Skip to main content


Showing posts from October, 2013

The News from McCormack Ranch

November 1 - the day when we're supposed to start lambing here at McCormack Ranch - is quickly approaching.  With ewe vaccinations behind us, we're now working on setting up electro-net paddocks on the alfalfa and sorting the ewes into smaller lambing groups.  Not quite the calm before the storm!

Yesterday, we also hosted one of our customers on a ranch tour and picnic lunch.  The crew from the Fatted Calf in Napa joined us yesterday - and brought an amazing lunch to share!  I'm looking forward to working with them!

In the meantime, enjoy these photos!

Ernie's Growing Up!

If you've read this blog at all in the last 6 months, you know that Ernie (our youngest working border collie) has been a handful.  At some point this summer, I decided that his sheep work was never going to improve if he didn't get regular work.  Rather than leave Ernie home when we had real work to do, I started using him.  In fits and starts, we made some progress - but I still relied on Mo and Taff (our older, proven dogs) to do things like load the trailer, move sheep up the county road, and (most recently) move range ewes from the corrals to their paddocks at my new job at McCormack Sheep and Grain in Rio Vista.

All of that is starting to change.  Last Friday, Ernie and I moved lambs from the Allender property in Auburn back to our corrals at Oak Hill Ranch (a walk of about half a mile).  He helped me sort several ewes out of this bunch, and then we walked them out of the corrals, across a field, and up Shanley Road to Amber Oaks Berry Farm.  This move involved lots of g…

Some Thoughts on Dogs - Observations from my first week at McCormack Sheep and Grain

While I'm still in the midst of making the transition from "shepherd in charge" at Flying Mule Farm to deputy livestock manager / director at McCormack Sheep and Grain, I've learned some interesting things about dogs in the last two weeks.  These thoughts are fairly random - please bear with me!

I've been using Taff (my 11-year-old border collie) and Ernie exclusively - Mo is on a brief vacation providing stud services.  Taff has slowed down significantly over the last year.  He's big for a border collie, and the years of physical work have started to take their toll.  His eyesight is diminished, as is his hearing (or so I thought - more on this below).  Ernie, as some of you know, loves to work - sometimes with me, sometimes for himself.  He's made big strides in his willingness to work as a partner with me, but we still have a long way to go.

On my second day at McCormack's, I helped Ellen Skillings (my friend and the livestock manager at the ranch)…

Ernie's Progress - October 1

I haven't posted an entry regarding Ernie's progress towards becoming a useful sheep dog for a number of weeks.  My lack of reporting has been due partly to my lack of time and, frankly, due to Ernie's lack of progress.  While he's shown some signs of improvement, we also seem to move backwards sometimes (not unusual in the training process, as I'm learning).  When we suffer these set-backs, I try to go back to the fundamental building blocks of Ernie's training - to rebuild the foundation that our more complicated work is based upon.

I continue to use Ernie on a regular basis for tasks like moving the ewes or the feeder lambs from pasture to pasture or onto other properties.  Over the last several weeks, Ernie has regressed - he's gone back to deciding that it's more fun to work for himself (rather than with me).  This manifests itself in his refusal to acknowledge that I'm even in the picture when we're moving sheep - he constantly tries to ge…