5 January Happy New Year from Corrie Dhu
Another busy year over, and I feel like I am the top of the slide for the next even busier one - more about that later!
Some pretty girls, Evie, on the move as usual.
And Nia caught in an unusually still moment yet not glued to my leg.
I am really pleased with how these girls (Chance x Ffion) are progressing. They have excellent temperaments, and are biddable and keen to please. Evie is showing on sheep, Nia isn't as yet but they are young so plenty of time.
Here is Corrie Dhu Rosie, their sister.
6 January Business as usual
Gathering them up.
Today we ran sheep through the shedder as some had got mixed up.
Making a sharp exit.
Ffi taking them back to their field.
9 January Fat Hoggs
Today we were drawing fat hoggs, which are last years lambs - wethers (castrated males) and sub standard females. These particular ones are North Country Cheviots which have been finished off grass. They were born in the North of Scotland in May on hill ground and brought down when weaned to better ground in Perthshire. They are from the twin mothers belonging to the flock of single mothers I lambed in May. We got a good draw and most of them are going away fat this week.
Ffi taking the non-fat ones back to their field. Some of these will finish in another few weeks.
Making sure they turn the right way.
Putting them through the gate by herself in the far distance! Good dogs make a shepherd lazy - if she could only shut gates behind her!
Back to get the fat hoggs and put them in a different field close at hand until they go away next week. The unfortunate thing about feeding hoggs is they try your patience all winter and behave very badly, and just as they start to learn manners, they get eaten.
That job done I went to move some texel crosses with Lucy, the bitch I've had in for training for a friend. I really like Lucy and therefore have bought her from my friend! Because I have something else in mind for the name Lucy, she will be known as Lou instead!
Bringing them up to the gate.
Knocking them together for an awkwardly positioned gate.
Convincing the stragglers. Mist and Ffi are in the back of the landrover thinking how much better they would do the job! They know they must not get out unless I tell them however. Lou still has this to learn!
Job done! Good girl!
14 January Traprain the bain of my life (again)
To be fair it wasn't too difficult today as we have removed everything except the Hebrideans which tend to be more placid than Shetlands. There are only 30 there at the moment. Today we brought them in to do all their feet and to vaccinate them for Blue Tongue Virus 8 (BTV8). All sheep in the country have to be vaccinated by April so we are starting now with the non-lambers. No one knows what the effect on the sheep is, whether it is dangerous for inlamb ewes (people!), or even how long the immunity lasts. Personally I think it is completely stupid to vaccinate before say, March, if they don't know how long the immunity lasts, but the Goverment has dictated they have to be done between November and April and it's impossible to get everything done if we don't start now. The vaccine takes three weeks to become effective (apparently!). These ewes aren't in lamb.
Mist is quite an annoying dog to take up a hill because she insists on rushing ahead then peering down at you as if to say, come on slow coach! Ffi at least is polite enough to walk beside me and agree it's very steep!
One of the "beaters" on the skyline, Ffi has just picked the sheep up from the volunteers who have walked the width of the summit.
Bringing them down.
Mist in on the act.
Ffi holding her side, Mist is above them stopping them taking off the other way, and I am behind them convincing them to take the easy option - straight ahead and down!
Mist above them.
Past the narrow "danger" point where they like to plan their escape.
Yes girls, take the PATH!
Dogs are holding them until the two leggeds get to the bottom. It's a lot (LOT) steeper than it looks!!
Ffi ahead with them and nearly at the pens.
At this point my battery was flat so no more photos! All the sheep had their feet done, a few had bad feet and needed some specialist chiropody from me, and an injection of anti-biotic just to make sure and of course their blue tongue vaccination. Once done they hot footed it back to the top of the Law, their home ground.
15 January Hoggs and ewes
Today we were contracting and moving some hoggs and ewes.
Ffi picking up hoggs. These are stock hoggs, which means they are replacement females.
Got them bunched up.
Through the gate. We had a bit of a battle with these hoggs as being stock hoggs they have not been gathered/moved around anywhere near as much as feeding hoggs would have been. They will be in for some remedial training when I have time!!
These are Cheviot ewes, and are due to lamb in May.
Gathering them up.
Knocking them together.
Heading for the gate.
The nice thing about ewes is that one dog can handle several hundred without me and an extra dog fighting with them (like hoggs!).
In fact I hardly have to do anything at all since someone else has opened the gate!
Mist helping push them through the gate while I relax, ha ha.
Next job was moving some feeding hoggs through the farm yard. Ffi is behind them and Mist is kepping one side to stop them taking off (there are several escape routes!).
Then we had 25 "odds and sods" to collect.
Landrover reversed up.
When moving sheep preparation is important. Any small gap will be abused and chosen over the large one they are supposed to take!
Ffi running out.
Mist holding her side.
Contemplating where they might go - anywhere except forwards!
Mist helping them decide.
Two have a change of heart briefly until Mist says...
23 January Drawing fat and training Lou
Things were going well out of an akward gate until the hoggs (in this case Texel crosses) caught the gate and shut it behind them, leaving some very worried friends behind!
Ffi and Mist preventing them going along the fence with their friends on the other side.
Convinced they should try the exit after all.
Most of these will go away fat, if not all, in the next week.
Next we went for a look round the rest of the sheep, and as part of this I decided two parties needed a bit of a training session. Mainly, these stock hoggs who gave us so much trouble a few weeks ago. I could dog them with Ffi and Mist, but really there is no point and I do not train my fully trained dogs for no reason, especially when there are some young ones needing the experience! So Lou was dispatched to gather them up. You can just see a black speck and a few white lumps. That's her, and them! She went wrong a couple of times, wanting to bring what she could see instead of gathering the whole field (very common in an inexperienced dog) however she took a correction from me and gathered them very well, leaving nothing behind.
Bringing them up the hill. She is working at the back knocking up the corners, as she should be.
I called her off, and they took off at top speed as hoggs tend to do, and I sent her again. They have to learn patience!
Once she'd got to the head of them, I wanted to work on her inside flanks and driving.
Most Border Collies prefer to head rather than drive, not all, but generally, they are a heading breed. Classier types tend to find it quite confusing when they are first trained to drive and inside flank, because they have a very very strong instinct to head, and not let anything "get away". Which is what they think is happening when they first drive sheep.
She has got them quite well bunched here, and I have sent her to the head of them again because they are taking off (again!).
Inside flank to the right.
Inside flank back to the left and stopped/walking on from the left.
Bringing them back to me.
Driving them away again.
Catching a few who thought they might sneak off behind me.
Looking classy, a sure sign she is getting the idea and is happy in her work.
Hoggs like these are no use for a dog that is not fairly well on in it's training. They are good in some ways for teaching a dog to drive, because they move off the dog readily. However, they are so keen to get away, it tempts the dog to head them, more than ewes which might just walk off calmly. Therefore I made sure they never "got away" but nor did she prevent them getting away by heading them all the time, I kept flanking her in such a way, she was driving them in a square but a long way away from me so I could make sure she flanked between the sheep and I, instead of going behind me. This is also beneficial for the hoggs because they learn they have to go where the dog dictates, and stop trying to run away all the time. Something which will make life easier for their shepherd when they join the ewe flock and have their first lambs.
28 January At the seaside
Today we were gathering Shetland ewes, Shetland lambs and Texel cross lambs from a coastal reserve. We were removing all the Shetland lambs and taking them to another coastal reserve.
I had them all gathered from one end with Ffi, then I noticed someon the rocks below us so sent Mist for them. While she was getting them, I noticed some more at the very far end of the reserve, actually off the reserve, and on a section they can only get to when the tide is out, unless they fancy a swim, which they occasionally do! I used Ffi to hold the bulk and sent Mist over the rocks to get the ones who thought they might evade us. I did try and video it with my phone and Mist went brilliantly, however it's not very clear and too far away. I have posted it below in case anyone wants to try and decipher it. In the first part of the video she is easing an old ewe up the hill. Too much pressure and the ewe would just run back down and refuse to move, by keeping well off and taking her time, she convinces her to join the rest of the flock. Then I turn her back for the others I've seen.
Photos of the first part of the vid.
Back with the flock.
Wish this had been taken with my DSLR, but I suppose a photo is better than no photo.
Mostly Texel cross hoggs with some Shetlands in the middle.
Stopping them taking off round the corner.
All bases covered.
Mist covering the exit. Forgot to take a pic of them in the pen. Sorry!
Today we were contracting again. First we the remainder of the texel crosses in and sorted some lame ones. We then wormed the remainder. 230 went away fat last week and there are about 130 left. They should "jump" now they have been wormed. I mainly used Ffi to get them in and push them through the race. No photos I am afraid.
Then we went to shift the ewes Ffi moved last week. Because it had been a relatively easy job I decided it was one for Lou to try on her own. She has done little jobs before with sucess however this was a bigger job, and the boss was there too, so she had an audience. I whistled the sheep together to give her a good chance however it didn't work how I wanted as they took off down the hill out of sight. Lou went out perfectly and had them coming back up the hill by the time we got there in the landrover. Good start! She hasn't been on as many sheep before (about 700 ewes) but she went well once she realised she was to drive them and not head them. She has only just realised the point of inside flanks, but she did well. Doing proper work makes a dog realise the point of something they previously might have thought didn't have one!
Well ahead with the flock and keeping them well bunched together and heading roughly in the right direction! (going to top right corner).
Keeping the corners knocked in.
Even further infront but taking all her commands.
Head of the flock through the gate.
Next it was on to moving some hoggs at another farm. Lou hasn't been on a bike before so I took Mist, glad I did as they were very very difficult!
Blissfully unaware we are coming to get them.
Mist bringing them from the far end of the field.
Heading for the gate.
Not sure we want to go out the gate...
Well if you put it like that...
Blue barrel is not sufficient camoflague!
Out the gate.
Down a track.
Through another field.
This gate is badly positioned (as most are) and some of them have gone through while the others have gone up the inside of it. It takes a lot of persuasion for them to believe they must go back the way they came to get to their friends.
Mist digs them out the corner.
Swapped places and I stand in the corner while Mist takes them for another run at the gate.
Not convinced they like the look of me at the gate!
Mist shows them the error of their ways...
Through the gate.
Along another track (Mist is removing some from the woods on the right!)
"You have reached your destination".