Saturday, August 29, 2009

There it is!!!! And it nearly brought tears to my eyes..

I took JJ out to work him after my group lessons, it was our last tune up prior to the Minnesota State Fair. As I walked out with him I could not help but wonder..."Why did I enter this little turd into a trial?" He has been testing my patience for the last few weeks, I say left he goes right, I say stop he says go, I say go, he says "but I want to stop". It's enough to make you want to pull your hair out.

Yesterday I went out on a limb and put him out into the pen with his sister that was really into cutting it up. As she caused all kinds of chaos I held JJ to his stops and flanks, it was all he could stand staying put while his sister was bouncing sheep around just having a gay old time. Wayne thought I was nuts, he said "and you plan on trialling him Monday?" My thought, it can't possibly make it any worse then I'm already expecting.

But, today was a new day. I took JJ out asked for left, he gave me left, I asked for right he gave me right, I said stop and he said "stopping is a great idea right now". He showed me that he could flank off balance, and that he could drive a fair distance, he could then flank off balance again and set a new line. For about 10 minutes JJ amazed me, he was the dog I thought I would never have but thought was there, it nearly brought tears of joy.

I called him off and thought for a moment that this was a great stopping point...but no, I'm an idiot and had to try one more little out run. Why I can't just follow my gut....a little train wreck followed, for a short time we were back to disagreeing again. But I worked real hard to get that not so little dog to understand what I wanted and next thing you know, we were back on the same page. Within moments of arriving back to that place we were out of there.

As for the trial Monday, it will be what it will be, we will make the best of it and try to have fun....yeah right fun...."Lie Down!!! Now!!! Damnit, JJ!!!!"

Friday, August 28, 2009

A moment to catch up...again!!

Pictures from Iowa State Fair Sheep and Cattle Trial

Bet'cha can't tell who the trouble maker is...

I think that is her looking for a way out the side in the lead, she pulled that at the pen too, every time Jake had them lined up and heading into the pen she would slide out at the last moment

Jake started out real nice on his cattle run

Many of the cattle stalled out just past these panels and against the fence

Once again I have managed to not update my daily trial and training journal, but the trialling and training has continued.
Jake and Wayne competed at the Iowa State Fair last Wednesday, there were moments of great work, moments of disappointment but overall I think it is safe to say the majority of his work was fair. Everytime Jake trials I see glimmers of what could be, maybe one day it will all come together in one shiny package, we keep hoping. But isn't that what all of us that are trialling are hoping for, that one perfect day where everything just came together perfectly.
I brought a new dog home from the fair, another Jake. Jake is a 5 year old male that had been used for cattle work. He is a result of Ben Means' breeding/training program. That first time out with the ewes with him was not pretty, nearly lost a ram lamb, but, it's a week later and a different dog is imerging. It will be interesting to see what he develops into and what I can learn from him. Each day I can trust him a little more with the livestock and trust that he will make the right decision in relationship to the commands I give him.
We have a busy weekend coming up, Sunday we are off to the Nebraska State Fair where Wayne and Jake will once again try to tackle the cattle class. From there I will be leaving for the Minnesota State Fair with Jake and JJ for the sheepdog trial. This will be my first opportunity to run Jake at a trial since this past January, we will run in the Open Ranch Division. I am hoping that JJ will be ready for his try at the Novice Ranch division...if only he would stop when I ask him to....

Monday, August 17, 2009

Just for Giggles

Every now and then we just do something for fun. When I was going through pictures from last month I stumbled onto these shots that I took of Meg and Cecil (Jax)'s first expirence with ducks. There really is no true purpose to dropping the pups in the pen except to see what they do, do they notice the ducks, do they keen up? Do they stay interested or do they try to turn into duck catchers. Ok, maybe there is a purpose...

Little Meg, driving-driving-driving....

Cecil (Jax), "I gottem"...he lost his duck privledges soon after, he tried to get them all right.
Wayne and Jake arrived home from Ogallala on Friday evening. Wayne was happy with his dog even though they didn't even make it on the boards. Sounds like they had a doosy of a draw, two nice heifers that would move off Jake nicely but a third that kept running off. When Jake would go to bring her back the other two would drift back toward the draw. He would get the renegade back with the group, adjust pressure to steer them up the pen just to have her squirt back out again. He said that Jake never gave up, just kept trying.
Yesterday afternoon Wayne worked on his and Jake's shedding to prepare for Wednesday. We go to the Iowa State Fair, sheep and cattle. Hopefully we will have better luck.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Waiting Game

Jake gets the bull moving during the HAT Ranch demonstrations.
At 3:30 am Wayne, Jake and Meg departed on a trip to Ogallala, Nebraska for a cattle dog trial that will be held this evening. Now I wait, and wait... I wonder where he is in the draw, I wonder what the cattle look like, I wonder what the arena looks like. How many people are watching? Is it really hot? It really sucks sitting here waiting for the information to come my way that I am used to taking in on my own.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Wayne gets a good draw. He will be competeing against Jake's breeder, Pete Carmichael from South Dakota. Pete has not seen Jake work since the day we picked him up when he was just 5 months old. I so hope Jake does well, and I hope Wayne has fun.
Oh yeah, Meg...she is enroute to Platte, South Dakota to grow up to be a ranch dog. Next month Cecil (renamed Jax) will be leaving for Colorado leaving Rosie and Toby here for me to raise and train, atleast that is the plan. Another waiting game, waiting for them to grow up, mature and begin training.
Vicky is beginning to deepen, her due date is September 9th. We don't have our hopes up since last year she lost her puppies previous to coming here. I consulted with the vets before deciding to try again, they said she was healthy and in good shape, give it a try just don't put any undue stress on her. I officially retired her last month after having a bad go of it up in Minnesota, she still gets to move sheep around the farm now and then. More to help keep her in shape.
So..I wait.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pasture for Cattle - Turnips, Radishes & Mustard??

Angus/Tarentaise Cattle at the HAT Ranch

One of the views from Doug Honold's home at the HAT Ranch

And right out Doug's back door

Looking out to the West

Saturday at the Hat Ranch Field Day, (Honold Angus Tarentaise / near Coon Rapids Iowa we were introduced to an interesting pasture concept. They had a field that they seeded for pasture of the first time, previously it had been used for row crops. Rather then planting a conventional pasture mix they tried something new for our area, it was a mix of Turnips, Radishes, Mustard with oats seeded with it, I could have sworn I saw some peas in there too. The cows loved it, I don't recall the tonage of yield that they estimated or the number of feeding days they had gotten out of it so far this season but they did say it fed more cattle for a longer period of time then their other pastures feed.

Typically they rotate all their pastures, but this one they could keep cows on all summer. The appearance of it looked strange, it was obvious that it was a new seeding, but until you looked closer you would think it was just over grazed looking sorta sparse. But, as you looked closer you could see the tops of the turnips and radishes, I was not the only one that pulled a radish up out of the earth as the cattle surrounded us grazing on the tops. It was also clear that as one forage source was eaten off another was immerging to replace it, the pasture was constently renewing itself without needing a rest.

It was real interesting to see a cattle producer that was willing to test out ideas that are new to them, another plan they have for the next planting season is to introduce wheat from Wyoming to see how it performs in their Iowa soils. Today, the HAT Ranch is the largest breeder and bull provider of Tarentaise cattle in North America. They maintain a 500 head cowherd, 800 head feedlot, feed dealership, as well as corn and soybean fields. They are crossing the Tarentaise cattle to Angus cattle.

Jake demonstrating quiet and calm handling techniques
These are Angus/Tarentaise cross replacement heifers with a bull

At their request we demonstrated the practical use of stock dogs on an operation such as theirs, the focus of their handling operation is low stress handling, it is important to them to provide replacement cattle to their buyers that are easy to handle. Wayne has been going over there nearly every weekend for over a month to dog break a group of cow/calves and a small group of replacement heifers with a bull for the demonstrations. It proved to be a bit of a challange for both Wayne and Jake, the cattle are visited regularly by coyotes and were not overly open to moving off of a dog. With the exception of one ornary red Tarentaie cow that is known for being hard to handle even on foot they got the job done, that cow, just ignore her and she goes back to the herd and her calf, not the ideal fix, but all agreed it was not worth getting injured over a cow that was on the to be culled board.

At a previous field day they had brought in a clinicianer to introduce their customers to low stress handling techniques on foot using simple pressure and release. Our job was to show how a dog working properly could be an asset to any of their operations. Over time, the HAT Ranch plans on introducing working dogs back into their operation. At this time their base cow herd has not been handled by dogs and does not plan on allowing dogs in their midst. The plan is to dog break the young replacement heifers and over the course of time have the work on the entire operation assisted by working dogs.

Luckily, Micheal Honold has recently moved home back to the HAT Ranch from Wyoming where he had been working on ranches near Kaycee, there he utilized dogs regularly. He is now managing the cowherd and looks forward to integrating dogs into the day to day operation.

Jake convincing this heifer to move with the rest

Every now and then I learn a something about Wayne that I had not known before. After a previous visit to the ranch he had mentioned that he was familuar with the Tarentaise breed of cattle, but it was much more then a familuarity, I learned on Saturday that Wayne used to own some himself, many years ago back in his home state of Colorado.
As I review the pictures from the weekend I can't help but wonder, is Wayne happy out working his dog giving demonstrations to other livestock producers? Or does it make him pine for what he used to have. I know he would love to ride those pastures daily with his dog at his side check on cattle, but instead he runs from farm to farm delivering propane for a living.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I crown you "Chore Dog of the Week"

The time has come, I think he is ready, actually I think all three are ready, JJ, Dixie and Weasel. They have been getting bits and pieces of controlled work out in the training pens for the last 6 months or so. Both JJ and Dixie have even been able to go out and help with tending duties now and then. But the time has come, for one week solid, each will get to be my designated chore dog. Through thick or thin, I am committed to helping them through it while holding them to the proper level of work, it is time for the kids to grow up.

JJ and I just came in from morning chores, he hung around with me watching my every move as I fed horses, made the mistake of thinking that I needed him when I openned the ponies stall, no big deal, I just let him know that he did something that I had not asked for. We then moved the rams out to the pasture, when I openned the gate JJ jumped to action, "No JJ, I did not ask for you yet. The rams came out into the yard while JJ and I walked away, you could see the confusion on his face, why would I ever let the rams loose?? I went to a position where I could help JJ if needed and asked for an Away to Me, he looked at me in disbelief. Yes JJ, I need you now, I had to shush a little to convince him. Off he went, but then got a little over zealous... "no JJ, you should have stopped over there" A couple of adjustments and JJ was working with me to get the rams where I wanted them.

It will be interesting to see what this week will reveal.

Our pack has reduced in numbers over the last week, Jill is out on a trial to see how she will fit in with a new pack, and to determine if she can fill the role as a agility dog. Sissy, one of our ACD's went to a small farm down south, she is filling the shoes of a well loved cattle dog that had passed away. As I handed her leash over to her new owner I saw something, I could sware I saw her say, I like you, I give myself to you. She will be well taken care of.

The surprise was Riley, at this point she is on loan to a client that raises sheep and dairy cattle whose dog I worked with earlier this spring. That dog had some issues with noise, which lead to the accidental lose of her the other day when the milk truck rolled in, off she went like a shot and has not been seen since. They hope that she will turn up, but has been gone now for nearly a week. I really have no intentions on selling Riley, my plan is that she will come back home when we find the right dog for the job, but, you never know, she might be the right dog for the job. If she is, I will not come between her and the work she was intended to do if she is welcomed as a perminant addition.

I've had a break over the last week or so, much needed for both me and the dogs. But it is time to get back to work. I will try to keep up on my posts.