When we herded our cats calves the other day, Lucas was the designated dog of the day.
First and foremost, Lucas works quietly. If he was as barky as Elsa can sometimes be, the momma cows would turn back, ready to defend their calves, and forward progress would be non-existent. Lucas’ bark applies to when cows turn, look directly at him, and challenge him. Then he lets fly with teeth and voice.
Lucas will stay with me better than Elsa and Dally. He has had more experience doing that, and he *tries* to make me happy!
Overall, Lucas has the most experience (minus Boomer – who I don’t count since he is more Vernon’s dog!).
As I rode down to the far end of the field… perhaps 3/4 of a mile… the cows were quickly on “high alert”. A brand new momma cow is going to notice a “predatory canine” very fast! Lucas knew to leave me and circle out wide. He went outside the barbed wire fence when it became available to him as well… it’s much safer out there! The flag of his tail was still apparent over the low sagebrush… cows rushed his direction.
His presence, you might think was a bad idea. Wrong. It is the middle of the day. Mommas had deposited their calves in a certain spot and left them to go eat hay or walk to the creek for a drink. The warning bawls of the ones that had initially spotted Lucas spread to those farther away. Each momma ran to their little ones’ hiding spots to check on their safety.
Guess what? Our cows and calves are now paired. We didn’t have to do anything but let Lucas be visible for a few minutes. I couldn’t have done that by myself!
Lucas continues his parallel “outrun” as I drive to the end of the field and turn to gather them back up and start moving the mothered pairs. He stays perhaps one hundred yards out… far enough that most cows can be encouraged to walk in the general direction we want them to move. As the herd movement continues to flow, Lucas moves in closer.
I have yet to say anything to him.
In the last 1/3 of the field, he begins working the cows… and I do finally have to call him back some. He wants to push and push and that doesn’t work with little babies.
By the time we have moved the herd the mile and a half… Lucas has lost some of his “golden glow” having wrongly chased little babies back the wrong direction and not listened to some of my instructions.
The weather was gorgeous.. but hot for a winter-coated dog. He has laid in snowbanks and mud puddles. He has drank from the creek and shaded up when we try to slow down. So when Vernon appears with the calf cart after we’ve completed the drive, he offers to taxi Lucas home. Lucas isn’t sure of the cart, but lets Vernon stuff him in and latch the door. After a few moments of wide-eyed nervousness… Lucas settles in and rides the rest of the way home accepting the help.