Friday, March 30, 2012

A Word About Minerals

This post about minerals has been sitting in my journal for a long time. Some recent emails prompted me to finish it up and share it.

It can be a real merry-go-round trying to figure out a proper balance of minerals as there are so many connections and variables. Going around and around was the reason I finally decided to trust that the animals must know more about it than I do, so I'd have to ask them. Right about then I discovered the book Natural Sheep Care written by Pat Coleby, which has since become my mineral bible.

The mineral program I follow is out of that book with adjustments made to suit us and our flock. The components of the mix are dolomitic limestone (calcium magnesium carbonate), kelp, sulphur and copper sulphate.

I source the minerals and buy them individually. The minerals can be offered as a mix or as seperate components.

I have tried offering minerals seperate and I have made my own mineral mix and offered that. Currently I am going with the mix. I also provide livestock salt seperately.

If offering seperate, each mineral goes into a seperate tub. Tubs should be covered as the minerals do change composition when wet. If offering as a mix, I follow the recipe in above book with my own modifications. I use far more kelp and half the amount of copper sulphate since I raise sheep for meat, rather than for wool production.

If I had to offer only one mineral it would be kelp because kelp is chalk full of trace minerals and vitamins. During the times I don’t keep up with making a batch of mix, the sheep still get kelp and livestock salt. We have to top up our mineral mix with Vitamin B in the Fall, otherwise we seem to run into troubles related to lack of Vitamin B.

Bear in mind that the whole picture of sheep health isn't about minerals alone. As with everything natural there are always connections and cyclical relationships - far more than we can see. It is equally, if not more, important to provide a smorgasbord of grasses on the pasture and let sheep graze grass as much as possible. The more species variety they have on pasture (or in the hay) the less of a guessing game we have to play with the mineral supplementation. Plus the more natural the mineral the better the uptake in the animal. Get soil and grass health in line and livestock health follows.

I few things I have noticed:
I imagine that some minerals, when offered singly, are not very tasty to sheep who are in general good health (that is, they are not so deficient that they will eat anything to get what they need). In a mix this would be less of an issue.

When offering a mix the worry becomes do they get enough of a balance. This is why I sometimes like to go back to offering minerals seperately. You can move back and forth and see which one suits you and also see what the animals are needing.

There are always some ewes who do not get onto any mineral program. Chances are pretty good they are the ones who degrade in health quicker too; so eventually they cull themselves. I always ask myself, I am managing for the sake of a few individual animals or the sake of the whole. This helps me worry less and stay on track.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Under The Weather

It is a good time of the year to get out and work dogs because the pace on the ranch is smooth and easy and the weather is bearable, particularly this year because there is little snow on the ground. In a month or so the pace will grow more hectic as we push to get outdoor work done in our limited outdoor-work season.

So the last few days I’ve fit in working dogs and horses regularly, seperate from the farm chores. This afternoon was no exception and Cajun and I had a lovely session, repeating the connected feeling I had with Jayde yesterday. Then I came in and the flu all but knocked me off my feet. Allen was really sick two days ago and I started feeling it earlier today but it really came on quickly this afternoon.

Allen just nicely got over the hump with the flu yesterday and then slipped on ice, jarred his shoulder and damaged it.

Just as animals pay no heed to holidays and vacations they also pay no heed to the fact that you don’t feel up to, or capable, of feeding them. The downfall of ranch work when there is only one person most of the time and two occasionally - you can’t phone in sick.

That’s alright though and there is no need to complain because when I do get back inside, I can lay on the couch without guilt and replay the moments of effortless and connected work with the stock dogs. I can plan for the same with Gibson and BJ. I can quiet my mind and take direction from my soul.

And I can still get to the computer, type a few words, find a photo to share and use the moment to say thanks for reading. It’s great connecting with you. I'm off to bed.

Gibbs and BJ
Does this photo remind you of anyone? 

Cajun and Gibbs last fall


Monday, March 26, 2012

This and That and A Little Artwork Too

We have made good progress on doing the paper work for the purpose of taxes, with Allen doing the bulk of the data entering - bless him. We need to update our livestock inventory sheets and I still need to do our cost of production figuring. Then we take it all to the accountant.

The ewes are doing a considerable amount of grass grazing (rather than eating hay) on the second winter pasture we’ve just moved them to. This a very early start to grazing for our climate and I love to see them doing it. They are still consuming some hay, and there are always ewes who will eat the easiest feed available, but the majority of them will go for grass as soon as they can get it.

The land they are on contains a lot of scrub and thistle. It is a piece of cropland, abandoned and gone wild with weeds and a little grass. We’ve done little with it except put animals on it occasionally. It needs a great deal of TLC and a heck of a lot more animal impact to make a dent in it. That or to be tilled and reseeded, an option I don’t prefer as much but one we're still considering.

Aside from moving sheep back and forth each day and finishing paper work I am preparing for an art display at the local library.  It’s my first shot at showing my artwork anywhere so even though it’s a small display set up at the local library, I am so pumped about it. I decided to stick to the theme of canines and have titled the display K9 Attraction.

This is one of my recent pieces. It is sitting on my art table, waiting for me to decide if I’m done with it or not.


I just love drawing the Kelpies. I suppose because they own a piece of my heart, but also because they are so lithe and athletic looking.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Winter Returns

Sometimes the weather dictates what moves to make and it helps to be flexible and go with it.

The sheep have eaten their way through the bales on the first winter pasture. I wanted to keep them there for a couple days extra to pick through the residue and clean up.  However, winter returned last night, dumping a load of snow.  With the dump of snow I felt poor about keeping the flock there to clean up. If it there was fresh hay rolled out I wouldn’t be bothered about making them dig for it because it would be easily accessed. But there isn’t, there is just what’s left on the ground, which they have to root for. With the snow it makes it a bit tougher for them to find and get a days worth of feed. Besides, the flock can always come back to do clean up.

So this morning I decided that the dogs and I would move the flock to the second winter pasture. I left the girls in the night paddock while I went ahead to roll out two bales on top of the fresh snow. The dogs and I just needed to lead the sheep to it. It was a calm and overcast morning, and very decent to work in. To get where we’re going we pass through the yard, and travel through an intermediate pasture before turning into the gate of the winter pasture. 

Over the winter the pastures not being used sit idle with no one there for several months. This creates the opportunity for wildlife, including coyotes, to move about, hunt and set up camp there. While it’s a relief to see four or five guardian dogs travel out with the sheep and forge ahead to patrol the new territory, I still feel anxious about the sheep for the first day. Particularly right now, since there are a bakers dozen of young lambs in with the flock.

With feeling a little unsure and there being no open water for the animals (they can and do eat snow as they graze) the dogs and I brought the flock back to the night pen tonight as well. It was a good days work and surprisingly, on the morning move, I managed to get a few photos. I'd love to show a video but recording a video while keeping up with sheep and dogs, doesn't work out to well.

Heading to the main gate on the way out
Because I stopped to take the first few pictures, sheep passed me and so did Cajun. He is such a strong heading dog and as soon as he figures sheep are getting away (ie any time they pass me), he goes to the heads, whether I want him there or not. In this case I used him there to hold up the flock while I went ahead to open the gate.

Cajun heading the group



Almost through the gate and starting through the yard



At the new pasture





Thursday, March 22, 2012

Number Crunching

This is the time of year that we do a lot of number crunching and waiting. The number crunching is for figuring cost of production and for tax purposes.

The waiting is on the weather. Due to the very cold winters a lot of outdoor ranch work is put on hold each year.  During the cold season we make plans for the upcoming year. Right around March is when we're getting close enough to spring weather that we begin feel antsy about getting out and starting a project or two and finishing the ones that never got done the previous year.

Even though spring is here on the calendar, the ground is still frozen and in a routine winter we're still buried with snow, although we are not this year.

This year we’re planning to start work on the paddock where the shearing shed is situated. It is time to develope permanent holding pens and handling areas for both the sheep and cows. Right now everything around here is portable, not fixed. We've kept to a few cows because we don't have the set up to handle them. If we set up something a little more substantial, we'll be able to handle cattle and it will also give us a pen to work horses in, something we also hope to start this year.

The dogs, pasture walks and the occasional small job provide a welcome break from the paper work.  This morning, with Jaydes help I took our February born lambs and the ewes out to pasture to join the main flock. Beforehand, using Jayde to hold the group of sheep in a corner, I was able to catch the lambs and dock their tails before walking them out. 


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

We've Worked Ourselves Out of A Job

Our routine of gathering the sheep each evening and night penning them has established the habit of flocking together at nightfall in our flock. Without us even gathering them anymore the flock will be in a group by the time dark approaches. The dogs and I have worked ourselves out of a job. Although the flock would not be doing this were it not for the dogs and I gathering every evening for the past few months.

One interesting change, is that for the past week, rather than come into the night pen, the ewes come to the corner of the paddock closest to the night pen and bed down on a hillside there. Taking their lead we have been leaving them out rather than insist they be in the night pen. The hillside is a clean slate of pasture, and can use the manure fertilizer deposited by several hundred sheep. Our main purpose is to see that they are all gathered together for the night, and a quick check on the Ranger ensures that they are.

We are down to the last handful of bales on the winter pasture. After the last bale is gone, we’ll keep the sheep there for an extra day or two. With the snow gone, they’ll travel about and do further clean up.  Then we'll move the flock to a new pasture and begin the process of settling the flock and re-establishing the routine in a whole new area. Which means work again for the dogs and I.



Sunday, March 18, 2012

Watcher on the Prairie

With the snow gone, the dogs and I have continued with our pastures walks. On a few occasions we have headed South from the yard to one of the furthest pieces of land and specifically to an elevated parcel of native prairie.

As soon as this land was in our possession after purchase, I was walking across it. At that time it was all cropland save for the aforementioned piece of native prairie and two other parcels that have never been broken up. Today all the land in our possession is back in grass.

I snooped through my collection of photos and found this photo of the area. The photo was taken last summer. It's not a great quality photo but the reason I share it is to show what years of tilling and seeding did to the land. The last two years of it, by our own hands, before we made the switch to grass and sheep.


Note the difference in height between that ewe coming across the bottom and where the grass is growing above the lambs. The ridge the lambs are playing on marks the edge between seeded land that was cropped for years and the native prairie. The native prairie is the higher ground. That’s how much land surface has disappeared with farming practices that do not replenish what they take away.

The dogs and I walk along the bottom of this ridge in the same direction that ewe is heading. Of course right now it’s all winter brown and soggy, not green.  We walk until we reach the cross fence and then we turn and climb up to the native prairie. They explore while I find a familiar weathered, grey prairie stone and sit, looking out from my elevated spot, across a vast expanse of prairie hills. The dogs charge about with delight at being somewhere old but made new again by the winter to spring transition.

This piece of land has become one of my favorite spots. Yesterday I sat there in the stillness of an early, windless, cool morning, the dogs trotting off on their own explorations. Then Cajun broke the quiet with a couple booming barks. He took off running, then stood still watching to the South. I could see a shape on a far hilltop but not very clearly. Knowing how far Jayde will travel in a short time, I just assumed it was her. I gave a call to bring her back.  Jayde returned, but she came from the North, and Cajun and I watched the coyote on the hilltop turn and move off, going further Southward.

Perhaps he was enjoying his hilltop moment as much as I was enjoying mine.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Pasture Residue

Our little bit of snow is rapidly disappearing under the welcome warmth of a temperate March week so a walk across the pasture has been made easy again. I like walking on pasture. I see things that I cannot see from the road.

Last summer our East pasture was thick with milkvetch, grasses and clover and it was unevenly grazed since it was so advanced by the time we put the sheep into it. It went into winter with a lot of residue grass.

October 2011 Residue looks like thatch on the ground
Due to the stockpiled forage, from the road, the pasture looks unkempt with it tall twigs, and tufts of brown grass amidst the shorter grazed off stuff. It’s certainly not like the pastures depicted in books on grazing management. It’s ugly and it’s looked that way all year.

The dogs and I headed across it, me taking wide berths around the large puddles and they running through them. Every so often I stopped to lift the thick mounds of residue and snoop.  I’m  so excited to report on what lies beneath.

Grass found beneath residue March 2012
I know it’s only last years grass but to me, a grass farmer, it marks the importance of leaving residue on the land and of not overgrazing. It’s so amazing to see the pale green color still there when plant life above ground turns brown and brittle with our first hard cold snap each fall.  Besides just seeing some color, there is moisture held at the soil. And the soil surface and the life in the soil has been buffered from the extreme cold due to the residue. In our dry climate this residue will take a long time to transform into organic matter and it will need animal impact to help it.

This handful smells like earth and old wet grass. It a welcome sight and smell after a long, dead winter. I wonder if the sheep will like it and contemplate letting them out here for a day or so of picking. It wouldn’t be quality enough to sustain them feed wise, but I’m pretty sure they would enjoy lifting those mounds of residue and snooping themselves. And their lifting and disturbance of the residue would do good things for the future grasses to come this spring.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

LGD Rescue Situation

There is a dog rescue situation taking place in Montana, involving numerous livestock guardian dogs. I’m trying to keep tabs on how it unfolds because I think there is a chance of these dogs being decent LGD’s, which, I have to say, isn’t always the case with rescues.

How do I feel about rescues becoming working dogs?

I think what’s important is what situation the dog is coming from. Then how much interference and handling the rescue group has done and how long the dog has been away from a work situation.

In this case the dogs are said to be running wild and are described as being very aloof toward people.  Some are with livestock (sheep), the rest wandering, causing neighbours to solve the problem as they see fit. The dogs are Great Pyr X Akbash. There are several pups, young adults and also some pregnant females. The dogs will be altered, vetted and be given vaccinations.

These dogs will require work and a lot of monitoring in a new place, but every LGD added to the ranch does. What I’d like to know though is how wild is wild, and if the dogs are essentially on their own then just how much time are they spending with the livestock? What are they eating? Not a lot of definite answer to these questions yet.

The rescue group, bless them, has realized these dogs are probably not good candidates for pets (their first hope) and are therefore trying to place them into working homes. While you may think this makes the most sense, this is not a common approach amongst LGD breed rescue groups.

These dogs are in Montana and shipping can be arranged. Price for the dogs is unknown. The contact person is Carol Long. 406 375-0719

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fresh Perspectives

I loaded Cajun and Jayde in the truck and traveled about an hour for some training time with a very gifted and experienced stock man.

It may not sound like anything special but it is. I live in a very rural place. I’m on my own a significant amount of the time. I work dogs by myself and eventually I get to a point where I can’t see what is happening because I’m always in the middle of making it happen.

So an afternoon with the eyes and knowledge of a gifted dog man was splendid.

Not to pit the dogs against one another, but Cajun is the dog I have more trouble with and Jayde is often the dog I take for granted. So I told the fellow when I arrived “I’ll work him first,” as I pointed at Cajun. “He’s the one I have the most trouble with.”  Well, those two dogs must have had a conversation on the way over, perhaps something about switching it up, because it was Cajun who kept his cool and Jayde who needed to go back to kindergarten.

The real pleaser though, was working dogs in the company of another human being and the fresh perspectives. I long for that and can’t wait for the upcoming stock dog events we’re hosting again this summer.

On a related hosting topic, we’re beginning to plan for shearing in incremental ways. Shearing will happen late in April. We’re hosting shearing school this year so shearing will happen over two or three days rather than the usual one. It also means a group of people other than the shearing crew will be here. Early planning includes finding someone to cater the lunch meals. It is so much simpler for me if someone else is looking after the food. That and to put the word out that there is opportunity to work with a lot of sheep, with dogs or without. Extra hands are always needed.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Small Wonders

That ewe with pneumonia I wrote about in the post Nature’s Culling is still with us.

She is still in a pen in the shearing shed. She is eating, drinking and is very concerned when I approach. When we first placed her in there she laid down, having little energy to do much else. Now when I look in on her she is nervously wild, darting to the opposite side of the pen, then standing to face me, eyes wide, ears alert. Being from a large flock she is not familiar with one on one handling and is certainly not a pet. Being a sheep all on her own also causes her to panic easily. 

I may turn her out with the flock again tomorrow sometime. She is still terribly thin but I think she’ll keep up now and the abundant food and company will do her good.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sometimes You Just Need a Dog To Be There

I mentioned last week that I moved the ten ewes with lambs outdoors to join the ewe lamb group. What I haven’t had time to share is how I got it done.

To get where we needed to go required a bit of walk. I often move ewes with young lambs by catching the lamb(s), giving mom a minute to settle and know her lamb is with me and then walk where I need to go. Last week, I moved seven of my ten family units this way.

But sometimes you get ewes who are too confused and stressed about their lambs not being at their feet, to follow. On the third day I was ready to move the last three ewes with the youngest lambs out but the first ewe was dumbfounded and would not follow.  One time I did manage to get her through the gate and she made to leave altogether, heading to pasture the way she was familiar going, which was the opposite direction from where I needed to take her. I managed to block her and she headed right back to the barn, me still holding her lamb, whom I noticed refused to offer any bleats like all the other lambs had upon being taken prisoner by me. A lamb that bleats catches moms attention and entices her to follow. Fine, she won that battle. I left her and the other two ewes in the pens for one more day.

The next day I was willing to try again. By the way I didn’t move the ewes and lambs as one lot because I find that with very young lambs at foot this seems to cause confusion, especially with family units who haven’t been together as a group yet, such as was the case with this bunch. The ewes twirl around constantly, paranoid about being sure they have the right lambs and head butting the wrong lambs. The lambs get knocked around and aren’t sure who to follow. Everyone ends up going in different directions to get away from each other. When the lambs are a bit older moving them becomes very different yet again.

But I also expected that ewe would be no different than she was the day before so I wondered about taking a dog with me this time. Sometimes the dogs only make matters worse when ewes have very young lambs at their feet. It takes the right dog and a patient one. Yet my hunch this particular morning was to use Cajun, a dog, by all past accounts of our work together, not particularly right or patient for this job. 

So I did. And it worked. I caught the lamb and I eased the troublemaker ewe out of the pen while leaving Cajun on a wait. Once in front with the lambs I asked him up. He came up nice, then moved into a brisk pace, and caused the ewe to turn back. But then he just held his ground. We gave the ewe a moment to think and after she did she turned in my direction and followed. She turned back, Cajun was there - being very patient. An astounding feat for him.  She decided following me was her best option.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Natures Culling

We are not seeing the number of deer we usually do at this time of the year. Last winter there were deer everywhere; we would see groups of 50 - 60 deer in one bunch.  But last winter we had a very cold winter with a lot of snow that was tough on a lot of wild creatures. Throughout the summer the dogs and I would find deer bones out on the pastures, evidence of the ones who died there. Harsh seasons are natures way of culling a population.

I can write those words with little emotional attachment. I love to see the deer but I’m not raising them, nor is there any monetary value attached to them in my case.  It’s entirely different when it comes to the ewe sitting in a pen in the shearing shed, who seems to have pneumonia and is going downhill rapidly. I tell myself this is also Nature’s way of culling but for her, I can’t help but fret and feel a sting of anger and frustration.

I don’t like to lose any animal but over the course of several years and several hundred sheep I’ve dealt with the loss of many of them. And I always feel anger when it happens and because sheep are tightly attached to me making a living I always fret over the cost of losing one. I try to convince myself that money should not be attached to a life or the loss of a life. But the truth is, I am stuck on a belief that my living is threatened anytime there are losses.

And so where death is concerned I have this ongoing two-sided relationship with Mother Nature. I understand her culling process and I’m okay with it, as long as it happens “out there” but it's pretty tough pill to swallow when it happens at home on the ranch.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sidetracked

Jenny Glen over at Alta-Pete Farm Tails shared this link in her last post and I felt prompted to check it out.  An hour later I was still on the computer and still reading the North Wapiti Blog about Karen, her dogs and the Iditarod Sled Dog Race taking place right now. (It beat crunching farm business numbers :) ).

What led me to check it out was two things.

One: I admire a working dog, be it a terrier going to ground, a hound coursing, a stock dog herding, a guardian dog protecting, or a sled dog running. There is wholesome energy in dogs instinctively doing what they know to do. I love seeing it and knowing people are out there doing these things with dogs.

Two: on my visit to Burradoo Ranch I realized the difference in fitness between my dogs, who are in good working shape, and their dogs who are in athletic, endurance shape. I've been thinking about it since.

I exercise my stock dogs a fair bit, and do so everyday, plus on a very regular basis there is some amount of stock work to do and some days a whole lot of it to do. In between there is a bit of training. But still my exercise is different than the exercise regime and results I saw with the Burradoo dogs and, on a whole other level, what Iditarod training is.

Add to this that one of our goals here is to work from horseback. When that happens the dogs won’t be riding out to pasture on the Ranger anymore. They will need to have stamina enough to make the trek out, and work sheep all the way back home. Our property isn’t so big that we’ll be doing miles of distance, but nonetheless, I think my dogs will be better off having better endurance.

So I was also curious to snoop around on a sled dog site, to see what is available for dog harnesses. I want to start road working my stock dogs.

Well - as long as there is time for dog naps too!
By the way, the guardian dogs are not a regular part of any exercise regime that involves me or the other dogs. They have their own regime :) They spend their days with the sheep, away from us and away from the yard, so do not voluntarily get involved and I don’t go out of my way to make them a part of the other dog activities around here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Answering LGD Questions

Liezel at Pilgrim Farms recently emailed with questions about guardian dogs. She wanted some feedback about starting with one dog or two.  Should they be same sex or opposite? Would two dogs fend off boredom in her smaller scale set up? If she gets a pup should it come during lambing or after?

I thought I would share my response here.

Because the livestock area at Liezel’s place is smaller my first thought was beefing up the fencing to make it more predator proof.  It’s always worth considering as sometimes it may be more feasible (cost and time wise) to predator proof the fence than get dogs as dogs are not cheap to keep.  Although if future plans involve expanding your paddocks then a dog might still be best option long term.

[As it turned out Liezel has a pretty solid fence in place already which is an added bonus when getting new dogs].

On the dog questions:
I am always in favour of having two dogs (or a pack). Many people get hung up on two dogs being twice the trouble and it may seem that they are at times. But my own experience is that two dogs can help alleviate some of the troubles seen with having only one. And training/monitoring is still required whether you have one or two.

With more than one dog, each dog gives the other backup which will give them confidence when facing predators. One dog alone against coyotes or larger predators is - well -  alone, and all too often outnumbered and outdone.

If getting two dogs, and they are your first guardian dogs I would advise against getting two females. More so if you plan to keep them intact. Adult females are more difficult to pair up and they fight more often and more seriously. Males have spats and go back to work. Note, I’m speaking in very general terms here, every animal will bring its own ideas. It isn’t that two females or two males can’t be run together, but it is a challenging way to start with LGD’s, doubly so if one isn’t experienced with raising multiple dogs.

Best combo seems to be male/female pair but then you need to desex one or manage female heat cycles if you don't wish to have pups. Next best, two males.
If you favour a pair of the same sex and have the experience for it, consider getting an older dog and a younger one, rather than two of similar age. Another option is an adult now and a puppy later.

Having said all that, be sure you feel comfortable with the choice. And consider your area and the workload. Just because two dogs is one recommendation, don't tackle it if you don't feel you want to. Or if you find a great adult who loves to work solo, then one dog may be all you need. 

As important as one dog or two is where the dog(s) come from, especially when getting older pups or adults. A dog who is accustomed to working with other dogs may struggle when asked to work solo. A dog who is used to working solo may struggle with allowing another dog in (although most adults will accept a puppy).
A dog who worked a small holding which included a yard and people may struggle when left alone in an area without frequent company and contact. People often assume that since the dog is guarding the livestock, who also live around the yard, that it is bonded to the stock, but often the dog is bonded to and guarding the place, in which the livestock are included. So in fact the dog isn't bonded to the stock, and when put into a situation of stock only (like on a range) the dog ends up back at the yard.

Our image of guardian dogs is often one of a dog sitting or laying, noble and on watch. But this is only what they do part of the time. These are active dogs and two of them won't necessarily fend off each others boredom forever (although it can help and I'm not saying its a bad move). But boredom comes from not enough area/work/stimulation/exercise so bear in mind that if two dogs are bored then you will have twice the trouble. Because your animal area is small you will need to consider the exercise needs of the dog. Is the area to be guarded large enough for the dog to feel satisfied with patrolling and guarding? Or is the space small enough that a dog may end up feeling too confined without extra stimulation and exercise? Sometimes in a small enough area, the mere presence of the dog will deter predators, thus, the dog doesn't have to work as hard.  Predator pressure also comes into play here.

There are several options, including the llama. Or taking a dog on loan which would help you out in the immediate term and give you a chance to try the guardian dog route.

On getting a pup:
I don't place pups with animals who are birthing or who have very young babes at their side. Not because the pup will be too rambunctious, young puppies are not, but because the moms can be very defensive. A curious pup walking over for a sniff, is apt to get a head butt and sent flying. Young pups are not physically capable of moving out of the way quickly enough either. A few of those experiences can deter a pup quickly or cause him to act aggressively to ewes later on.

If you have a group of animals not birthing or who do not have young at their side that can be kept seperate from others who are, then you can raise a pup with them. Consider how busy you are at birthing time too. Do you want the extra work of having a pup around then? Although, because you’re around often and can check on and supervise a pup, this can work in your favour too. If you can't keep a group of livestock seperate, I'd be inclined to get the pup later on when everyone is older.

And finally, everybody has different ideas and philosophies for making it work (this is only my two cents worth), so ask around and see what others do/have done.