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Injury To Stock

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Just a caution, sheep can and do injure themselves in small spaces like round pens. I had one go from standing still maybe 20 feet from the gate to plowing into it at full speed, or at least enough speed to damage her neck. I thought she had broken it at first, but with steroids and rest we were able to save her. In this instance, the dog wasn't moving and the owner and I were standing there talking. The ewe was a seasoned puppy training sheep who just decided to try to kill herself apparently. She did recover, but would fall down more easily when stressed after that incident.

 

I think the key is to have an experienced person helping you. Recognize that sheep can be unpredictable. Set things up for success, but don't panic if things go wrong. Sheep usually will try to turn to go back to their flockmates because instinctually they know that being alone is not safe. Learn to recognize a dog who is simply chasing vs. one who is honestly trying to head the animal and turn it back.

 

The fact that you are worried about the sheep works in your favor. You're clearly not the kind of person who would thoughtlessly allow your dog to abuse/injure stock. But you also need to develop a sense of pragmatism, because things do sometimes happen, especially when starting a young dog, and doubly so when it's a newbie dog with a newbie handler. But that's where your instructor comes in and makes sure to the best of his/ber ability that bad things aren't likely to happen.

 

If you ever want to make a trip to NC, you'd be more than welcome to come here and learn sheep!

 

P.S. You said in your original postthat the sheep that was killed was a lamb. Lambs tend to behave differently than adult sheep, to panic more easily, and to be less predictable. I will work lambs with ewes, but I would not use them for training any but my own dogs. Using a lamb without its mama for lessons is probably asking for trouble. I'm making assumptions here of course, and perhaps the ewe was with the lamb, but I don't get why anyone would use lambs in an instinct test....

 

ETA: I guess I better get my videos of Kes loaded and posted so y'all have something fun(ny) to watch (she's 11 months old now).

 

J.

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I think the key is to have an experienced person helping you. Recognize that sheep can be unpredictable. Set things up for success, but don't panic if things go wrong. Sheep usually will try to turn to go back to their flockmates because instinctually they know that being alone is not safe. Learn to recognize a dog who is simply chasing vs. one who is honestly trying to head the animal and turn it back.

[/Quote]

 

Good advice and much appreciated. Wish I lived closer; if I did I'd surely take you up on the sheep learning opportunity. There was an (I believe open level) sheepdog handler here in Havre de Grace (my town), but I don't think they are doing lessons any more.

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That's probably the Paxton-Hills (Steve and Kathryn)? If so, Steve has had a lot of health problems in the past several years and so probably isn't able to give lessons. That's a shame, though, because they're good people.

 

J.

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Sadly, I caused the death of a ewe during a trial; I was getting frustrated in the shedding ring and sloppy about watching my dog circle too tight. He caused the ewe to make a sharp turn and she broke her leg. I heard it snap immediately and felt sick.

A very similar thing happened during training with my young dog; she flew thru splitting the sheep and the elderly wether snapped his leg. He was splinted and survived to spend the rest of his days turned out with the ewes and lambs.

I know of another death during a trial not caused by a dog but a lamb panicking in the pens like others have described. Broke it's neck, was butchered immediately and added to the handlers' BBQ dinner that nite(I was doing the cooking).

Plus I know of another death at a clinic; caused by the sheep farmer/facility owner's own dog.

Our Stockdog Association has an insurance fund to cover cost to replace sheep that are not due to a trial handler/dog. It has only paid out once or twice(one time a ewe disappeared into forest not to be seen again) so we have waived the fee this year.

I would be considered a 'hobby trialer' as I do not own sheep. But I sure like sheep and am well aware of the risks/danger/stress we put them in. I can sit in a field and watch them for hours; springtime 'lamb races' are the best! My biggest thrill at last weekend's trial was to use my young Owen to move the entire flock from exhaust pen up the field to set out. His trial runs sucked but he did an awesome job of driving the flock. I couldn't hit the fetch panels with 4 sheep for love nor money with him, but I put the entire flock thru them. LOL

cheers Lani

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Nancy Obernier is about 1/2 hour north of the Paxton-Hill's. She's an open handler and a great instructor.

 

Michelle

 

Good advice and much appreciated. Wish I lived closer; if I did I'd surely take you up on the sheep learning opportunity. There was an (I believe open level) sheepdog handler here in Havre de Grace (my town), but I don't think they are doing lessons any more.

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I pulled out of a trial this weekend because the weather forecast was in the high 90's and I felt I would be selfish to run my dog and somebody else's sheep in that heat. I would never train at home in these temperature's, I've been training early morning and at dusk for short periods. Evidently I'm in the minority on this and wondered how people felt about trialing in very hot temperatures.

 

Kevin Brannon

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Kevin I agree with you. I often wonder about folks planning and attending trials when it is the warmest time of year. I would not be out moving my sheep or working my dogs in the temps like we have had recently. Yes it is unusally warm but even more normal temps at 85 and humid is to hot for me to feel good about working the dogs and the livestock. Even with a small course I don't feel it is the thing to do. Our heat causes stress it is different out west, they can have days in the 90s and the animals do much better since it is dry.

 

I get up early and am outside before 7am if I need to do something with the sheep. I sure don't want to be out there on a forced march myself and I am able to sweat to cool off. I simply do not plan clinics or sign up for trials in July and August. There can be hot days other times of the year and I do what I can to put the welfare of the livestock and dogs first.

 

It was 85 at 8:30 this morning and 102 here this afternoon

 

Denice

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Trials round here have been cancelled. This heat is extreme. I can't work my sheep at all. The effects of this extended heat is deadly.

 

This evening my phone said it was 107. That's just crazy.

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It's 8:30 now and the phone is still saying over 100f. Yep, no sheep work for us.

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I pulled out of a trial this weekend because the weather forecast was in the high 90's and I felt I would be selfish to run my dog and somebody else's sheep in that heat. I would never train at home in these temperature's, I've been training early morning and at dusk for short periods. Evidently I'm in the minority on this and wondered how people felt about trialing in very hot temperatures.

 

Kevin Brannon

Kevin,

I posted about the welfare of the sheep on Facebook with respect to a recent trial and some folks got very defensive. The discussion had turned to water on the field for the dogs (someone not from this area asked about it) and I noted that water is generally available for cooling off dogs, but that sheep didn't have a choice for cooling off. A number of people pulled from the trial because of the heat, and apparently the fact that they pulled was blamed on "Internet babble."

 

It just solidifies my belief that this has become a sport that's more about the sport than about the stock, and that's a shame. I understand that the weather can't be predicted, but here in the south in July it's a pretty safe bet that heat and humidity are going to be pretty high. It's tough to schedule trials around lambing, fall trials already in existence, the fact that ewes are bred in the winter, but I really think that holding trials in the south in the summer is very risky.

 

FWIW, the sheep apparently came through that trial fine, but I wouldn't have wanted my sheep run in a trial in that kind of heat. And if we want to be paranoid, it's the sort of thing that can get animal rights folks up in arms....

 

All this is just my opinion and not meant to disparage anyone who may trial in this type of weather (I've done it, back before I raised sheep myself), but just to agree that it is awful tough on man and beast alike.

 

J.

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Nancy Obernier is about 1/2 hour north of the Paxton-Hill's. She's an open handler and a great instructor.

Michelle

 

 

The Paxton-Hill farm is only ten minutes from where I live now; at least that is where Ms. Paxton-Hill's Brightwater Studio is (she does beautiful work; the murals are breathtaking). However, I did some digging and it looks like Nancy Obernier's farm is only 30 minutes from where I am staying this week (greyhound sitting) and where I used to work. Thanks Michelle.

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The Paxton-Hill farm is only ten minutes from where I live now; at least that is where Ms. Paxton-Hill's Brightwater Studio is (she does beautiful work; the murals are breathtaking). However, I did some digging and it looks like Nancy Obernier's farm is only 30 minutes from where I am staying this week (greyhound sitting) and where I used to work. Thanks Michelle.

I've met Nancy several times and she is straight-forward, plain-spoken, and very nice. If I were you, I'd certainly check out the possibility of working with her, particularly with her being so close.

 

(She'll always be my hero for letting me use her shower and A/C during an extremely hot August clinic, as well as at a trial - even if she did laugh her head off when I left her trailer in the dark at the trial and was disoriented, and thought someone had stolen my teardrop camper while I was in her shower, or at the least, was playing a practical joke on me).

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Kevin,

I posted about the welfare of the sheep on Facebook with respect to a recent trial and some folks got very defensive. The discussion had turned to water on the field for the dogs (someone not from this area asked about it) and I noted that water is generally available for cooling off dogs, but that sheep didn't have a choice for cooling off. A number of people pulled from the trial because of the heat, and apparently the fact that they pulled was blamed on "Internet babble."

 

It just solidifies my belief that this has become a sport that's more about the sport than about the stock, and that's a shame. I understand that the weather can't be predicted, but here in the south in July it's a pretty safe bet that heat and humidity are going to be pretty high. It's tough to schedule trials around lambing, fall trials already in existence, the fact that ewes are bred in the winter, but I really think that holding trials in the south in the summer is very risky.

 

FWIW, the sheep apparently came through that trial fine, but I wouldn't have wanted my sheep run in a trial in that kind of heat. And if we want to be paranoid, it's the sort of thing that can get animal rights folks up in arms....

 

All this is just my opinion and not meant to disparage anyone who may trial in this type of weather (I've done it, back before I raised sheep myself), but just to agree that it is awful tough on man and beast alike.

 

J.

 

 

I didn't see those postings, but I totally agree and support your stance on running in the heat and unfortunately this

"It just solidifies my belief that this has become a sport that's more about the sport than about the stock, and that's a shame
" seems to be the case. There are trials being held here in Texas the next couple of weekends ;-( and we're looking at highs in the upper 90's to 100 degrees and the humidity is unreal...but for those folks looking to rack up those nursery points ;-( guess it's worth it ;-( Personaly, I care too much about my dogs to subject them to that sort of stress/danger. The stress of a trial + the high heat and humidity is just a recipe for disaster IMHO. And, yeah I happen to like sheep, and think it's very unfair (and unsafe) to run them around in weather like this.

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How do the livestock normally fair ir hot weather? And how does the trial sectary(person in charge) keep the livestock comfortable? As in how do they keep the sheep from dying in the heat or from over heating?

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I've seen generally better stockmanship at the trial I am currently attending than I have seen when the weather is more hospitable. I am ambivalent about working in this kind of heat for all the reasons noted in other posts.

 

However, the sheep have not seemed any more stressed than at other trials I've attended. The trial hosts (whose own sheep are being used) conditioned the sheep well; many adjustments to the course and timing were made to make it easier on the sheep; no sheep or dogs or handlers have shown signs of heat stress. People will differ in how they make the call, but I can say from first hand observation and participation that the sheep and dogs have been tended well and carefully.

 

ETA: To give some perspective on what's being asked of sheep and dogs. When the set out person sees the handler at the post, the sheep are pushed out, but not held. The PN course was 4 minutes; Ranch 6; open 8. Runs were called if there wasn't progress; handler could retire with points; few runs timed out as most handlers quit when it was clear the run wasn't competitive.

 

Cressa, the judge will call the run if the stock (or dog) are stressed. The sheep not running are kept in shaded pens with hay and water, both of which are refreshed every couple of hours or more frequently if necessary. They are turned out at the end of the day's running. Even though it is a competition, it is a competition tied first and foremost to the stock and that has been on display quite clearly, as it should be.

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few runs timed out as most handlers quit when it was clear the run wasn't competitive.

I wish more handlers would do this at *all* trials, no matter what the time of year, but it's good to know they're willing to do it when it's hot.

 

J.

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How do the livestock normally fair ir hot weather? And how does the trial sectary(person in charge) keep the livestock comfortable? As in how do they keep the sheep from dying in the heat or from over heating?

 

I have a breeding flock and work them as little as possible in this sort of heat. I do have lost of shade and they spend much of the day under the trees til it is cooler in the AM or evenign to eat. I had planned a couple of fun days but they never took off due to the weather. I find the goats hardier and will work them early AM or dusk but still keep the work simple to reduce stress on stock and dogs. Cooler weather is moving in so perhaps I can do mroe bigger work this week

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How do the livestock normally fair ir hot weather?

Most livestock will do okay if they have plenty of deep shade and fresh water. I move mine from pasture to pasture in the early morning or at about sundown, when it's cooler, and even then I move them slowly, and if they stop for water (saying going past water en route from one place to the next, I stop and let them drink.

 

FWIW, in my experience hair sheep seem to tolerate working in the heat better than wool sheep (even when shorn), and sheep that are worked often and are fit are better able to tolerate work under tough weather conditions.

 

J.

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Yes hair sheep have better heat tolerance. But my woolies are better overall for our market

I raise wool sheep because I prefer them to hair sheep (and I am operating a three-tier production system), but if I want to train dogs, their lower heat tolerance means I have to be more careful in summer than someone with a hair flock. I certainly wasn't advocating people getting hair sheep--just pointing out a fact of life for those of us who prefer to raise wool sheep--and something that people should consider, if they aren't familiar with the difference between the two types of sheep, when training and trialing.

 

J.

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I've done lessons (and sheep rental for open handlers) with my sheep for 15+ years. But I find as the years go by I am less and less inclined to "disrupt" the sheep's natural daily routine. First thing in the morning they go out to eat. This time of year, with no grass, they have their daily ration of hay. After they have eaten that, they want to lie around in the shade and chew. Around 3:00 or so, they get up and graze on the dry stubble in the pasture, and they will continue to do that until it's time for them to go into their night pen. So when, in that routine, do I gather them up and sort off some to work?

 

Lately I've been taking them into other, bigger pastures that have more, better dry stubble (and a little bit of mustard weed--not their first choice, but it's green-ish) and let them graze that for an hour or two. These pastures are not sheep-proof, and they will try to escape out of one of several/many directions. So students have been taking the sheep to graze these pastures, using their dogs to keep the jailbreaks from happening. It's real-world work (as opposed to some other trainers around here who have the students do the AKC "A" course over and over again for their whole lesson), the dogs are always learning something (like, how to be "on the job" and ready, but not always necessarily engaging the sheep), and the sheep are happy to be out of the dry lot and into a bigger pasture for a while.

 

And it's not even been very hot here--mid 80's, and we get a really nice ocean breeze every afternoon. But the point is that I find myself thinking less and less about the dogs and what they need, and more and more about the stock and what *they* need, which I think is as it should be,

A

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Thanks for writing that, Anna. That is so much of what I did with Dan in February when we visited. Just chores, just tending sheep, just real-world jobs. Those are all terrific learning experiences for both the handler and the dog.

 

I, too, know there are "trainers" who do nothing but train folks for courses - same pen, same obstacles, same course, same sheep, month-in-and-month-out. I guess they get paid just as much and don't have to do much input, and their "students" are happy when they get ribbons at whatever "event" in that same pen, with those same obstacles, on that same course, with those same sheep. Oh, and at $40 or more per run, too.

 

Learning some basic skills on school sheep or calves is very helpful, but real growth comes with real-world experiences (and learning about, understanding, and respecting the livestock as well as the dogs).

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And it's not even been very hot here--mid 80's, and we get a really nice ocean breeze every afternoon. But the point is that I find myself thinking less and less about the dogs and what they need, and more and more about the stock and what *they* need, which I think is as it should be,

A

Same here, though obviously I do have to disrupt my sheep if I want to train my youngsters. But I've always been an advocate of practical work for training a dog, so as soon as a youngster has some basics, chores it is (and moving sheep takes place early in morning or in the evening when it has cooled off).

 

I do think it's possible to train (and teach) sensibly, but I think there are more than enough people like the type Sue describes, for whom stock are a means to an end ($$), and when that's the case, the welfare at the stock is rarely at the top of the agenda. And to be fair, not everyone can keep their own stock, and they do need a means to be able to train their dogs. One just has to hope the folks they train with are concerened with the welfare of the stock (and most of the folks I know are indeed that sort of stock owner, fortunately).

 

And if we're willing to discuss these topics, then I think it's possible to make people aware of such issues when they might not have considered them until now.

 

J.

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