Questions and Answers – November 2013 Edition

Let’s get to it!

Patr:  how are the chickens?

Chickens are doing well… I’ve eight now.  Three of my originals and five “new”.  The new ones are re-feathered and healthy looking as they’ve ever been.  Even the one the hawk almost got the other day!  They were pretty straggly when they first came, due to rooster activity and possibly some neglect.  Unfortunately, they aren’t laying right now.  If I can get my electricity working out there, being warm and well-lit should help with that.  I’ve had to BUY eggs at the store… yechh.


Holly:  Have you installed your wood heating stove in your studio yet? If so, does the space get warm enough to allow you to work out there comfortably?

My very next entry was on this topic… but here’s the link to Flames.  I haven’t really cranked it up and had to try it… I’m comfortable out there with a sweatshirt on, so when it gets COLD, I’ll test it.


Debra:  Aloha, I have a very personal question to ask…I am only asking because I myself am a single woman that has been stuck in Hawaii for 8 years unable to leave because of a mortgage.I originally had friends that moved here with me but they have been long gone for many years..I just wanted to know if you are married ? I saw the video of you on the horse whistling to the dogs to herd the cattle which was just amazing..I just thought like you I have much beauty around me but I still have much sadness from not having family you are fortunate to have your children working with you..

Debra, yes, I’m married to Vernon… I do mention him occasionally!  😉  He doesn’t ride horses very much anymore, so he’s not around when we move cows… He’s off building fence or repairing tractors or something!  I’m glad you liked my video, there’s links to more at the top of the page.  I am very fortunate indeed… Enjoy the blessings you have… Hawaii is such an amazing place!  Lots of cowboys there, too!


Phyllus:  No snow?!

Nope.  It’s come and gone and come and gone and come and gone.  It’ll stick around one of these days…


Della:  Do you have any troubles with wild predators?

No, not really.  Oh, they’re around… coyotes, bobcat, black bears, mountain lions, eagles, fox, and a few years ago… even a couple of wolves.  Thankfully, they haven’t bothered us.  <knocksonwood>  The sheepmen of the country can’t say the same…


Karyn: All the whistle and sounds you make, do they all have a particular meaning? Do they direct Dally? I know you gave her a couple verbal commands as well. Does she follow hand signals too?  And the ground looked really rough in the trees? tall shrubs? How often do the dogs’ feet get cut or are they pretty tough?

Karyn, no… I’m not that professional!  My little swwssss sound I make just means, Yes, go get ’em!  It’s an encouraging sound and a permission all in one, I guess.  Dally will follow along until she hears that, and then zip in for a bite or feint, whichever works. The whistle sound is just for the cows… the dogs know that means there’s cows somewhere that need moving.  I have to watch when I whistle, because it speeds up my dogs!   Elsa was really good with “left”, “right”, “look back”… Dally, not so much.  I think the dogs don’t follow hand signals so much as body language and which way your horse is headed.  They have to trust you since they can’t see cows that you can from horseback.  The one time she messed up in the video, she was looking opposite the way I was, and I should have noticed that before I whistled… she took off and cut back the one cow.  Half operator error… but she shouldn’t have cut her back like that either!  The dogs’ feet have to be pretty tough, with cactus and stickers and rocks everywhere.


Rob:  The cattle appear to respect Dally at a distance. Is that because of close personal experience, or does she have that kind of a presence with them? Or both?

I’d say a lot of it is instinct… cows don’t like little animals running at them, or big ones either!  There’s also the pull of the rest of the cows, since they feel safer in a herd, they’ll go catch up with everyone else (well, most of the time!).  So it all encourages them to leave the country.  Dally will bite them but had they stopped and turned towards her, she’d have pulled up and waited for them to turn their heads before she’d try pushing again.  Dally is not overly aggressive!  Lucas would barrel in teeth first!  I never push my dogs to actually make contact (read that BITE) every cow.  If a cow lifts her tail and takes off, they don’t need any more pressure IMHO.  I’ve encouraged my dogs to get them moving then release the pressure by returning to me.  It’s not always the most productive, especially if they’ve missed something and I have to send them back out, but I like the idea of releasing the pressure from the dog, and just sending them when the cows need “encouragement”!  Cows don’t get that stress from wondering where the dog is if they are walking out like they should.


Carole:  Did Lucas do something to his left front paw? It looks like it has been shaved. You said you were getting cows ready for sale because of their “open-ness”. Could you explain. I have never heard that terminology before and my daddy always around cattle.

Lucas was run over at the age of 7 months.  His pelvis was crushed and he sustained nerve damage in that leg.  He wears the pad off and to help him, I use vet wrap on it.  Some days I use a gel pad and vet wrap and duct tape!  It is relatively permanent.  Cows that aren’t pregnant are deemed “open”.  (Pregnant ones are NOT closed, by the way!)  That’s just the terminology… A cow that isn’t pregnant will go to the salebarn… along with the older cows that are losing their teeth (“broken mouth”)… or those that will calve too late to fit our schedule.  I tried to find my older entries about preg testing and, of course, they’re some I haven’t transferred over from my old blog!  You can still see the video I made here… it might explain a few things for you!

I think I answered all your questions… thanks, folks!


Questions and Answers – November 2013 Edition — 4 Comments

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  2. Thanks for the answer, Carol. I have been doing some limited herding work with sheep with our Libby here, and it’s interesting to see the variability of the animals and her reaction to them. Last week, we had an exceptionally heavy flock, and they just wouldn’t move for her. I ended up taking out the assistant trainer’s Border Collie Katie, who they apparently knew and respected enough to heed. I have to imagine that Libby might be close to invisible for cattle.

    • You never know… when I first got Lucas and Elsa, I swear the cows looked at them and ran because they were sables, and they hadn’t ever seen anything like that! Then I thought maybe it was tail carriage. Range cattle and sheep are different…

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