2006 February

Wellies and Wheelbarrows masthead


Having spent a particularly frustrating couple of hours trying to move a bunch of sheep aided by Henson the wonder dog - not! I decided it was time to get some advice on dog training. With this in mind I arranged to meet John Dyke (the shepherd I used to work with at the Rhug) to put Henson through his paces and to work out where I was going wrong.

We met on a Sunday morning, and having let Henson off his lead we spent the next 10 minutes trying to get him to come back from the far end of the field where he had cornered the ewes and refused to let them go. When he did eventually return John decided to try him out for himself. This time Henson didn’t bother chasing the whole bunch; he singled out one ewe and happily ran her up and down the field. When we finally managed to retrieve him and got him loaded into the Land Rover John decided enough was enough and it was time to demonstrate his bitch (Henson’s full sister).

One whistle and she ran to the far end of the field, gathered the sheep and bought them at a steady pace back to where we were standing. Once the sheep were at our feet John whistled again and she changed direction and took the sheep to the gate. After another whistle she lay down and waited for us to open the gate and let the sheep through to the next field.

Later that day when we parted company I was convinced I’d purchased the dunce of the litter and was even more disillusioned with Henson than I had been prior to our training session.

Thankfully since then he has made some progress, although he is still managing to try my patience on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis.

Through the winter months the farming pace slows down with the main emphasis being on feeding the animals. This allows time for any outstanding maintenance work to be undertaken, especially in the Llan. At one point in time between Christmas and New Year we had three tractors in dry dock in three different states of disrepair - things weren’t looking good. However with some engineering know how and a bit of luck combined with a damn big hammer and a lot of bad language we managed to fix them and get the Llan farm show back on the road.

With the ewes having been scanned over Christmas I’ve split them into their bunches ready for lambing. On the whole they look quite well although I’ve noticed a number of them starting to loose condition this last week. I am assuming these are the older ewes that I should have culled at the end of the summer but didn’t because I thought I’d squeeze another year out of them.

It’s always the same, at the end of the summer they look quite well, I keep them and if they manage to get in lamb it takes a fortune in meal to keep them going, only for them to produce a lamb the size of a gerbil which usually requires me to feed it because its mother has no milk.

I know this appears to be a negative outlook but having worked with sheep for years I have finally come to realise they spend their whole lives dreaming up ways to let the shepherd down when lambing time comes around. Just when you think you’ve seen every disaster possible, along comes another one just to keep you on your toes.

Gareth Llan
© Copyright Gareth Bryan.

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