Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Adventures in Worming

Last weekend we spent the day helping Ronnie with worming his flock of 1200 lambs & ewes.  While Cindy was up in the chutes actually worming the sheep, we were in the barn & paddock moving the sheep back and forth. 

Cindy invited Bob Hickman along to work his dogs & help.  He graciously gave up his Sunday morning to help us. 

Since Ronnie's dog died he has been relying on his workers to move the flocks around.  For big jobs like this we bring in extra dogs.  It is an excellent chance to work your dog on huge flocks of 'un-dogged' sheep.  These sheep are a mix of Romney and North Country.  They can be a wee bit dog aggressive & do not flock in the same way we are used to with 'dogged' sheep.  These sheep are in it for themselves and do not hesitate to try and flatten a dog that shows little push.  

Ronnie was born on this farm 85 years ago.  He is still going strong, although minus his dog & quick cat naps here and there. 

The first order of the day was to retrieve the two separate flocks from their night pastures.  They are divided in two groups of roughly 600 sheep.  A mixture of ewes and lambs.  The lambs are not used to dogs and do not react the way you would expect.  The ewes can still be protective of their lambs.  Moving them can be a challenge. 

Bob brought along two of his dogs, Mojo and Trooper.   Bob and the dogs gathered the first group of sheep from their night pasture and had them in the paddock ready to push into the barn when we arrived. 

Then the fun started.  Brynn has been on these sheep before, but in small doses.  This was her first time doing the job for real.  At the beginning I had planned on using Beth for the majority of the work, but when a surly ewe clocked her and rolled her down the hill Beth needed some down time & the job fell to Brynn. 

Brynn was perfect.  She listened, did everything I asked and more. 

I started her out in the barn where her job was to keep the sheep pressed to one end of the barn.  The far end had a broken gate and it could not withstand any pressure from the sheep pushing up against it.  Also to keep the sheep close to the chute so the workers were able to load them quickly. 

Please forgive the freaky sheep flash eyes....I put my camera on auto for some of the the barn shots.  

Brynn did not once try to go to their heads.  She held the pressure quite nicely without excessive waring.  Just the occasional thoughtful movement.

When the workers would come down the chute, the sheep would try to make a break for it out the back of the barn.  Brynn would have none of that. 

I am not sure she meant to skid to a halt in front of this lamb, but it worked.  She turned. 

Then fell down. 

Then Brynn got a little squirrely.

Preventative measures apparently. 

Then things settled down considerably.  I could almost see this "Don't Mess With Me" attitude exuding from her. 

She did not hesitate to deal with a ewe that challenged her.  

Brynn held her own and emptied the barn twice.

After a little while we brought Beth in to back her up.

Beth had done this several times before and knew the routine. 

She also wanted to show off her "Don't Mess With Me" nose grip. I loved the expression on Beth's face when this lamb makes a break for it. 

Brynn went after the lamb, and Beth dealt with the ewe that tried to head butt her, with a perfectly landed grip on the nose. 

The ewe raised up and tried to charge her.  Beth propped her feet on her chest and held on. 

And held on...

Brynn came to back her up...and the ewe gave up, turned and promptly fell down.  But her head was turned and she quit giving the dogs any nonsense. 

We took frequent breaks and went out in the paddock to refill the barn with Bob, Mojo and Trooper.  I had to put Beth on a leash for this part because she does not play well with strange dogs.

Brynn on the other hand did fantastic with Trooper and Mojo.  It takes more than one dog to push the lambs into the barn.  I am still amazed I was able to blow my whistle while shooting pictures...albeit crappy pictures.  But pictures none the less. 

Trooper, Mojo and Brynn stick to the fenceline and get behind the sheep. 

Bob and I are standing on the side to allow the dogs to push them past us and into the barn.  

When they got to the top, Trooper took the outside nearest the fenceline.  (sorry the pictures suck, the sun kept coming out then going away and it drove my camera nuts)

When your dogs are deep behind the sheep you can't see them, except for the occasional glimpse of ears.  Watching your sheep is the only way to tell where your dog is at times.  Can you spot Brynn?

When the sheep started to move down the dogs all took different positions behind the flock. 

It was amazing to see them settle right into their spots.

They had never worked together before - yet they all knew what the job was and cooperated. 

I got goosebumps.  Guess that means I am a herding nerd addict.  All the excitement in my life comes vicariously through my dogs working sheep.  Is that a good thing or just sad & pathetic?  Like an old lady living a house filled with clutter and cats, I will be  living in a house full of sheep stuff and border collies.  I think I will be happy.  Besides who really cares?  I will have lost my marbles anyway and wont give a rip what anyone thinks.  Ohhh, those will be the days.  

What was I saying?  Oh yes....the sheep.   

The other dogs gave Brynn confidence. 

Brynn's "snap snap snap" moves them nicely when they think to challenge. 

She took all my 'stand' whistles and listened like a dream. 

She watched the sheep, but the other dogs too.  It was pretty amazing to watch *insert goosebumps again*

They pushed the lambs down the hillside to the barn entrance. 

At the entrance they bottle necked.

The lambs in the back tried to make a break for it back up the hill to the top of the paddock.  Brynn showed some more of her mad air snapping skillz.  "Snap snap snap" in their face....

Followed by a shoulder slam...

And viola!  They begin to move. 

Funny how that works huh? 

I was so proud of my baby dog. 

Tomorrow more pictures of Mojo and Trooper working.   Ranger fans will like Trooper, they look like they are related. 

This is what Ranger would look like if he had instinct for anything other than holding down the couch. 


Lean said...

wauw great job doggy's.

Diana said...

Hey your life with dogs and sheep sounds great to me. Im going to school to listen to the same kids coming to the nurse with stomach aches and headaches. I think I see the same 100 kids over and over. There are a 1000 kids at the school. See, you life does sound good. Diana

ros said...

Fantastic photos. Brynn looks like she did a amazing job you must be very proud. From Angus & Milo http://ros-angusandmilosadventures.blogspot.com

heartsong said...


I know/knew nothing about herding sheep and BC's until I found your blog and I got goosebumps just reading about it - hey if it makes you happy and puts that big grin on your face- revel in it- life's way too short!

Kathy said...

Looks like an awesome day!! It is always a pleasure seeing our dogs doing what they are meant to do, thanks for sharing. Loved the pictures. I especially loved the shot of Ronnie taking a cat nap with the sheep in the foreground!!

MTWaggin said...

You GO GIRLS! Trials are fun but to see the dogs honestly WORKING sheep is the best!

Lynn said...

I agree with Heartsong 100%!

- Ranger fan :)

Karen said...

Gave ME goosebumps reading about the dogs working as a team, for the first time together:)
Brynn is doing great:)

forensicfarmgirl said...

What a wonderful opportunity for the dogs! Don't you just LOVE watching dogs doing what they were bred to do?!! (gave me goosebumps too!)

One Dog, One Camera said...

Wow, those were wonderful pictures. Seeing them work like that is just amazing. Such great dogs!

Paws on the Run said...

OMG. That first picture.... I'm speechless. Love it!

dreameyce said...

These photos were absolutely amazing to look at, esp how the dogs teamed up so naturally. Beautiful work- the dogs and the photography!