Sheepdogs do it better

You can’t beat a good working sheep dog when it comes to rounding up sheep. I looked at Lilly the Collie, who was watching the chaotic scenes in the fields across the Dale with her usual expressionless face. She glanced at me and then back to the field.

We had planned to go for a walk down one of the Dales close to where we live. Its one of the less visited limestone dales in the area, and though part of a wider SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) It was still littered with the industrial waste that comes with modern farming.

Plastic sheeting wrapped around the barbed wire that acted as a boundary topping the broken down drystone walls, was flapping in the modest breeze like abandoned flags from a defeated army on some forgotten battlefield. There were several empty plastic tubs littering the valley floor.

The farmer was trying to move the sheep from the fields on the other side of the valley to new pasture lower down. His technique was to drive his tractor, complete with trailer in an increasingly erratic and dangerous way, at the sheep before turning away to go back and collect the stragglers.

Occasionally the wind carried the sound of his shouting and the bleating of the sheep as they meandered slowly and reluctantly towards the gate and the track to their new pastures. Once he had to stop, and climb down from the tractor and run back up the hillside to collect a bunch of sheep that had detached themselves from the main flock and were headed vaguely and slowly back up the hill.

His turn of speed was impressive. After some arm waving and shouting the sheep gave up and headed back down the hill to be greeted by their compatriots with an increase in bleating and general buffeting.

Slowly, chaotically, painfully the sheep moved in the right direction. But you can’t beat a good working sheep dog. We watched him for a few minutes more before heading off to do a different walk. Lilly trotting ahead of me seemingly smug at witnessing the ineptitude and inefficiency of another human.

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