This original post got deleted so I’m re-writing it. Two Sundays ago, Wally and I drove back up to Marshall, NC to pick-up a livestock guard dog (“LGD”) who needed to be rehomed, Liath. Liath is a full sister, from a previous litter to Rose. Liath was escaping from the fences where she used to live and was patrolling the neighborhood and was in danger of being hit by a car. So Liath had spent the summer on a chain and was extremely unhappy with the arrangement. In addition to picking up Liath, we arranged to get Fern (Fennel’s daughter). Fern and Fennel’s breeder lives just a few miles from where we got Liath. We left Fern with her breeder to be bred when she came into season. Sebastian (our buck) is a half brother to Fern so we couldn’t use him.
It never fails to amaze me how fate sometimes plays out. What were the chances of finding a full litter mate to Rose from a woman named Rosemoon who just so happened to live a few miles from where we needed to pick up Fern. Fern went into heat the Saturday before we were scheduled to go up and get Liath.
What a wonderful, wonderful trip it was. Rosemoon and her family were amazing. You can see their Blog here. They are truly homesteading, something Wally and I are striving towards. What I was particularly interested in was learning how to make hard cheese and how to raise pastured pork. The family had a small flock of wool sheep, two Jersey cows, two pigs, poultry, etc.
Gel and Fern were excited to be able to work the sheep, none of which had been worked by a dog before. I’ve had numerous opportunities lately to work Gel and Fern on different types of sheep. It’s been interesting and extremely gratifying to see that my dogs, especially Gel, are able to handle these sheep. Fern, the little alligator, got several mouthfuls of wool, but all and all, she did quite well. She’s driven to work now, no more wilting daisy routines.
There was a lot of concern about how Liath would react to the Border Collies. When they first met, I thought we’d be leaving Liath where she was because she aggressively rolled Gel in the mud! We took Liath off her chain and walked her up the road with the two Border Collies. Then she was fine with them and has been ever since, even when Gel was trying to use her as a sex toy. When we got home, I took out the goats and calf, kept Liath on a leash and walked around the property. Liath paid no attention to the Border Collies.
For the first night, Liath stayed up with the goats and Rose remained with the sheep. I have not yet introduced the two LGDs and plan to do that this weekend on neutral territory. Liath lived with poultry and ducks so I felt that she’d be fine with my flock, but I was wrong. The next morning, I saw that Liath had something black in her mouth that she was tossing in the air: a duck! I don’t think she hurt it because I have not seen an injured duck or found a body, but she should know better than to be playing with ducks. I went out and corrected her and put her on a tie-out.
As I do every morning, I went down to check on Rose. I always send Gel into the fenced-in area to pull up the sheep so I can inspect them. That morning, the ram didn’t come with the rest of the flock. I sent Gel back and he brought up the ram who was limping on his hind leg. I looked at his injury and couldn’t figure out what had caused it. Then I noticed a lamb limping. I looked closely at his front legs and saw puncture wounds. Then I noticed that the two Barb ewes had similar woulds on their front legs. Damn Rose had been playing with them. This is not the first time she’s done this, but I thought she had grown out of it. Great! I couldn’t leave Rose down there with the sheep knowing she was using them as play toys.
I picked up the lamb and brought him back up to the house so I could clean out his wounds. He was the worst of the bunch. I put the lamb and Liath in the tie-out area where I keep the goats during milking and went back down to get Rose. After I put Rose in with the goats, I brought Liath down to the sheep. I was probably putting too much trust into Liath by putting her right in with the sheep, but I didn’t have much choice. I can’t leave the sheep down where they are at night without a dog and we don’t have a convenient place to keep the sheep at night. Plus, thanks to Rose, several of the sheep were lame and I didn’t want to have to move them back and forth until they healed.
About 45 minutes later, I went back down to check on Liath, but I couldn’t find her! I called and called and she didn’t come. Great. I thought she might have jumped the fence. I road around on the ATV looking for her, but she had disappeared. Several hours later, I went back down and actually went into the enclosure and found Liath! She had been there all along!
Liath has been with the sheep ever since and she’s doing a wonderful job. Yesterday, I found coyote scat about 20 feet from the fence. I had heard her aggressively barking the night before and now I know why. She’s enjoying her new diet. At first I thought she might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by being left in a strange place, but I think she’s adapted relatively well. Prior to coming here, she was living in a more human-populated area and I expect she misses human companionship, but she’s been bred to bond with livestock and hopefully that’s what she’s doing. I go down and check on her in the morning and Wally checks her at night.
Rose is doing well in her new job. She loves her goats and I know she likes being up here where we are. She does bark at night a bit more than I’d like to hear, but hopefully she’ll grow out of that. Rose is still young in LGD-terms. I probably put her in over her head by leaving her down with the sheep 24/7. I know the sheep chewing is a new thing and it was likely triggered by the weather cooling off.
I hate to think about what we’d have to do if I didn’t get Liath. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep two LGDs and had thought I might let Janice have Liath (her LGD was hit by lightening a few months ago), but I guess she’s staying here. I’ve had to correct Rose a few times for chasing poultry, but she seems to have pretty much matured out of that phase. Raising LGDs is difficult, to say the least. For their size, they really don’t eat a lot of food. Liath was a bit thin when she came to us so we’ve been feeding her extra.
Both Wally and I rely heavily on these dogs, both the Border Collies and the LGDs. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we have been doing. It would be nice to have permanent fence, but I am certain the aggressive pasture rotation that we’ve been doing with the ElectroNet has both keep our sheep relatively worm-free and has kept the pasture extremely healthy.
Rosemoon and her family discovered how useful the Border Collies can be when we easily caught a lamb who needed to be wormed. I don’t know how people manage sheep without a dog. Even with the dairy goats, who are very easily caught, are easier managed with the dog, especially when it comes time to put them up when I’m through milking them or if I need to keep them in the fenced-in area when they’d rather come out.
Speaking of pasture, unfortunately, my landlord bush-hogged the pasture immediately behind the house a bit too late in the season. We’ve been fencing the sheep in the pasture that is over a mile from the house. It will need to be bush-hogged in the next couple of months, but we have been trying to keep the sheep back there for as long as we can to let the closer pasture grow up. I don’t think it’s going to grow as much as we need it to so I’m glad we were able to get such reasonably-priced hay to keep the sheep over the winter. When we realized what Rose had been doing to the sheep, Wally and I seriously considered reducing our flock size, but I think we are going to try to hold on to what we have until lambing and then decide who to cull. If we reduced the flock now, we’d have to take them to the livestock sale and I would rather not do that unless we have to.
Putting the sheep up at Red’s may be out of the question now that Liath is with them. She’s not tolerant of stray dogs (which is a good thing) and I’d be afraid of what she’d do if any of Red’s dogs got within reach.
Until later …