A cold wet gather but our spirits were high

Border Collie sheepdog Carew looking under a gate at the sheep she's just herded into a yard

In less than a month, the days will begin to lengthen!

This morning I had a surprise call from our landlord John who wanted me to help gather sheep at Dean Farm. As usual, I was more than glad to oblige, but things were a bit rushed!

We were late getting up, and the first real frost of the winter meant the hose pipe was frozen but once it was running again I was able to leave Gill to carry out her usual yard clearing and washing chores, as well as entertaining the dogs out in the field. She must have been really cold, but as usual, she didn’t complain.

Sheepdog Carew takes a handful of sheep away up the drive to their field
Carew drives a handful of sheep up the drive and back to their field. (Click to enlarge).

At the farm, our first task was to bring a dozen or so sheep from the field on the drive, down to the buildings where some in-lamb ewes would be separated out so they could be put in with a bigger bunch.

All went really well with this, and soon Carew took the remaining sheep back over the railway bridge to the field they’d come from. (See pic above).

Sheepdog Carew brings a small bunch of sheep our of the field on a cold misty morning

The next task was to bring in sixty or so in-lamb ewes (see pic above) and sort out some that John wants to keep at home with a view to selling if the market price is suitable.

They were spread out at the very far end of the biggest field, so it was a long outrun, but Carew took it in her stride and soon the sheep were trotting through the gate and down the drive towards the buildings.

She’s particularly suitable for working with expectant ewes as she doesn’t put too much pressure on them. She’s happy to bring them at a steady pace. In the early stages of pregnancy, ewes can actually re-absorb the foetus if they’re stressed too much, so farmers are very careful about which dogs they allow to work these mothers-to-be.

Sheepdog Carew watches the sheep in the yard

With the sheep safely in the yard, Carew then put them in the sorting pen. Working in confined places with Carew is a joy. You can see how far back she’s happy to stay, from the picture above. I simply talk very quietly to her and she obeys every command with calm authority.

In no time at all, the sheep were sorted and the ones to be transported, loaded onto the trailer. Well, most of them were.

If I’d been standing where I should have been, all of the sheep would have gone onto the trailer at the first attempt, but I was so engrossed with watching Carew load them, I forgot that I was supposed to stay-put.

Attractive-looking sheep curiously gazing towards the camera

Two of the ewes dodged down the side of the trailer, and out of the yard. Carew glanced at me questioningly (or was it accusingly) and I felt very foolish, but when I said “go on” she instantly left-off her loading duty and dashed after the pair which were now trotting up the drive towards their field.

They were quickly corrected, and Carew steered them skilfully back towards the yard, negotiating several vehicles left there by the house tenants. I was so proud of her – especially when John remarked; “poetry in motion”! The errant sheep were glad to be back with their flock-mates and once the trailer was secured and checked, John set off for home while I made sure all the gates were properly closed.

I understand there’s more work for Carew and maybe another dog next week, so I’ll do a blog on it if I have time.


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