5. The Working Dog

Being a shepherd/sheep farmer means being a dog handler and trainer too. The job wouldn’t be worth doing without a dog to do half the work for you. They become like a limb to you. An essential part of everyday life and work. Something that you need to rely on, and equally something that can be taken for granted.

James has 3 border collies and his job would be impossible without them. His job doesn’t only entail looking after 1000’s of sheep but for most of the year, he also has 100’s of cows to look in several fields and hills.
On a good day, all sheep will be on their feet, on one side of the hill together and be thriving. And all cows are together with standing calves and not one missing… but that is a rarity. Weather can be a huge problem looking stock, especially on the hills. If you can’t see 5-10ft in front of you, you have to cover every square foot of that hill until you’re 100% certain you have counted all cows and calves and reckon you’ve pushed every sheep on the hill.
This is where the dogs can be a life and time saver. They’re on constant alert for livestock and will naturally run toward them, almost guiding you to them and gather the sheep up so you can get a closer look. So on bad weather, they can help locate the animals lost in the fog, rain, snow etc.
Here is a photo of the awful winter we all experienced in the UK. James had a field of sheep stuck on the bad side of the hill so to get them to safety he had to walk them across the hill. Some places were that deep he had to dig sheep out on the way. The dogs were a godsend here and kept the flock together and going in the right direction. It would have been impossible to save the sheep without the dogs.
Gathering sheep to safety when the Beast from the East hit Northumberland
Sheep to safety and in for the feed when the Beast from the East hit Northumberland
Your employer doesn’t supply you with these dogs, nor are they just given away for free very often or come fully trained with instructions (without paying a heavy price for it). This is a responsibility that you take on yourself. Generally, you will always know someone with a litter of pups, but you may see yourself paying between £200 – £350 for a collie pup.
James’ first dog Kyle was meant to be his dad’s, but for some reason, he was not right for him so James decided to give sheepdog training a go. And 12 years later, he has been there with James, training each other in how to live and work with a sheepdog. Your first dog will be the biggest lesson on how to train a sheepdog, and you never really stop learning. Every dog is different.
James then got Jed, a Kelpie cross border collie and his instincts and traits differ to Kyle’s. His outrun is non-existing compared to Kyle, but his confidence and stamina exceed Kyle’s. Jed is also very good in the pens as he has the instincts of an Australian Kelpie – chasing sheep up the race by barking or jumping on their back. Jed is also good for the hot days as he has very short hair and again Kelpies are used to the warmer climates. And then we decided to get a litter of pups from Kyle since it was James’ first dog and the idea of passing on good traits to the future working dogs has always been the plan for us. So we got Dan from that litter of pups and he is 2 years old and the spitting dab of his dad Kyle.
Dad Collie Dog with new Son
20180318_164335Sheep dogs are the best
So the next progeny may come from Jed or may come from Dan. One thing we are sure of is that we want to keep a continuous bloodline from our original dog Kyle. And long may they work with us and our flock of Cheviots xx
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4. It’s Shearing Time… again

Yes, so here we are, it’s summertime. The grass is growing, the lambs are growing, the garden is growing and the wool packs are growing.

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It’s the most physically hard going time of year again. But the most competitive and this seems to keep people going. James has about 3,000 sheep to shear on the farm he works shared with just one other shepherd… ouch. I, on the other hand, get away with only helping James push sheep up the race and wrap wool for our own sheep. Easy!

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Just for the shearers it’s not as easy going. It’s bent over all day with an 80-120kg sheep between your legs, kicking and wriggling while you try to clip their wool off x 200 a day. Their wool can be sticky and matty, full of thorns and oily. Making it difficult and uncomfortable. So it is important to have the right equipment to make hard jobs easy. And for James, since he works on the farm and does all the shearing with one other person, they are having to gather, shed lambs off, wrap the wool and treat all bad feet and doze all lambs at the same time. So it really is quite a job.

 

 

James gets most of his protective clothing, combs, cutters and tools from Horner.

With their wool being full of all sorts it can ruin clothes and affect your skin. Horner has a couple shearing trousers available that are designed to protect you from these things.

Such as the Longhorn shearing trousers at £36 + VAT which are triple stitched for strength, double layered fabric for protection, delta gusset for free movement and made from cotton so are comfortable to wear.

The Singlet tops at £7.95 + VAT are ideal for shearing as they are cotton to keep you cool, long in length so don’t ride up when bent over. They also do a wool blend design which James has not tried out as yet.

Mocassins at £34 + VAT are also available as these type of shoes compensate for your posture being bent over all day.

Shearing Belt at £10 + VAT

Back Warmer at £19 + VAT is designed to keep your back and kidneys warm and is made from wool.

As for combs and cutters, these are something that you can make last a long time if you look after them. But if you are shearing constantly for weeks, you will be in need of quite a big stock. You may go through ** combs and cutters each day as they wear down in sharpness the more you use them. But they can be cleaned and sent to get sharpened and oiled and they are as good as new.

Wide Combs at £10.95 + VAT each

Cutters at £2.95 + VAT each

And then there are the machines. The most expensive part of the job. You will see yourself pay about £400 for the overhead machine and £300 for the handheld machine. These prices do vary and there are many second-hand machines available which can sometimes be the better option. Horner does have a used items page which is great for new starts or replacing old tools etc. If you keep your machines well they will also last you a long time. James gets his serviced every year and if at any point he wants to upgrade, he can trade or sell what he has to cut costs.

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1. The Cheviot’s Wife

If you are visiting this blog it might be because you are familiar with our Cheviot’s from Cheviot Instagram page or you have visited our website. First of all, thank you for taking time to have a look at our new blog.

Let me tell you the reason for starting this blog. As well as run a website and an Instagram page I got the idea of running a blog of our life with our sheep and dogs as I love writing and posting about our livelihood. Our livelihood that we work so hard for and will continue to for the rest of our life. I love it, I get a kick out of how many people have supported us so far and the responses we get on our posts! It really fuels my inspiration and motivation, so thank you.

Anyways, I am the one behind the screen and camera for our website and the Instagram page and now this new blog. I document and talk about everyday life with our sheep through lambing time, shearing time, showtime, feeding time as well talk about our most loyal companions – our dogs. We have 3 lovely Collies and 2 mad Springadors – queue soppy dog photos.

So with all that, here is a little about myself and the handsome guy you see on the Instagram. My name is Lucy and my boyfriend James is the hard working Shepherd you see in the photographs. We both live near the Cheviot Hills in North Northumberland, fitting as we farm Cheviot Sheep so close to the spectacular hills. We are both in our early 20’s with 5 dogs and a flock of sheep trying to make our native flock into something bigger.

We met in 2007 while we lived in a very remote part of Northumberland and became best friends for 7 years before we became a thing!! With our love for the countryside, farming and biodiversity, we make a great team in working together and making the most out of our flock of sheep. Head over to our website for more information on how we live and work with our sheep. And we hope you continue to support our blog! X

James, Dan and Jed looking over Ingram Mill.jpg