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.
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.
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