Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mini Herding Trial

Today was Day 3 of "let's work outside all day because its nice" day.

Over the night time water was somehow finding a way into the barn UNDER the huge piles of snow that are on all sides of the barn (like 6-8 ft of snow that fell off the roof). My gorgeous, clean, swept then limed, bedded with straw and moved sheep around floors were full of dirty icky nasty spring cattle yard water (if you don't know what this is, please inquire I'll be glad to discuss it with you! )

So I enlisted my dad with the loader tractor to help move the snow as my snow blower was just not getting through it fast enough. But before I could do this on the west side of the barn I had to lock the girls IN the barn. This was easier said than done. My Sommarang girls think that they are wild mountainous big horn sheep (minus the big horns) and jump straight up in the air and refuse to go in the barn. I only have to turn around to chase them back in and the other 24 ewes in that pen come crashing back out through the door wide enough for one ewe at a time :)

"this is ridiculous" I think to myself as I'm too winded to speak at this point. I run with what is left of my energy back to the house and enlist veteran herders Oliver and Sadie and 'freshmen' Zoe. I always wish I had my camera during these times!!

Shetlands as you know are a non flocking breed, so they tend to scatter and quite easily. I thought I'd have enough help with one or two but three was really too much for me to watch....and so instead of concentrating on the sheep, I was too busy watching the dogs in action. Oliver at times can be a little rough with the sheep (I think he's just over excited) but all three new the word "wait" and didn't go 'in' to the flock unless I told them they could. The smiles on their faces were quite evident and the mud and manure on their bellies was going to have to come off later!

With some of the sheep only used to Livestock Guardian Dogs and not herding dogs, I didn't want to freak the sheep out either as they SHOULD be about 2-3 months pregnant by now. After a few 'practice' go arounds, The dogs eventually figured out where I was wanting the sheep and that it wasn't a 'free for all' for the dogs. The sheep also realized that they could not escape me and three short barking, dodging dogs and eventually got all but one of the 'feral' Sommarang sheep in the barn. When those dogs saw that one sheep had 'gotten past' them they all without asking went after the remaining ewe and brought her up along the barn to where I was standingin front of the door and i moved the gate slightly and the dogs brought her in. And for good measure Oliver went into the pen inside and barked. I'm thinking probably he said "AND STAY THERE!"

I was so proud of my babes that we ran and jumped all the way back to the backyard where they could 'wash' off a bit until I could get the rest of the snow moved. After the snow was moved I let the sheep back out and they were most forgiving, running right up to me probably to ask what the heck those things were (remember not many of this group had been worked with herding dogs before). The dogs the had to get a bath which they hated but they LOVED the after bath roll on the ground, couch, bed, chair, carpet, rug or whatever would hold still long enough to rub.

I'm sure I"ve completely ruined any chance of them being trained PROPERLY for herding but they still managed to get the job done and that is what I needed. Thanks kids!


Nancy K. said...

That's exactly how I feel about Bellamica! Neither of us has a clue as to what we are doing but as long as she helps me get the sheep where I want them ~ or keeps them out of where I don't want them ~ I'm a happy camper....

Sharrie said...

That is a great story!! I wish I could have seen those little guys going about their work. It almost makes me want to get out there and get Libby trained to herd sheep. You are lucky to have your "assistants".

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I think its so cool that your dogs can actually HELP you! Jackson doesn't have a clue -- or much instinct, I'm afraid.

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