Either way, we'll get it done
The stock dogs and I were outdoors today to tackle another sheep job. I sold a group of lambs so needed to sort them and get them tagged for load out on Friday.
The outdoor alleyway that leads to our indoor raceway is blown in with snow so I decided to bring all the animals in the front of the building and pen them in a narrow side pen. At the back of that pen I can open a swing gate and feed them to the raceway from there. This way we get to work indoors.
Gibson and Coyote Mic gathered and got them into the building without trouble but the group was not going to fit into that narrow pen. This group of animals numbers about 200 head. We had about three quarters of them in but would need a plan B. Plan B was to do a gate sort between two pens, releasing the animals I know I can send back out and then continue with plan A. I only needed one dog to gate sort with and decided it would be Coyote Mic. I haven’t gate sorted a large group of sheep in some time. I lost myself in the work, leaving Mic to cover and hold sheep while I managed the gate and cut the proper animals out. Slowly, slowly we managed our group down to the last dozen who would now easily fit in the narrow pen with the rest.
From this point on I used the raceway and three way sorter for the rest of the group. Gibb and Mic were tied up and watching for much of this. I have to tie Coyote Mic or she jumps panels to get in with sheep somewhere. When I got down to the last small bunch and could pen all of them at the mouth of the race I tried my hand at getting the dogs to work the raceway. To keep a flow of sheep going down the raceway when the animals know there is a catch gate and a human at the end takes some doing. Often a person has to walk numerous times up and down the raceway. This is what I wanted the dogs to do for me. Gibson has an idea of this as I’ve tried it with him a time or two before. For Mic it was a bit perplexing but gave her great excitement in trying. She could never really get around the sheep as experience has taught her she should and she had zero patience for waiting on me before more sheep could move up. [Sidenote - this is not the same thing as backing with a Kelpie. I do not teach my dogs to back because our grid style panels are too dangerous for hooking a dogs leg when they come down off sheep and I've seldom had a reason to use backing].
After sorting the original group we moved the animals that were not needed back out to the feed area, leaving us with 50 odd lambs to resort and ear tag. I took a break for a late lunch and when I came back out I (bravely) brought BlackJack with me. There was only a couple simple jobs to be done now, perfect for his scatterbrained mind. With BlackJack's help I moved the lambs back to that narrow pen and again filled the raceway. This time I needed to catch each lamb at the catch gate to ear tag it. With a smaller group of animals I was able to fit them in the back pen, leaving the sides of the raceway clear of sheep, and let Jack try working the raceway just as I had done with Gibb and Mic. He took to this job readily, if a little too excitedly. Once he understood go back was a cue to move more sheep up and not a cue to leave the ones he just brought, he became eager to do it.
It was a nice, full winter day of work leaving me with the satisfaction of being a day ahead of schedule, and the satisfaction of being able to toss my dogs into work whether we’re well practiced and well oiled, or out of practice and a little rusty. Either way we’ll get it done.
My apologies for the lack of a photo, but the internet is way to slow for uploading photos tonight.