Skip to main content

Ernie's Progress - Day 6

I have to admit - I cheated a little bit yesterday.  I had to move around 70 lambs up a private road, through a farm gate, up through a row of raspberries and into a new paddock.  The farmer on whose land we're grazing wanted to make sure that the sheep didn't get into his rhubarb or blueberries, too - so I needed to make sure I controlled the sheep carefully during the move.  I chickened out and didn't use Ernie - I decided that I needed Mo and Taff instead.  While I think I made the right decision, I was disappointed that I didn't yet have enough confidence in Ernie to trust him.

I did use Ernie to move a small group of sheep we have at home last night.  We moved them out of a paddock in the back yard, through two horse paddocks, and into a third pen.  The group of sheep includes a bottle-raised lamb that doesn't obey the normal stock-handling "rules" - he has no flight zone whatsoever.  This lamb stayed back, and I was able to get Ernie to "look back" and go back for him.  Ernie was somewhat intimidated by the horses and mules, but he did ultimately get the sheep where they needed to be.

One of our challenges has been Ernie's unwillingness to come off stock at times.  When it's time to quit (which I indicate by saying "that'll do" and walking away from the stock, Ernie will sometimes self-deploy, charging in at the sheep and refusing to listen.  He hasn't been doing this at all this week as we've been doing real work - it's been easy to call him off.  Yesterday, however, he ran a ewe through the fence.  I was able to get him to lie down, and we returned the ewe to the paddock.  He then let me call him off.  I think his self-deployment was related to the pressure he felt coming through the horse pens and gates - probably similar to the pressure that I sometimes put on him in training situations.  In essence, I think he's trying to beat me as a way to release tension.  In the coming weeks, I'll need to work at helping him releasing this tension without getting himself (or me and the sheep) in trouble.


Popular posts from this blog

Trade Offs

As we were building fence for the soon-to-be-lambing ewes this morning, someone drove by and asked my partner Roger how long it took to set up the electro-net fencing we use for the sheep. Roger replied, "It's not too bad," to which the driver said, "Seems like a lot of work." Roger's answer - which both of us use with some frequency, was, "Yeah - but this way we don't have to feed any hay!" The driver, who obviously wasn't a rancher, didn't understand - and I suspect even some of my rancher friends don't understand the trade off we're making. Building electric fence is a lot of work - wouldn't it be easier just to feed hay?

The paddock that Roger and I built this morning encloses about 5.75 acres of high quality forage. Since the ewes are on the verge of lambing, their forage demand is peaking. They're eating nearly twice as much grass now as they need in the late summer - after all, many of them eating for three (and p…

No Easy Answers Part 2

In mid October, some friends who graze their cattle in the mountains of western Lassen County (less than 200 miles from our home), became the first ranchers to have cattle “officially” killed by wolves in California in nearly a century. Wildlife officials confirmed that the Lassen pack killed a 600-pound heifer; four more heifers died (and were partially eaten by wolves), but the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) couldn’t confirm the cause of death. While I learned about the depredations shortly after they happened through the rancher grapevine, news of my friends’ losses weren’t made public until the California Cattlemen’s Association and California Farm Bureau Federation issued a joint press release this week. The October 28 edition of the Sacramento Bee ran the story.
If you’ve read my previous blogs about wolves, you’ll probably know that I’ve frequently been frustrated with the Bee’s coverage. The paper has run guest opinions disguised as news articles, and appar…

Humbled and Excited

More than 20 years ago, I went to work for the California Cattlemen's Association (CCA). After two internships, I'd been hired by my friend and mentor John Braly as the membership director in 1992. By 1996, I'd been promoted to assistant vice president - pretty heady stuff for a young guy who hadn't grown up in the industry. I started looking for new challenges. Dr. Jim Oltjen, who was (and is) the beef extension specialist at UC Davis (my undergraduate alma mater) suggested that I think about going to graduate school to prepare for a career in extension. I considered it, but the timing wasn't right.

Fast forward to 2013 (or so) - I'd been working as a part-time community education specialist in our local University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) office for several years. The farm advisors in the office - Roger Ingram and Cindy Fake - suggested that I consider getting a master's degree and applying for a future farm advisor job. This time the id…