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Right at 100 ewes (plus a few wethered school sheep), and a ram who is with the ewes year round = lots 'o lambs. At the moment, 90+ on the ground since mid October, and more coming every day. I'm on 500+ acres, some of which is in orange and avocado groves, at least 100 is fenced pastures, with 120 in rangeland. Other than taking them to one of the various pastures in the morning, back to the night pen at night, worming, tagging, banding lambs, and so on, our biggest job is keeping sheep in a pasture. The fences here were originally built for horses, so they don't reach the ground in most places. The sheep have learned to slip under the fences to escape into the groves, no matter how nice the grass is in the pasture. So I spend a fair amount of time while reading and commenting on student papers, with a dog, sending the dog to tuck sheep back into pastures when they make a jail break (with tiny lambs alongside). It's time consuming, but great work for the dogs. Avocado groves are notoriously built on steep slopes, and they are dense, so the dogs are on their own when I send them up there to bring sheep out. The last couple of youngsters I have started have been "trained" with just on-the-job-training.

 

What I look for in a dog? My absolute top priority is a natural feel for stock--the ability to read stock and respond appropriately, pretty much right out of the box. For example, a youngster who, at 6 or 7 months, can get behind a momma and her new lambs and feel the right amount of pressure needed to move them without being stupid...and then also have the push needed to dog break calves.

 

My 2 cents,

A

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Farm: 25 acres and 10 acres of leased pasture some good fencing and some very old barbed wire. We have 80 ewesWe use the dogs to worm sheep, move ewes with lambs when we need to lock them up together, gather escaped sheep (gone through the old fencing), move the flock from one field to another, and we trial.We want a dog with a natural outrun, a good feel for their sheep, a biddable dog, and one that wants to please us.

Mark

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I am sitting at 60 sheep and one surly goat...we will lamb out in end of March/April so will be close to 100 sheep. I also used to shepherd 100 ewes that were not dog broke and help lamb them out but he sold most of the flock in the fall. I also sometimes help load/unload up to 100 goats and sheep for water rentention projects- none are dog broke (yet)

 

I also buy lambs, finish them out for the Muslim market and buy new replacement stock. Most of the time they haven't seen dogs. Some of my ewes I don't work very much so they are fresh and fast. My dogs get to work a lot on lambing time and doing chores, worming, shots, stall work etc.....We also turn the sheep loose to graze so the dogs learn to "tend" the flock. Tess has it down pat and I can go in the house, fix lunch and come back out and she has them in the area, grazing and not crossing the boundar..sometimes she acts like she is sleeping and one ewe will try to cross the magic line, she will open an eye and the ewe will stop.........the other dogs haven't go it all figured out yet....I just sit outside in my chair with my book wiht them next to me. It has taught them to settle down, especially Nan. She used to be wired and shake but now has calmed down a lot. She works in brace with Tess and watches to see what Tess did. I still do tending work with Tess as it doesn't require a lot of work on her part and she loves it.

 

I have ten acres at home then lease out 25 more which I drive my sheep down the road 1/3 miles to it. This helps my dogs a lot as the sheep want to break up/down the neighbor's driveway or try to make a break for town. Or slip thru the cattleman's barb wire fence to join his cattle.

 

Most of my work is non-trial work but good ole fashioned farm work. However, when I do the chores, I still require a down, square flanks and so forth....

 

Plus I use the dogs to herd the chickens, ducks, geese and guineas. The Guineas have taught the dogs about pushing thru the bubble because when they do, the Guineas freak and fly off.....

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  • 1 month later...

Hi,

I am not from USA but nevertheless perhaps it is interesting for you ...

I have about 100 ewes and 30 milk goats, then 2 rams, a billy goat and of course several lambs and young goats. My pasture is distributed in many pieces. There one hectare, there 5 hectares, there 3 hectares and so on. So I have to move my flocks very often. Sometimes one kilometer, the next time 6 kilometer, the next time more....we have to cross roads and traverse villages.

 

Therefore I need dogs who are natural, willing to work, clever, they must work calm with brain, they must be obedient but also have a sense for the livestock. Then they have to be healthy and good natured. I can not use dogs who are keen on sheep without obedience, brain or self control.

 

Most of my dogs are "farm-breeded" and I do not care whether the ancestors have had sucess on a trial field or not. But the ancestors had be good farm dogs and the parents should do simlilar work with the same livestock in a similar area that I do.

 

That is what I pay attention because that is what I need.

 

In past I already had dogs from open trial winners and these dogs wasn't good for my work. One was afraid of the goats, the next hadn't any interest in work, one hadn't had any self control and was too wild for our hills and an other one was a biter - no grip but he injured the sheep. All of them no easy dogs, very complicated ones. Therefore I prefer a pup from good and healthy registered farm dogs and I only take a pup from a trial line if I don't find any good one from a farm.

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  • 4 months later...

I have and will continue to buy dogs from regular farmers. My brother bought a 10 week old female BC for $50. She was just as good or better than all those fancy dogs with papers and awesome bloodlines. Smart, no genetic problems, very heavy herding instincts, etc.

I will not buy dogs with papers. I see no reason to buy a dog and have to pay $500+ basically just because he has papers. Or course, if I was going to show them but I am not. I only want them for farm work and companionship. Around here, people breed purebred, high quality dogs WITHOUT papers or x-rays or whatever some people do. As I said, you get just as much or more of a dog for hundreds less dollars. As one horse seller said when questioned by the customer if he had papers, "You don't eat the papers."

That's just how I think. ;)

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Actually, he got very lucky. All he knew was that he wanted a BC. She was the only one left, so he took her. He ended up giving her to me because he couldn't give her the exercise she needed-I live on a farm with cows and interest in training and exercising her. She was the best dog I've ever owned.

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Given natural ability, the work makes the dog. Most of the US has small flocks (under 100 ewes), so there really isn't much work for the dogs. I have 80 ewes and so can have almost 200 sheep when lambs are on the ground, but, frankly, that isn't much work for a dog. Not considering what these dogs are capable of.

 

If all things being equal between farm vs. trial dog, I would buy the dog I like, first, then give preference to the dog from trial lines. To be successful on the trial field, the dog must be able to cope with intense training pressure. Many dogs are not up to this. Also, the trial dog has been successful in many venues and circustances. Since I trial dogs, I need a dog that is adaptable to a variety of sheep and terrains. The trial field can be a good test for what I require in a dog. But I am no fool, I know what trials are a test of the dog versus a test of the handler. I know which trials have challenging sheep or offer only dogged farm stock. I know that many good handlers can mask the faults in a dog (that is our job, really). And I know that many good farm dogs (farm, not ranch, as I cannot speak about that) shine with repetitive work on familiar ground with sheep that they are familiar with.

 

Most open handlers I know hunger for a challenge. They will travel great distances to trial their dog on a true test of sheep. Most would donate their time in exhange for an opportunity to work their dog on tough sheep on open ground. Most would be thrilled to be able to have the opportunity to expand the capabilities of their dogs and themselves. Most are reaching for mastery.

 

To denigrate that effort is ridiculous, as it would be to lump all trial dogs under a lable of "mechanical", "weak", "unable to move large amounts of livestock". Given the right work, many dogs of the trial field would be able to rise to the challenge.

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And I know that many good farm dogs (farm, not ranch, as I cannot speak about that) shine with repetitive work on familiar ground with sheep that they are familiar with.

You should come and visit Iceland during the fall round up. That is not quite "repetitive work on familiar grounds, with familiar sheep". Pretty much the opposite on all three counts I´d say.... ;)

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I pick a dog by the dog. Just got my first pup 7 months ago. Before that I i got my dogs at just around 15 months old. This allowed me to see pretty much what I was getting. They have all been from trial lines but if I saw a farm/ranch youngster that struck my fancy I wouldn't hesitate.

 

Papers provide a history, perhaps a look into the future. Nothing more than a tool in one's selection process. If I can I want to see parents work. Hopefully a video if I can't see them in action. One of the reasons I have taken so many videos of Suzy Applegate's Buzz. Love the dog. Now have one a son and a nephew. Just tools of the selection process.

 

As Wendy said in her great post, one of the things necessary for a successful trial dog is an ability to generalize. They know their job and can do it anywhere, any field, any sheep. Adapt to the course, the terrain and the breed of sheep.

Can a "farm" dog do that? Quite possibly but often is not asked of it so we don't know. Not a knock on the dog. They just haven't been given the opportunity to show their stuff. Not needed on the 15 acre farm with 60 head where chores can be pretty much the same everyday.

 

The other thing necessary for the successful trial dog is balance... a balance between a natural ability to get the job done and a willingness to take direction from their partner. Breeding for the biddable dog. Again... farm dogs can be and most probably are biddable as well... but, again, not necessarily a big part of the daily job.

 

My expectation of my "trial dogs" is that we can go to Lana's, Joe's, or anywhere else and move sheep, worm, trail, gather huge pastures, lamb... whatever the job requires. Well trained dogs that understand their job and listen well so they can learn to do new jobs in a hurry.

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You should come and visit Iceland during the fall round up. That is not quite "repetitive work on familiar grounds, with familiar sheep". Pretty much the opposite on all three counts I´d say.... ;)

 

This sort of group round-up may be common in Iceland or parts of the UK where there are hill farms with widely-scattered sheep, but it's not what happens in the US particularly in the East, so it wouldn't be common for so many of the small farm dogs here. In order for them to get varied sheep and locations, they would have to travel to friends' farms and/or go trialing most of the time.

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You should come and visit Iceland during the fall round up. That is not quite "repetitive work on familiar grounds, with familiar sheep".

But it sounds like a wonderful opportunity to say the least!

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In parts of the Western US bands of sheep are still trailed for up to a week to summer mountain pasture and back down in the late summer or fall. Ranchers have land and/or allotments in the mountains. The sheep are constantly moved so as not to overgraze areas. Herders move camps to keep up with the flocks.

 

What an experience for the dogs and herders who work the sheep, both in US and Iceland.

 

Summer pasture sounds a bit like the Icelandic round-up. My understanding is that bands are not mixed together here, but from your description, owners just turn their sheep out to common pasture in Iceland and separate them later.

 

Am I understanding your practice correctly? I'd like to learn more about it.-- TEC

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Yeah that is about right. "Common pasture"= the great outdoors, true free range foraging.

 

When you own sheep here and you release them over summer you are obliged to take part in the round up in autumn. Your number of winter fed ewes determines the amount of "dagsvinnu" = 1 day labor you have to provide. This number varies a bit, where I live it is 30 ewes= 1 day . I have to provide 4 days minimum, but in practice I provide more, because it is fun, and as a favor to neighbors, there is always a shortage in this part of Iceland the amount of farmers has decreased, but the search area hasn´t. My status leveled considerably up since i took Glama along first time last year.

 

One of the (usually older) farmers in a certain area is named "chef", he calls the people together, and you have to attend unless you can give pretty good reasons why you can´t come (for instance being really sick). This system is pretty holy, and not to be trifled with.

"Að svíkja göngur"= not doing your plight is considered a grave offense, and you will be fined a days wages ( which are actually pretty low). You are payed these standard day wages if someone asks you to take part one or more days in his place. I have done this for people.

 

There are strange achaic laws here that say that if you own land ( open uncultivated land) here you have to allow your neighbours the right of grazing, and (hold on to your hats) you are also obliged to help them round up their sheep from your land were they have been grazing all summer without their owners having to pay you a dime, on the contrary you have to provide them with labor or day wage payment to get their animals of your land.... :lol: (Admittedly those laws are afaik not enforced). They were made in other times when nobody owned land without owning sheep.

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Thank you for the great description. Every country and region seems to have its own interesting customs and practices.

 

Are your sheep tended or watched after turn-out? As I recall you have no predators to sheep, so perhaps they simply forage for themselves throughout the summer without supervision? -- TEC

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Your assumption is right, there is no supervision, the sheep go where they like. Though there are no predators to speak of (some would count the arctic fox, i am not one of them), of course this has its disadvantages, sheep get sick, or wounded, and this can be fatal. There are always a few sheep/lambs lost over the summer.

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She was the only one left from what? How did he chose his puppy?

From the litter. He replied to an ad that said something like this. "Border Collie puppies. 10 weeks, mom and dad good cow dogs. 5 males 2 females. Call-xxx-xxx-xxxx"

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