When we started night penning it took three nights for the activity to become routine for the ewes. On the fourth night the dogs only had to gather them and get them started, then the ewes headed all the way into the night pen on their own.
Earlier this week I decide to send the girls out to a new pasture which means taking a different route when leaving the night pen in the morning, bypassing the familiar exit gate. A stock dog is probably in order.
We need to go from here, the night pen (it’s about 12 - 15 acres in size, the entire flock is bedded down on the upside of the slope, to the left of the photo)...
... and take the trail all the way around the bush, make a hard turn through a gate, travel across another small paddock and exit through a pass in the trees back where that arrow is pointing.
Coyote Mic got the job, giving her a chance to do flock work and ready her for evening pasture gathers. She did a lovely job of handling the large group on her own. Since we were recently talking about border collies and kelpies; Coyote Mic is a Kelpie/Border cross. She’s a real treat to work in that she’s full speed ahead and uses a fair amount of eye.
She clears the sheep from the night pen with ease and convinces the ewes to travel past the familiar exit gate and starts them around the bend in the trail.
Up ahead where the trail narrows the lead ewe hangs a right instead of continuing left. They know there is a gate to the pasture over the hill to the left but that’s the pasture they just finished grazing on.
Once we catch the rear of the group up to that narrow spot, I send Mic on around the group (the front half is now over the hill) to turn them and send them back left. She has to do a lot of work to turn the entire group and restart their motion. One of the numerous tasks where stock dogs are a real bonus. We get through the next gate and the next paddock with ease. The final hard work happens when we have to convince them to travel through the dark, shady pass in the trees. They are not going to enter that willingly, so this time I go to the head of the flock to lead them into the pass, leaving Mic to keep working at the rear so there is incentive for them to go. Once through the pass, the leaders quickly announce the grass really is greener on the other side and in natures capillary fashion the rest of the ewes are drawn along.
It was repeat performance at night when returning the flock they way they came in. The new pasture is ripe with tall grass and weeds and it took a lot of effort to move the flock through the tall canopy and a good deal of dog work to convince them to leave the pasture and travel through the pass. More work to get them to exit the first paddock and make their way to the night pen via the front gate this time. Gibson was the dog I had along the first night and he almost didn’t have enough push to make it happen. We prevailed though and this time it only took one go of the new route for the ewes to know where to go the next day.