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Home Dairy Farmer’s Diary: A sheepdog training project with two new pups
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Farmer’s Diary: A sheepdog training project with two new pups

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Former professional chef, Clodagh Hughes, runs a sheep enterprise on the Monaghan/Louth border near Inniskeen.

What a difference a week can make. I wanted to tell you I was planning on getting new pups this week but, with this crazy Covid-19 still rampant around the country, I was not sure if I would be able to travel to collect them.

Well thankfully I was, so we travelled down to Wexford yesterday (Sunday) to pick up two collie pups from Gus Connick, his wife Orna and their two lovely children: Tommy and Leona.

Having lost two dogs in less than 12 months and with our Muttley dog enjoying his senior years, it was time we brought some new blood into the pack.

It is with these two pups that I am going to start my own sheepdog training project. I have a feeling the pups will be teaching me more than I can teach them.

Gus gave me some valuable tips and as an experienced trainer himself, I can tap into his knowledge over the coming years. All that whistling practice will finally come into good use!

Issues when gathering flock

What really prompted me to get these pups are the ongoing issues I have when gathering in my flock.

The lambs are not too bad, as they have not learned any bad habits yet unlike my ewes that know all the tricks and are excellent escape artists.

I was hoping to carry out a simple task a few days ago; take in the ram to change his raddle crayon to distinguish what ewes have been mated and which were yet to be.

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Well, what a debacle it turned out to be. I was sure I had all gaps blocked and that the sheep would be happy to just wander from the field across the lane and gather in an orderly fashion, into the collecting yard… but no, this was not to be.

It took just one brat of a ewe to realise she could creep under my wee makeshift fence and as soon as one goes, they all go.

20-minute job took 1 hour

Now you can do one of two things at this stage folks, run around after them like a crazy person, which I used to do, or, take a breather, gather your wits about you and reassess the situation. I highly recommend the latter.

After some minor reinforcements, and some very fruity language from this sheep farmer, the sheep were gathered, crayon was changed, and all was well.

It is just a shame that a 20-minute job took an hour to complete. This is where I want my wee sheepdogs to be able to help me out in the future.

I have often been told that a good sheepdog is a must for any shepherd and, from talking to farmers with a working dog, I am completely sold.

In other news, an email came from college regarding our next day on site which will involve practical skills tests and we have been given a fair bit of reading to do before November 5th. Better get on it.

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