Another Muster

The Gympie Country Music Muster has to be experienced to be understood. This year started about a week before live music began echoing around the Amamoor Valley with the annual call from our friend, Sue McMah. She instructed Sean and me to turn up to Swill Hill with dogs and ATV, she would bring the sheep. Swill Hill is one of the more lavish camping facilities frequented by a group of long-term revelers.

Our mission was to attract attention and to hand out brochures for a pre-muster function in Gympie. Apart from destroying one fiery tempered young retiree’s coax cable linking his over sized caravan to his over sized satellite dish all went well.

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Flock/Mob Work

The response to the 500 metre rule has been awesome with many of you reporting a really positive response from your pups. I mentioned that, after you have mastered the 500 metre rule, move on to general flock/mob work. Here is a guide:

  1. Choose a larger mob, 40 to 50 animals is ideal.
  2. The livestock should be moving away from the yards so that they move freely.
  3. Position yourself behind the mob, zigzagging from eye to eye of the leaders.
  4. If possible, have an experienced dog with you. (on the bike or on a lead)
  5. As the stock are walking along allow the pup to be drawn up one side to the head. If they run, allow the pup to head them until they stop, then call him back along the same side he went up. If they just continue to walk along allow him to get to about 2/10 o’clock then call him back that same side.
  6. Repeat this exercise on the other side.
  7. Your pup, with the right genetics, will quickly learn to drove stock, at the walk, if they run on he will move forward into the retard section of the leader’s eye, but not directly in front of them. If they slow down or stop he will come back towards you into the drive section of the eye.
  8. When your pup has mastered the basics of this exercise, vary it a bit by leaving a couple behind so he looks for problems to solve. To finish the exercise move ahead of the mob  and allow your pup to balance it to you.
  9. This exercise is a good reinforcement of the call. Each call is followed by encouragement to work on the opposite wing.
  10. Other than the call your voice will only emit sounds of encouragement for your pup. Even if he is making mistakes, encourage with your voice, correct with your body position.

Good luck and post any questions in the comment box below.

The 500 metre Rule

This is a part of an email I sent to a friend who I believed was introducing formal training to a young pup too early in its development. It is important to allow a young dog from these bloodlines to learn from experience rather than from instruction.

If he was mine I would make sure he could balance that trainer mob to me without any commands. Just use the rake to protect your livestock if he is a bit too keen. ( He will only be too keen because he is too fresh so go for a longer walk. Sean and I have a new training rule which is working really well.

It’s called the 500 metre rule.

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Genetic differences between lines

Some years ago, we farmed deer on our property in South East Queensland. We started catching the local feral Red Deer but due to their better adaption to the sub-tropics and tropics we sourced a herd of Rusa Deer.

Good dogs can handle these species of deer and it is wonderful to watch a clever dog adjust to the flight zone of livestock very different to sheep and cattle. Rusa can be very aggressive, approaching, rapidly, with stamping front feet and then breaking unpredictably, usually, leading part of the herd away with speed and determination. Useful dogs must have courage, cover and the ability to pat that flight zone bubble with skill and accuracy.

On one occasion we got a call about 150 Rusa Deer which  had escaped the confines of the high fences and made their way down the valley some 14 Kms (8.5 miles) and were enjoying a pasture of irrigated rye grass. This was not good news to the owner of the farm as he needed the feed for his young stud Charolais bulls. It was suggested by many neighbours that the only solution involved rifles,  sharp knives and plenty of volunteers.

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Was that a compliment?

Last week a young team of Kelpies and I had mustered 200 Brahman X yearlings and were moving them about 4 Kms along a  gravel road that runs through our property. As they were quite a heavy mob I was droving from behind on my ATV while Milburn Moss, Tracker Gibbs, Tracker Fiona (Fi) and Tracker Chief guided them along the sides and kept the odd slow follower from lagging behind.

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Ingenious solution

The old post and 5 X 2 rail yard had done its day. Been there 50 odd years and what’s more the long trough was one of those rubber sealed jobs that won’t survive our new “keep dry until needed” policy due to the proximity to the fig tree, bats and Hendra virus. The new trough had to be offset as one of the yards can have stock pressure due to it being a forcer for the draughting system.

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You have got to give credit for 200 years of selection for brilliance.

What an amazing weekend.

What excited me the most?

Was it the well explained theory of better stock handling from chief instructor Sean Barrett?

The fantastic cuisine presented by Auntie Ando and her trusty crew?

The growing camaraderie fueled by a few quite  rums after the evening spotlights had dimmed or the anguish evident during the final days competitive “Oakwood Challenge” where students plied all they had learned in a trial of courage, wits, leadership, dominance and compassion. This challenge was won by a young up and coming stockman from Surat. Congratulations Simon Twidale.

Champion Stock Handler

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