In the early part of the last century, the job of shepherd was one of minimal status, but immense freedom. These often solitary souls would take a large flock from the winter ranch headquarters to the summer pastures — often at higher elevation — to spend the summer together.
The shepherd’s job was to keep the sheep grouped, safe and to lead them to greener pastures as necessary. In many respects, the shepherd was the flock leader.
Sheep Herding Tips
Today we’ve concentrated on handling sheep by playing the role of predator and taking advantage of the flock’s flight zone to get the animals to go. But there is another, more shepherd-like way. It involves bottle feeding a small portion of each year’s replacement lambs and/or rewarding them with pellets when they approach.
Even if your bottle fed or treat trained animals that are low in the pecking-order, when you step into the pasture, they will recognize you as the flock boss and quite literally flock to you — temporarily upsetting the status levels of even the highest ranking individuals.
So, if you want to corral the flock, all you need to do is walk out to the flock’s edge, make your presence known and lead the group in. So distracting is this phenomenon that your partner can calmly and quietly rope or otherwise catch individuals for loading, doctoring, or just inspecting.
You’ve heard the expression “there are many ways to skin a cat.” I’m here to assure you that there are also several methods to move sheep — most require little in the way of whooping it up, which lowers stress levels all around.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper’s Farmer magazines.