Thursday, June 30, 2016

Solo Photo

Where Shall I Begin
or perhaps, Outstanding In A Field :-) 


p.s. Blogger and I got wires crossed and together we managed to post the last post three separate times.  I deleted the extra posts some of which had comments linked to them.  If you commented and no longer see it, my apologies, there is no way for me to copy and re-post your comments, although I would love to.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Starting With LGD Pup, Crow

We had a five hour trip home so when we arrived I placed Crow in a dog run at the yard to stretch his legs.  As soon as he realizes I’ve walked away he erupts into yipping and screaming which he persists with for quite some time.  A sure sign of a pup familiar with people. 

When I take him to the lambs, he doesn’t seek them out as little Wren did, but he doesn’t act afraid of them either.  While Wren came in eager to say hello, he's a pup finding out where he is and what they are.  He follows me more than anything and when by chance he wanders through the lambs it is in a curious way.  They smell appealing to him and he starts to investigate who they are.  



Wren is on the scene immediately and she distracts him with a pushy greeting.  I let them meet and greet but interrupt the bullying.  The oldest lambs sense Crow is a bit unsure, and he’s new, and he’s marked differently than white, fluff ball, Wren.  They give him tiny head butts if he gets too close.  He hardly seems to notice though, and doesn't react at all.    


After watching him for awhile I decide the plan for this puppy.  He is very sure he should follow me everywhere and there is little hope I’ll be able to leave without notice.  He’s never been with sheep and I want him bonded to them but not so much to Wren if I can help it, and definitely not to me.  Given how upset he was at finding himself alone for a short period earlier, I decide to take full advantage of his need for company by putting him with lambs on his own; seperate from both Wren and me for the first few days.  

I select five of my smallest lambs and lead them and Crow back to the dog run at the yard.  All of them toddle right along behind me in a very Mary-had-a-Little-Lamb kind of way.  It was sweet and I wished life with these pups could just stay this way for a little longer. Raising guardian pups takes time but also happens so fast. 

This time, he yips a few times when I walk away but soon settles into doing a more thorough check of the new litter mates he finds himself with.  By nightfall he is curled up in the dog igloo with the lambs.  Over the next few days I walk him out to the barn paddock to spend time with Wren and her group of lambs while I supervise, and then I bring him back to the dog run and his group of lambs to stay on his own. 

The downfall of this approach, is that he’s in the yard hearing and seeing me, possibly forming an association with the yard, and the going back and forth is still encouraging him to follow me.  I don’t want him to gain an association with the yard, so after seeing how settled he is with the lambs already, I decide to move him up to the building where Wren is.  The one hiccup is that Wren is a boisterous pup all around and might be a bit much for him.  I give him plenty of supervision at first and then decide I can leave them be.  

Another option to consider is setting him up to be on his own with lambs in a separate area from Wren but away from the yard as well.  I could have gone either way, and it may be that I separate him and Wren at some point.  I lean toward keeping them together though because truth be told, it’s simpler and I like anything that’s simpler, but also because it’s my intention that these two work together.   The risk is that his bond to the sheep takes second place after his bond to Wren - another canine.  But that’s not a given, I also think it’s very possible that the two develop a secure knowledge of all things sheep and protecting them, by working together.  

Wren is helping him adjust to being here.  In contrast to Crow, Wren stayed at the breeder’s place a week after her litter mates left so she experienced time without her litter mates but with sheep while in a familiar place.  She has no issue with being left on her own and no desire to follow me away from the sheep.  Since being placed with lambs for a few days on his own, and now with Wren, Crow hasn’t once fussed upon my leaving, nor tried to follow and that’s pretty promising given how upset he was on day one.



Saturday, June 25, 2016

LGD Puppy Two

I did venture off to look at a pup and I did bring a pup home. 

I was not seeking out a pup specifically to have a partner for Wren, but I did want to add another pup this summer because we need to get two or three additional dogs started.  With the loss of two dogs this past year we’re already seeing predator pressure on the lambs.  By the time these babies are mature enough to be an asset to the others, a couple of those dogs will be slowing down due to age.  We’re also running a risk if something were to happen to any of the current dogs, which would leave us in a lurch for sure.  

This pup had a non traditional start in that he came from a kennel of working dogs but was not raised with sheep.  The dogs in this kennel are slated for work with cattle.  This litter of pups were raised in a kennel area with people and kids regularly interacting with the litter.  Not the ideal start one would look for in a LGD pup slated for sheep work but suffice it to say,  there were a few reasons I chose to try such a pup regardless of this.   

I have been researching and hoping to find dogs known to work tightly to the flock.  One of our previous dogs worked this way and she was a Maremma.  My hope was to find another like her but that isn’t happening soon enough.  This pup is a Great Pyrenees x Pyrenean Mastiff - the mastiff type being known for working tighter to the flock and being less hyper reactive than some types are.  

The other attraction is that the parents of this litter were purchased and brought up from Montana, a state I have some fond connections to, plus a small bit of familiarity with the type of working dog ranchers there are pursuing.  

The litter was 8.5 weeks when I saw them.  Given the young age there is still a bit of time to strongly influence an attachment to sheep.  

With Wren, the breeder made the choice of which pups went where on a first come, first served type basis, which is fine with me.  With this pup it happened that I had a choice amongst the litter.   I have no unique puppy testing criteria up my sleeve as I think picking a pup is partly your intuitive sense, partly your educated choice and partly a crap shoot and the stronger your intuitive sense weighs in, the better to listen to it.  I’m often drawn to a particular pup right away, and if so, I heed that closely.  

I was leaning toward a male, although sex was not a determining factor.  I had requested photos of the parents and the pups and asked the breeders opinion.  One of the first pups I met was confident enough but not wanting to hang with us over much.  When picked up he just hung out in my arms, no panic.  When held in my arms and turned on his back, he went with that, no real concern, no struggle, but yet not limp like he had given up.  Overall he felt calm, maybe almost lazy even, and after years with these dogs I have come to the conclusion that calm is a trait that cannot be overstated in lgd pups.  These are dogs who will spend their lives with sheep and hence influence the ewes in a flock, and to a degree, the other members of a pack.  Calmness goes a long way to keeping stock settled.  A bit timid of people is also a trait I would not be afraid of and there was one pup who leaned that way although not to any great degree.  I haven't tested it out but wonder if an lgd pup who is a bit timid around people may well establish a tighter connection to his charges and be less challenging in other areas.  But timid is a fine line trait, as too much will not be ideal either.   

I came very close to buying two pups but sat on my hands (and my wallet), thinking it wiser to see how it goes with getting a bond to sheep, and to see how this cross turns out for us.  A single pup it was then.  

Crow came home with me on Tuesday.  His start is a stark contrast to Wren’s but I am hopeful he won’t take long to catch up.  I’ll dissect his first day here in the next post. 




Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Catching Lambs With Cajun

Using Cajun to catch animals isn’t something we practice on a regular basis.  It’s more like a trick he and I learned as we went along and we only do so on the rare occasion it’s needed.  The only reason we even started to try was because he started attempting it on his own.  Initially I tried to correct him for it, thinking it was a bad habit to let your dog take animals off their feet, which it is if they’re doing so with ill intention.  Then a wise and very well experienced stock dogging friend commented that, if used appropriately as a skill, it wasn’t a bad habit, it was useful one.  Cajun has slipped a few other tricks into our working life and caused me to see dogs, and what each one brought to the table, in a different way.  

Cajun focuses on lambs in a way that could go bad quickly if allowed to.  That focus also lends itself to why he’s so readily catches them.  Any lambs we’d be catching are large, spy ones I’m not able to catch on my own.  If I’m using Cajun to catch an animal, it means we’re out on pasture, otherwise we’d just move the animal into an alleyway or pen and handle it there.  When out on pasture we’re in big spaces and there are other sheep around.  Lots of other sheep around.  
  
I’ll indicate that we’re going after one particular animal and not gathering all of them by saying ‘this one’ and because I’ll be focused on the animal, he’ll get the message.  It doesn’t take much for a dog to physically catch up to a lamb, when he does he’ll flip them off their feet and hold the lamb to the ground with his mouth, usually on the lambs neck.  It does look worrisome - hence my initial shock and correction for him doing so - but he isn’t biting the lamb, he’s just pinning it down.  I’m (hopefully) catching up to said lamb and dog right away and when I do, he must let go and let me have it.  Because catching raises his adrenaline, he must lie down and soften again before we proceed to anything else.  

He will try the same tactic with adult ewes but of course have a much more difficult time because of their size so it’s not an appropriate or safe skill.  More often than not if we’re trying to catch a single ewe, he’ll block and cover it until it’s within reach of my crook.  If we can’t manage that because the ewe is too panicked and just runs madly through the others, well then we don’t catch her.  She wins, we go home.  I’m actually pretty lousy at catching adult ewes with a leg crook so I'm very glad we don't need to do so very often.  I can hook them but I have a hard time holding on given my light weight to their heavier weight plus momentum from trying to escape.  Allen is very adept at it though, he just needs the animal within his reach and he’ll have it.  Hmph, come to think of it, he and Cajun are rather alike in some ways.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Solo Photo

A solo photo times two :-) And I'll share Cajun and catching lambs in the next post.  Meanwhile I'm off on another road trip to look at another pup.




Saturday, June 18, 2016

To Move Them Or Not

The grass where the ewes are is getting thin so a few days ago I left the gate open to the next paddock expecting the ewes to find it and wander across with lambs in tow.  Any other time I leave a gate wide open they would have found it all too soon.  This time, after a day and a half, only a portion of the ewes had made their way over and some of them left their lambs behind.  I was tempted to leave the laggers except keeping the ewes spread out meant more risk and getting them back together would make things lighter on the guardian dogs.  There are several foxes around who are giving us trouble and they’re still able to steal the youngest, baby lambs.  


On the second evening of no movement progress, I headed out with Cajun to move the rest.  It was a couple hours of moving sheep, finding sets and heading them in the same direction, giving them reason to go but ample time, until we had a loosely gathered group.

Cajun is seven and has been with me since a pup.  We’ve done a lot of work together, he and I.  There was a time that I cursed Cajun almost continually and I cried many a tear over our lack of training progress compared to others.  Oh what a treat he is now that we are both chalk full of bumps, bruises and experiences.



So much patience with lambs, holding and covering at the gate to get the last bunch through, and yet when needed he was all in to catch the odd one for me.  He loves to catch lambs or single ewes.  I remember feeling panicked and yelling at him the first few times he busted away after lambs and caught them.  I was aghast really.  I know Kelpies better now and I know the skill set of this guy is probably more rare than it is common.  


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Wren


Wren is 10, going on 11 weeks old and she is a Great Pyrenees x Akbash.  Previous dogs Willow, Glory, Reva and Oakley are this cross.  Pippa and Lilly are Great Pyr x Akbash x Maremma.  The others are Maremma, Anatolian Shepherd, and Anatolian x Maremma. 

She is very comfortable with where she is now, although she and the lambs do not venture too far from the building.  Each time out to watch her I am questioning whether to leave her with the lambs or switch her to adult sheep already.  There are signs that she is definitely playing with the lambs.  My previous pups all started with quiet adult sheep rather than young lambs.  But those pups also had a littermate, so it is tough to know what the difference really was.  Now that I’m trying this approach with Wren and orphan lambs though, I’m favouring the first approach, however, I am curious if a switch up will influence the bond she has with sheep.  I do like how comfortable she is with them and that she is always with them.  

The upside with orphan lambs without adult sheep to show them otherwise, is they don’t venture too far but hang around the area they are familiar with.  This suits a small puppy who also doesn’t yet venture too far; they can roam about but are always with lambs.  Together the lambs and pups will slowly explore the area.  Adult sheep will leave to go graze and not care if the pup is along with them or not.  I suppose you could fence them in a small spot and move them everyday, pup included.  

At this stage it’s still a bit of a toss up, but I’m going to keep her with the lambs for now and risk some bullying behaviour on her part when I'm not there to intervene, but hopefully get a nice, strong commitment to staying with sheep.  

By the way, I do enjoy and appreciate the questions and comments.  Feel free to ask away if you want to know more about the process or what I am observing.  



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The New LGD Pup, So Far So Good

All my misgivings about starting another dog faded when I laid eyes on this one. 

She travelled home well, sitting in the centre of the back seat of the truck resting her front on the centre console.  Eventually she laid in the back and slept.  She never made a peep the whole way.  

When we got home I took her straight away to the orphan lambs.  When I placed her on the ground she gave a little tail wag at the sight and sound of the lambs running to greet us.  She moved right into them, head up, sniffing and licking, even a soft nip or two.  She was at ease with this, she knew what these wooly babies were and it was obvious she had been with sheep before.  


For the next half hour she explored where she was; moving into the building, finding the water pail, back outside, having a little chase through the lambs.  She tried out the milk pail, then investigated the place all over again, coming over to check me out a time or two as she did so.  Although her parents were described as being semi-wild, she has been handled, and took very little time to become comfortable and relaxed with me. 


She has a lovely attitude and feels very stable minded.  She’s very confident around the lambs so I’m curious to know how she will respond to adult sheep.  My thought was to keep her with the orphan lambs for some time, but I don’t think this pup will be able to stay with lambs too long without a lot of supervision.  She’s already pretty boisterous with them and I’ve interrupted her a time or two for chewing on lambs.  I think right now this is just her being a puppy who is now without a littermate and so the lambs are a substitute.  In the past I have raised two pups at a time and this is one of the reasons I like doing so.  This is my first singleton pup in a while.  What I’ll watch for is a subtle change in her demeanour, when the puppy attitude begins to shift into something else.  Meanwhile I’m kindly and fairly interrupting the chase and chew antics.  


With BJ’s help, I’ve already sorted a handful of adult sheep and set them in the barn paddock.  They don’t hang out with her and the bottle lambs yet but soon I’ll start penning them together at night.  When the time comes I’ll remove the orphan lambs and let her stay with just the adults.  Right now I just want her to feel comfortable and settled with where she is. 

When I come and go from the paddock, she takes notice, but then resumes activities elsewhere or follows the lambs somewhere.  Perfect.  In this situation the dogs work away from me and the yard year round, so it will be a much smoother transition to pasture work if we get this part right.  If I don’t over coddle her and cause her to seek my attention over the sheep it will be smooth sailing.  

In the evening on her first night here Zeus made his rounds to check the orphan lambs as I suspected he was doing.  I am checking on the pup frequently so was in the paddock when he came by.  His eyes popped when he realized one of the small woolies was not like the other.  I let him in the gate to meet Wren.  She trotted over with puppy innocence and greeted him like there was no way he could be anything but pleasant to her.  Which he was.  

Just before nightfall I put the lambs and the pup in the building and closed the front swing gate.  The overhead door is open so the pup can watch what's going on out front but can’t leave the building.  Zeus set himself on the hill beside the building.  I bet he stayed there awhile and made a few more rounds throughout the night to check on her.  




Sunday, June 12, 2016

Back to The Dogs

Lambing is nearly finished and much of the time on pasture is now spent looking for the odd newborn amidst hundreds of others.  Judging from my lambing book there are still quite a few ewes to lamb, but we never pulled the rams so this tail end of lambing might drag on a bit.  That, or else we have more open ewes than I like to see. 

I have a dozen orphan lambs and I plan to start the new guardian pup out with them and so spent some time this weekend setting up for her arrival.  They’ll all stay together near the building in the barn paddock where they have access to an outdoor area and to the building.  The dog houses are stored inside so the pup will have a private place to hole up when needed.  She can access the larger barn paddock as well and I’m debating whether or not to limit that access or just let it be.  I seldom have a concrete approach or plan in place until the pup arrives and I can feel out what the best options might be.  Zeus is nearby and I’m sure once pup arrives he will be over to investigate and oversee. 

And the stock dogs...?  While the stock dogs have bits of work here and there all the time, the other activity I’m able to get back to is working with them on a regular basis.  I’ve started training with the youngster, BlackJack and friends are joining me each week to work dogs together.  When the flock moves out to the larger grazing land there will also be regular evening work for the adult dogs to tuck up ewes and lambs before nightfall.  


Friday, June 10, 2016

Wild Encounters

While out at pasture I am seen and heard by the wildlife but seldom is it the other way around, such is their state of awareness and my state of busyness.  So when the chance encounters happen they bring me up short and make me pay attention.

Noticing a ewe off on her own I head over to investigate.  She is located just over a rise, standing tall and looking intently down slope.  She barely acknowledges my approach on the Ranger and she doesn’t move off.  Cresting the rise I see that she has a lamb at her feet.  What is she watching then? 

I catch a brief glimpse of what has her attention as I come over the hill.  There is a deer standing at the fence, only 60 - 70 feet away, and at the deer’s feet is the ewe’s second lamb.  Not being held transfixed by her own young visiting with strangers, the deer startles at my appearance and bounds off.  The ewe and I watch it go.  Finding itself suddenly alone, the second lamb bleats loudly and the ewes rushes down hill to collect it, murmuring the whole way.   I sense the ewe’s relief but smile at the thought of the deer and lamb saying hello to each other.

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As I drive around the pasture a crow flies low and near the Ranger.  I slow to watch as it approaches and passes by.  It is close enough for me to see it cocking its head, one way and then the other, eyeball looking down to the earth each time.  Ah, I suspect it is searching for left over remnants of lambing - afterbirth.  It looks very much like a crow might look if texting while flying. 
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I discover the body of a lamb - just the body.  The entire head is missing.  What creature takes the head before the body?  We suspect an owl and we have a great horned owl nesting about half a mile away, with two fledglings in the nest.  Co-existence with the land and wildlife at its finest hour. 



Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Searching for Rams and Dogs

I blinked and a few days went by.  Nice to have the blog to check back in with and remind me where we are at.  :-)  Apologies for the short lapse.  

I’ve been planning to change out the majority of our rams this year.  When today unexpectedly became an open day we scrambled to borrow a trailer and made a trip to pick up a couple boys we spoke for earlier. I’ll make another trip tomorrow to a different location for a few more.  I’ve also requested a couple ram lambs from another producer, which I’ll know more about and decide upon at the end of summer.  That’s about enough purchasing for now.  There are plenty of rams here.  I’ll keep two or three of my favourites from what I’ve got and sell everything else this summer. 

I’m also shopping for livestock guardian dogs (pups and/or adults).  Over the last year we  lost a dog or two and some of the remaining members of the pack are aging; they’re starting to tire with the workload.  I held off for awhile, because after losing dogs I just didn’t feel confident nor up to, starting new dogs.  Then I jumped at the chance to bring in Miss No Name and that went south and left me feeling burned.  But the show goes on and new dogs are needed.  


I’ve spoken for a female pup but she hasn’t arrived yet - if plans jive she should make her way here next week.  I’ll keep searching for one or two more and if I come across some gem of an adult I’ll be very fortunate indeed.  

I'm willing to travel for good dogs, so if you have any leads ... I'm all ears.  

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Tad Un-Sheepish of Ewe

If it bothers you to see the unsightly, slightly disturbing, maybe a little gross, natural habits of the animal world then skip this post.  It’s not blood and guts or anything as bad as that but if you’re squeamish this is your heads up. 

I don’t know if this occurs in barn lambed flocks or if the shepherd does the cleaning up before it can occur, but I’ve seen a few of our ewes do it.

It’s not so bothersome to me that she’s eating the umbilical cord and afterbirth, yet it does disturb me to see her with blood on her chin in the second photo.  That scene feels a tad un-sheepish, like the ewe has gone rogue.

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Another tad un-sheepish occurrence this lambing was an attack by a ewe.  I caught her twins (hefty little things they were too) and as I usually do, got down on my knees to hold them. 

I was barely down when she charged, caught me on the shoulder, knocked me over and slammed me with her head.  Then she backed up to try again.  She got a couple more hits in before I was back on my feet.  I still had her lambs, she was still livid.  I had to dodge and fend off several charges lest she nail me in the thigh and take me out again. 

She backed up once more but now seemed to rethink her strategy.  Before she could charge I put the lambs back down but still didn’t let go of them.  She knew they were there and somehow we came to an arrangement.  She puffed and she huffed and she gurgled frantically to her lambs.  I worked just as frantically, one eye on her the whole time, eager to let these little suckers go before she upped her strategy to ram me again.  

No coyote is going to steal those lambs.  


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Entertaining Thoughts and Favourite Moments

Right around this point in the proceedings of lambing I entertain thoughts of selling the sheep and renting the land out, keeping only enough sheep for the stock dogs to have work.  I also imagine being on a holiday :- ) 

My best estimate is that we’re better than three quarters of the way through lambing.  If feels hopeful and yet it is a birthing time, you never know if the hardest part is behind you or still yet to come. 

Only fourteen new lambs this morning, I expect another ten or twelve tonight.  The pace is slowing.  I realize I’m a shepherd but lambing time is not at the top of my favourite things list, but it can contain some of my favourite moments.