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Herding Lambs?


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Novice question: I have heard that ewes with lambs can be hard to herd as the ewe will be protective of her lamb(s) and might challenge a dog. I have also heard that young lambs are hard to herd because they do not flock together very well. At what age will lambs begin to show flocking i.e. act more like adult sheep with respect to being able to be herded by dogs?


TIA for your responses.

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Most lambs I have moved with their moms are a bit oblivious to the dogs, they go along because everyone else is going. I dont think it is so much they do not flock as it is they dont respond to the dog or use of eye or body movement like older sheep. I cant say what age that changes but it is a couple months imo.I have early weaned lambs at 2.5 to 3 months old and worked only lambs and those did fine, were a bit challenging to get them all lined out but working as a group did well. Individual lambs can get squirrelly


Now I have had different dogs develop their own "style' to deal with young lambs and be very effective in moving them. Lad pushed them along with his nose at times to nudge them in the right direction, Meg will do an army crawl working a couple inches off the ground when moving new pairs.


I imagine it could be a bit breed dependent as well.

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I am definitely no expert but me and my dogs manage most tasks. I haven't had too much of a problem moving ewes and their lambs. The mothers can stamp a bit and some sly old girls will try and abscond with their lambs when they see an opportunity. I find if the dog works them calmly they are less likely to get upset. I have 2 dogs and one has a lot more presence and very few ewes mess with him, the other one, a kelpie, works with patience and has a fair bit of eye and will hold her ground and the ewes usually stand down and move on. The lambs just stick my mamas side as far as I can see.


Both my dogs move young lambs reasonably effectively although they have to work a bit harder and be on the ball.

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I've found that lambs start acting more like adults once they have been weaned for a couple of months--they are actually pretty fun for a dog (but not a total novice dog) before that because the dog has to really think about how to move them. I have frequently worked dogs on just a group of near-weaning or newly weaned lambs. If I were getting sheep for the first time to work my dog on and both of us were novices, I would try and get a couple of adults in the group if possible as that usually settles the lambs down. Though, if you are talking about Cheviots, all bets are off :P

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We generally take weaned lambs and break them (using fully trained dogs) to be our training sheep for the year. The problems with lambs by themselves is they are leaderless and so are reactive and silly. If you put just one older sheep with them, they will follow that sheep (in general; you'll still get some lamb silliness but not to the point of killing themselves running into fences and the like). It's actually a very easy way to dog break them.


Ours get used to being worked by dogs early on because we need to be able to move their moms. The dogs pretty much will ignore the lambs that come up to them out of curiosity, but as time goes on and the lambs get some age on them (usually around a month old or so) the dogs begin to treat them more like sheep.


Individual ewes vary in their protectiveness or aggression toward dogs. I used to have a Scottish blackface ewe that would cross an entire field to go after a dog when she had a lamb at her side. Some of my more docile sheep will just turn and go no matter what, and then there's the entire spectrum in between. We have a tunis ewe right now who if the dog pushes in too close is going to stand and fight. But if the dog bumps her bubble then stops, she will turn and walk off with her lambs. This is where knowing your sheep, or being able to read them, can be invaluable. You can get ewes and their lambs moved without setting up big fights. I was able to move that Tunis ewe even with one of my youngsters simply by strategically asking her up and lying her down at the right moments so that the ewe never felt a need to challenge her.


I have also found that breed characteristics can affect how soon, if ever, lambs will become less flighty. Although working lambs alone can be a good challenge for a more experienced dog, I try to keep their stress to a minimum, so if the lambs are running and breaking a lot, I will usually try to find an older adult to put in with them. It reduces stress that is inherent with weaning and also makes for fewer problems when dog breaking the lambs away from their mamas.



The sheep being used for the clinic this weekend will be last year's lambs (now yearlings). Since we don't breed in their first season, the lambs earn their keep by being worked by dogs. They will be mixed in with this year's weaned lambs to become the working flock for this year. In the fall, last year's lambs (now 18 months old) will be pulled out for breeding and the lambs, which will be roughly 6 months old and pretty used to being worked by dogs, though still rather lamblike, will be the training flock through breeding and lambing next spring. It's an easy way to have a new supply of fresh sheep.


We keep a small group of goats for starting the very beginner dogs.



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I agree with Julie.


My sheep are range ewes, polypay/targhee/marino

And will readily fight a dog.

One thing I will note:


This is where I can readily see presence as opposed to just getting close and gripping.

And also common sense as a dog understands young lambs are goofy.


I moved about one flock of 50 ewes with 5 day old lambs out to hills today and comparing dogs is very interesting.


Taw making it look very simple off just her presence, others- not so much.


which leads me to ask- how common is great presence?


how well can it be reproduced?


I have two litters from Taw


None have the same degree of presence she has.


Tho- Two are pretty dang good, from first litter- jake being one of these.


The second litter, only one has it similar as Taw but Only on sheep? No interest in this young dog to work cows.


I have one grandaughter that looks like she might.

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Thanks to everyone for their replies. And if anyone else wants to chime in, please do.



Your system for working yearling/lambs and 'training' up the young lambs as replacements sounds very logical.


We will see if Kiefer needs the goats this weekend. If he does, he does, but I am hoping that we have progressed a little. It will be good to have another pair of eyes on him. Also looking forward to seeing other teams.

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I agree with what Julie said. I generally also use the "older" lams for being worked by dogs (these are Dorpers, BTW) . By the time they are big enough to be worked (maybe 4-ish months or so), they have been moved enough with the whole group to be aware of how to respond to the dog. They are fun to work.


I used to have a situation where I would turn the whole group out to pasture from the night pen each morning. The mothers would be in such a hurry to go eat that they would race ahead, and often a gang of lambs would be left behind, clueless. (The mothers with brand new lambs would always lag at the rear of the group, and wait on their babies, but once the lambs were a few days old, food took over for the moms.) Some of these lambs would be as young as maybe 3 days or so, some up to a week or more. I would often have a gang of maybe 12-15 of these squirrely little goobers. I have found that many dogs will chose to ignore lambs this young--they simply don't want to mess with them. I guess maybe their energy is weird. But if you have a dog that chooses to see them, and move them, it is a blast. I've got one dog who is now 5 who has handled young lambs like this really well since she was less than a year old. She will drive them to where their mothers are. But the lambs are really squirty, so the dog has to really be on top of things, doing a lot of flanking to keep them moving in the right direction. This particular dog will give the lambs the softest little heel nudges if necessary to keep them moving, and even little gentle nose nips when they try to double back (which they will do again and again and again). This is really a fun project, just frustrating when you need to get in the vehicle to get to work. This is not a project that goes quickly or even smoothly, but if you have a dog that can do this, it's way cool,


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Celt would *not* work our calves for two reasons - the first and most important being that our nuturing but hard-working Aussie, MacLeod, let both Celt and Megan know that little calves were under his protection. Megan got over it and became my best new calf locator. Celt never got over the warning, even when Mac was long gone.


Celt also did not appreciate animals that did not respond properly to his very properly-applied pressure. Better to work the cows and the calves would follow. No cows to follow? Celt would work a calf that was old enough to respond but not one that was younger.


Anna will remember "Dan's little lamb", a new lamb who met Dan when he was still young enough to be fearless, and decided Dan was his best friend. I have happy memories of Dan trying to move the pair and get them to catch up with the flock, which plan the ewe heartily endorsed, and the lamb wanting nothing more than to sniff noses and buddy up with his pal Dan.


Dan has had no such problems, treating little animals with a gentleness he does not employ on older animals. He worked little lambs and calves with an unexpected sensitivity. Where Celt had difficulty moving straggler calves on their first few forays across the road from one pasture to the next, Dan understood and persevered at the job, needing few commands. The calves, not being cooperative, would exhaust him in his efforts but he had no quit in him.

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Dear Shepherds,


When we had a dying lamb, we'd entube it and bring it into the house to lay on a scrap of sheepskin beside the wood stove to die in comfort. Often our Pip sheepdog would clean it up, nudging it, keeping it against his neck. Some lambs we'd given up on lived. In the photos I took it's not entirely clear whether Pip is mothering the lamb or preparing dinner.


Donald McCaig

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I'm planning the same flock management scheme Julie described - keeping my Cheviot X ewe lambs out of the breeding group initially (they won't be old enough their first fall) and using them for training while their mothers are in late gestation. I'm just about to start moving the mammas and lambs to a pasture they haven't grazed since December (when the neighbors' dogs busted through our electronet and tried to kill the bred ewes - said pasture now has high-tensile wire with hotwire top and bottom in hopes of forestalling a repeat). Can't wait to see how the dogs take to moving lambs! The older dog will work them, but I haven't tried the younger one on them yet. (The oldest is only three weeks old, and the youngest was born yesterday - half way through my first lambing season at the moment, with five ewe lambs and three ram lambs out of five first-time mamas).

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