|My mornings work awaits|
The first task of the morning was moving the flock into a holding pen. With the flock well grouped in the night pen area I took the opportunity to let Gibson have his first experience with the large flock. Up to now he has worked groups from three sheep to a hundred sheep. Still I wasn’t going to let him work this number on his own. I also put Cajun on the ground with him.
|Moving into first holding pen|
The first couple groups of sheep were relatively easy to pen but as the morning wore on this job became progressively tougher. By midway, as Cajun and Gibson tired, I needed to add a dog, so Jayde was in too.
When the remaining group was much smaller I put BJ in for a bit of work on a group, working with the other dogs. She was a little on again, off again, and not sure about all the pressure and the noise.
We had just put a group of ewes and lambs into the first holding pen, and I was going to push them into the next handling area myself. BJ was just on the outside of the gate and in a moment of poor thinking I let her come into the take pen with me. Almost immediately a ewe began to hunt her. I called to her, knowing I needed to take her out of there. BJ headed across the take pen and down the alleyway, with the dog hunting, mission driven ewe right behind her, and me, reaching, reaching, reaching, desperate to get there in time. I didn’t. The ewe nailed her hard, slamming BJ against the alleyway and pushing her head into the dirt. BJ hollered. I swore.
She was physically unhurt, meaning she had no broken parts, moved and walked fine. Mentally she was done. I cursed a thousand times over. I checked my tears and my swearing. I put BJ up. I still had work to do and there was nothing else to do but carry on with it and hope that my little Kelpie girl bounces back from this.
Steadily I got through the flock. I now had yearlings sorted and penned and the flock waiting in another holding paddock.
Since I brought the flock in the evening before and then took this time to handle them, they were hungry and ready to go and eat. I planned for them to go back to the paddock I gathered them from, feed there for the rest of the day, and then move them to a new paddock in the evening.
Once more, I used Cajun and Gibson to collect the group and head them out the way they came in. The last of the sheep left the holding pen. Knowing an open gate when they see it, the ewes picked up pace and began to pour out to the long alley way leading to pasture. Remembering the way they came in they were headed right where I needed them to go. Perfect; a nice and easy way to end the long morning.
Cajun and Gibson took off. I don’t have the breath to explain how the next several minutes played out, but in a nutshell, Cajun eventually came back to me. Gibson got all the way to the front of the flock and began turning them, pushing them back toward me, causing the ewes to spill in the opposite direction down the alleyway. He was not able to turn them into the gate again and the ewes disappeared over a hill. Okay, this was a mess, but on its own, was not such a big deal. There was a fence and gate at that end of the alleyway. I collected my dogs, got on the Ranger and headed out to turn the ewes back again.
As I crested the hill, my eyes about popped. This was one of those seldom occasions when stock dogs make your life more difficult. The ewes had pushed the gate open; five hundred hungry ewes with hungry lambs were out on an un-grazed paddock of lush grass and alfalfa, fanning out in a great wave of sheep. I had visions of bloated ewes, four feet in the air, dancing in my head.
I raced out to the furthest point of sheep. I slipped the leads on three dogs, keeping BJ with me, and uttered an urgent and simple go, go, go!!! Jayde disappeared. Cajun and Gibson found a pocket of ewes and starting ringing them. Boys, boys, boys… all the sheep please. Go.
There was no fancy work in the next few moments. It was three dogs and I moving hungry sheep and moving them fast. To their credit, we had the whole flock off the paddock in less than five minutes! The dogs created the mess, but they saved it too. It was a real life, large flock version of the Calgary Stampede Stock Dog Trial.
Later that evening as Gibson and I were driving the now full-bellied ewes to the appropriate paddock, I was marveling at the day and what a roller coaster ride it was. The stellar performance of the dogs in one moment to the confusing chaos in the next. Amazement at one juncture, stinging disappointment at another. The dogs and I and what we had accomplished in a day. It was quite the feat for all of us.
|A reflective evening, driving the flock with Gibson|