For many farm tasks with the sheep, I rely on a Border collie for help.
Need to move sheep to another pasture? I call a dog to assist. Need to persuade sheep to go into the barn? I call the dog.
But just because I have a dog trained to work sheep doesn't mean that the dog is always the best tool for the job.
When sorting sheep in a stall or close quarters, I prefer to work alone, without the dog. Why add a dog to the close space and risk the dog or me getting hurt?
The one task that I've always struggled with is the trailer load.
Sheep fear dark, enclosed spaces--and they don't care for the rattle of the trailer. Dogs and people cannot persuade sheep that it's a good idea to go inside a trailer. My husband and I get the task accomplished, but not without high anxiety for sheep and people.
Until this year.
This fall, we parked the trailer in the pasture where the market lambs were living. Once a day, I'd put some hay in tubs inside the trailer. Within hours the sheep figured out the trailer was a place for food. They jumped in and out of it throughout the day.
On the morning they were to go to the butcher, I put some hay inside the trailer. The lambs jumped inside to snack on their morning meal. I slid the trailer door shut.
"Lambs are loaded and ready to go," I told my husband.
Neither of us had touched a lamb during the loading process.