMO, all we BC people can do, is to provide the best example we can to them and not try to "push" our opinions too strongly.

 

I myself don't know anything about sheep or working sheep, all I do is run a cow/calf -operation and I use pure bred border collies. The best way I feel I can promote the breed, is to let my neighbours see my dogs working and use my dogs also when I go to help the neighbours on their ranches.

It is a nice feeling, when someone makes a point to tell me to be sure to bring a dog/dogs along(as I often might not take them...knowing that some ranches don't like to see too many dogs working on their cattle).

Link to post
Share on other sites
Sorry, but this made me pause. Why would a dog be by your side, if you wanted to get near to the ewes?

 

In a pasture lambing situation, I do not need to gather all the ewes/lambs in a paddock, I just need to check out only one particular ewe, or have a need to catch newborn lambs for processing. Gathering the whole flock could cause trampling of newborns and contribute to mis-mothering, as well as create undue stress on heavily pregnant ewes. I can usually get close to my targeted ewe/lambs by walking slowly around the flock until I can capture them with my leg crook. I admit, I do not know how to use a dog in this situation. The paddocks are 164' square of electrified netting and hold over 50 ewes with lambs and would not stand up to stock pressure. I am open to suggestions. Please assume that I have dogs trained to an open level. Most sheep farmers I know would have an untrained dog. How would your suggestions change, given the training level of the dog?

 

When I help friends with banding or vaccinations, I use the dog to hold the sheep to me.

 

Gloria, I process lambs on DOB. How do I single off a ewe without

disturbing the others?

 

If you don't use a tool correctly, of course you won't get useful results from it.

 

I certainly hope your advice to farmer/ranchers is more helpful that. The tone alone, much less the need to define a pasture lambing situation, would reduce your credibility to zero.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest carol campion

As Wendy points out from her experience, in some situations, a dog is not always the best tool. In a small area like she is describing, it is more efficient and wise to do this without a dog so as not to trample lambs and cause chaos or get the dog hurt. Also, in tight quarters, some overly protective ewes with earlier born lambs might attack the dog while it is focused on the ewe & lamb you are trying to catch.

 

I lamb outside in April. I do take a dog with me, but I have PLENTY of space. The dog stays at my side unless I need it. We walk the area a few times a day checking for lambs. Usually a new mother and its lambs will have isolated themselves off from the flock. It will usually face the dog so you barely need a dog for more than to catch the ewe of the ewe so you can grab its lamb. Mine is a fairly docile flock of sheep. Lambing somewhere that the ewes are wilder and the spaces greater, you would need a dog to do more. The dog would still be at my side unless I needed it.

 

If the area the ewes are in is tight of space as what Wendy describes and is experiencing, the dog cannot be far enough away from the ewes to enable you to get near the one that has lambed that you want. Especially with the fencing she has described.

 

Wendy, isn't it wonderful how these new experiences develop your stock sense to a heightened degree. It is just as important to know when to take the dog pressure off as to when to put it on and it sounds like you have that one figured out for your property.

 

 

Carol

Link to post
Share on other sites

I just had a passing thought, it may be a good idea to attend some farm tours or field days, it is amazing the diversity farms have, to the point of each one being different, I don't think will find two that are the same.

 

The state or regional cattlemen's/sheep associations should have dates and locations. Last year we were invited to the HAT Ranch Field day, basically the owner openned his farm up, shared information about their breeding program, pasture/feeding management and had other education opportunities, in the past they have brought in a well known low stress livestock management clinicianer.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Gloria, I process lambs on DOB. How do I single off a ewe without

disturbing the others?

 

Hi Wendy ~

 

Of course you know your operation and how to get things done most efficiently. :) I am probably envisioning things that simply won't work, given your situation. I'm used to helping a friend whose ewes lamb in a large pen, with smaller pens attached. So it's easy to use a dog and a person to sort off a ewe and new lamb(s) (with a couple other ewes along for comfort) and catch the babies for processing. Her sheep are used to that and put up minimal fuss.

 

So, there's a risk in others (like me) offering comments without having seen how your outfit works or knowing your sheep. :) My apologies if I came across as a know-it-all: I ain't one!

 

~ Gloria

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...