Friday, April 8, 2016

All Dogs In On A Days Work

The stock dogs and I enjoyed a good morning of work as we sorted the rams from the ewe flock.  This winter we let the rams stay with the ewes long past the usual breeding time frame since we were away from home and leaving the rams was the easiest in terms of winter time management.  We wanted the boys sorted out in preparation for shearing day next week though.   

It would be a tougher job for me to get this flock where needed without the dogs

With having a few stock dogs to work I find myself choosing which dog to use for which task or which pair of dogs to put together to best help me out.  I try to put each dog in various situations so they’re well rounded with experience, yet I like to take advantage of the chance to put more than one dog to work in a days outing. This morning of sheep work allowed me to do just that.  I took Cajun and BJ out to the pasture to collect the flock.  Turns out there was a great setup with a large group of ewes situated across a wetland but with only one way back.  They could not circle the wetland because the water cut them off (picture a boomerang shape of land and the sheep being at one end).  Cajun went wide and deep to collect on the only side he could - the exact reason I like this dog on pasture.  

BJ was eager to go too but I waited, letting Cajun have this task because it is such a highlight for him.  Once we had that group collected and near my feet I put BJ down with Cajun and we moved up to join with the other half of the flock.  BJ loves the flock work because it doesn’t involve precision or me picking at her to follow commands; this was perfect for her.  The two dogs were a little overzealous on a couple occasions, rushing too fast causing a single to cut back.  After that the two dogs brought the flock along well enough, taking the sheep up to the east paddock where we left the ewes alone while Allen and I went ahead to rearrange the sorting set up at the building.  

When it came time to bring the sheep the rest of the way to the building I brought out Gibson and Coyote Mic.  I let Gibson do the first cast knowing he’d go wide enough to do so and hence bring everyone.  Once the group was loosely bunched I let Coyote Mic go, accepting that she’d run tighter and push harder.  She did.  These two dogs ended doing a lot of work over a short move.  The ewes streamed out of the paddock but were unwilling to travel straight ahead along the trail due to a small section of water they had to cross there.  Instead the ewes took a turn after exiting which meant the dogs had to work to keep the back of the flock going through the gate rather than following the front of the flock now streaming along the fence line.  After all the sheep in the mob exited the dogs had to recollect the lead and turn the whole flock again, then had to hold pressure while the front sheep contemplated the muddy trail.  The trail is bordered by water on one side (hence the run off across the trail) and fence on the other, so there is no way for the ewes to get around the wet spot.  If you can picture getting five or six sheep through a Y-chute on a trial course, well this is getting 500 through a naturally created Y chute with a water crossing.  They did it.  

We took the ewes toward the building and moved them into the wide outdoor alleyway to a back holding pen.  From here we can cut the flock in half and bring the first group through the bugle set up and send them single file down the raceway.  But first I switched dogs again.  Coyote Mic doesn’t have a lot of flock work under her belt yet and I thought what we just handled was enough for her.  This next part of work was going to be in close quarters with a lot of sheep, and ewes facing off with her, something she is still uncomfortable with.  

I kept Gibson out and brought back BJ.  Gibson like to stay off his sheep, and forcing for him is harder but he’ll stand up for himself, and BJ loves to force.  Her downfall is that she does bark when forcing, something I’m encouraging her not to do.  At this point it was our job to keep a steady flow of sheep heading into the raceway.  Allen was at the sort gate, cutting the rams out.  It felt like it took no time at all, but that’s the beauty of doing just a sort without stopping to tag or needle anything.  The animals just flow through and are free to go at the other end.  They have the stress of being moved and temporarily crowded, but nothing else happens to them in the raceway.  

It was a surprisingly good day for a first back-to-work job of the Spring.  


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