The lambs are earning their keep as lawnmowers at the moment. We have then in a moveable corral made from hurdles (yes, we spend all our profits on hurdles – well hurdles and fencing) on the campsite. Every few days we let them out, move the hurdles and then pop the sheep back in. This way they get to eat lots of fresh grass and we get the grass cut and campsite fertilised!
Here they are posing for a photo
Although Kainaat has only been properly learning how to work the sheep since June (when Daisy Dog died – see here) he is doing pretty well. He is able to fetch the big sheep from across the field and bring them to me; he can hold them in place so I can inspect them; he can put them into their shelter or a corral; and he can drive them forward. He does still lack confidence though and often stops to look at me to check he is doing the right thing.
Things are not going quite so well with the lambs. The lambs are skittish and not used to being worked by the dog. So they run at top speed away from him. Unlike the older sheep, they don’t run towards me, they just scatter. Kainaat gets excited and charges around after them ….. this is chasing, not herding. However, to date he has managed to get them back in the corral albeit with some difficulty. So I decided we needed to practice working the lambs more, to get Kainaat used them them and vice versa.
One last, but possibly quite important thing. Our campsite and smallholding isn’t securely fenced. We have two large fields that are fenced in, but between them is Pysche’s Walk that leads the the bridleway. And the bridleway leads in one direction to the road and in the other to a small wood and the heathland.
There are also gaps in the fencing (where one day we will put gates) leading from the campsite to the heath behind and also onto our drive (and the road) and the driftway …. do you see where this is heading?
Fast forward to Tuesday. I let the lambs out of the corral for a wander around the campsite as you do and went off to train Kainaat on the adult sheep who are securely kept in a field. My reasoning was that Kainaat might get tired out working the older sheep and would therefore be more restrained when herding the lambs – yeah right …..
It was time to put the lambs back in the corral, after all it was getting towards dusk. I sent Kainaat after them and he brought five back and herded them in the corral. Three more to get. I sent him off. He screeched around them at top speed, they shot off, coming towards me, but they had to run past Psyche’s Walk. Suddenly I knew where it was heading. They didn’t carry on towards me, instead they took a sharp right and started to run full pelt up the Psyche’s Walk towards the bridleway. I sent Kainaat with a hope that he would overtake them and head them off. He ran like the wind and just as he drew level he paused and looked at me as if to ask if he was doing the right thing. The lambs reached the bridleway, chose right again and at speed started to run towards the road.
I dropped the crook and running in a rather ineffectual, middle aged way, leapt over the fences across the field to try and head them off before the road.
Did I say that I decided to do all of this just before sunset?
So as dusk fell I found myself at the end of the bridleway with three terrified lambs, a dog in the field next to them giving them the eye, shouting for help as of course I didn’t have my phone as I don’t make phone calls.
I managed by some miracle to push two of the lambs back along the bridleway onto Psyche’s Walk and into the middle field. Two kind neighbours walking their dogs heard my shouts and both separately went to the house to try and get James. Finally, after what seemed like hours, James, the neighbours and the grave digger turned up. Two held the gate open to the middle field, James blocked the bridleway to the wood and me and the dog pushed the last extremely skittish lamb back down and into the field.
So unless you, your dog and your sheep are very experienced it is probably best not to train in an open space with lots of exit points because the sheep will find them.
N.B. in the interests of full disclosure I should say that James warned that this would happen days before it did and all I did was laugh with glee at the prospect – sometimes I think I need my head seeing to!