I tried to enter back into the sheepdog trial world. It seemed like a good idea. What well-bred and well-trained Border Collies can do is incredible. It also seemed like a good idea to bite the bullet and pay for a fully-trained dog to manage our small flock of sheep. Wally and I both dreaded trying to round up the darned things when it came time to work on their feet or worm them. Without proper livestock handling equipment (chutes, head gates, etc.) – which we’ve never had and probably never will have – a trained Border Collie is worth his weight in gold. Gel was worth his weight and then some in gold.
Now he’s gone.
So we agreed to buy a trained dog and we got her the beginning of April on a payment plan. She is a really good dog and was able to manage the sheep without any issues. After the first day we used her to put up the sheep and work on their feet, I noticed a bunch of them went lame. I didn’t think a whole lot about it because I thought maybe they got banged around in the pen we used to contain them while we wrestled them on the trimming stand.
You can’t work lame sheep so I wasn’t able to do much of anything with the trained dog other than enjoy her companionship – she is a neat little dog, very pleasant to be around. The plan was to practice with her and run her in a sheepdog trial that was held last weekend. That didn’t happen because I was never able to work her other than to get the sheep up to work on their feet.
Unfortunately, she was not strong enough to move the goats. Dairy goats can be horribly difficult to manage by a dog. One of our Border Collies, Jack, can move them but he can’t be trusted with them because he’s too quick to bite and doesn’t bite appropriately – there’s risk of his damaging an udder or other part of the goat.
This wasn’t the first time we’ve dealt with foot rot in this group of sheep. We know where it came from but that person won’t be named. We lost some to it last year. We also lost one to a prolapsed uterus this spring. We caught them up again a few weeks ago on a Sunday – as before the trained dog did a fabulous job getting them where they needed to be. It was a pain in the butt getting them on the stand and treating them for foot rot. It is well to note that we were using veterinarian recommendations for treating them.
The next day, Wally had a mild heart attack and had to have two stents put in to open blockages. Our world changed tremendously. After a heart to heart talk, we decided to sell the sheep at auction the Friday after his heart attack and to send the trained dog back. It was not an easy decision.
The trained dog cost a lot of money – I don’t in any way begrudge what she cost – I know what’s involved in training a dog to that level and caring for one. She was worth what we paid for her and then some. But without sheep, we don’t need a sheep dog. If she could move the goats we could probably justify keeping her but she could not.
Once the dairy does get less protective of their kids I’ll start separating them and working Rex, the young male dog we got over a year ago, and see what I can do with him. Rex has the breeding to do the job, he just needs confidence – not damned dairy goat does running him over. Just this morning Wally and I were attempting to move then down in the the pasture. They are lazy when they are in milk and prefer to just laze around the barn. I was on one side of the barn shooing them around and Wally was on the other side. It wasn’t working well and finally Wally said, “this is stupid for us to be doing this with two Border Collies standing tied to the fence.” I agreed and went and got the two dogs. With micro-management, we got the goats into the pasture.
I don’t know what it is with livestock these days. Back when Wally and I had a flock of sheep and a herd of dairy goats they never missed a beat. We never had foot rot, prolapsed uteruses or anything else. They just did well. Now, getting back into it, we’ve had a lot of bad luck with both sheep and goats. Hopefully now the dairy goats that I have are in good health. They seem to be except for one doe, my oldest one, that must have missed breeding the first time(s) around and according to an ultrasound she is bred but who knows when she’ll kid, if she ever does. I am concerned about her. We lost her mother to reproductive issues. Kidding this late sure screws up breeding for next year. If she does kid okay I may try to milk her through but that probably won’t work.
On another note, the garden is doing really well. Probably because we are getting relatively regular rain. The rabbits aren’t selling as well as they used to be. Probably because everyone and their brother has them now and are selling them for $10 a pop. So, I’ll be culling some adult does to make sausage and won’t be breeding again until the fall. I’ve got four or five litters that will be ready to be processed in July. I never thought I’d see the day that I’d be putting chocolate-colored does in the freezer but it is what it is. I used to have a waiting list for chocolate-colored does. People only want what you don’t have. It’s okay, Wally and I will enjoy eating them. We’ll take some of the tractor beds that we won’t be using with fewer rabbits and expand the garden even more. I went a bit crazy planting herbs, primarily dill and coriander, that attract beneficial insects but it looks pretty. I need to get some pictures one fine day.
Until later …