I am a sheep farmer. I enjoy being a sheep farmer. I raise Dorper sheep which originated in South Africa and were introduced into the United States in 1993. Dorper sheep are a hair sheep breed raised for meat. Hair sheep do not need to be sheared as they shed off their winter coat. In my day to day chores, my helper is my dog, MHT Hank, registered border collie. I just call him Hank and he has become my best ranch hand.
Today, Hank did an awesome job assisting with the sorting or pulling of lambs off of the ewes. Once he understands the job at hand, I give very few commands. He and I work as a team. Now I could use alleys and chutes and a sorting gate, but I do not own a sorting gate. Hank and I go into the pen, separate some lambs, and herd them through the gate into another pen. Team work at its best.
I spent six months searching the internet and talking with people on locating a herding border collie puppy. I found a cattleman and horse trainer who only has one litter a year located in Colorado. I know nothing about bloodlines of border collies, but I really like the videos showing the parents working and the man’s philosophy on training horses on his website
I purchased MHT Hank at six weeks of age. When he was eight weeks he arrived from Colorado to Dallas, Texas by airplane. Puppies have to grow up before they can start learning to herd, but there are lessons they can learn as puppies.
If you want to learn to use herding dogs, have someone teach you first with a trained dog, before attempting to train one yourself. I did not do that, Hank and I learned together. I did however find a herding dog trainer that is extremely good at training and teaching, Faansie Basson. I paid for two lessons with Faansie Basson.
With two lesson and a DVD, I set about to train my first border collie to work. Thankfully Hank possesses enormous amount of natural ability and instinct for herding. I learned from me and I learned from Hank. His trainability is super, and when I figured I did something wrong, he would change to do things correctly.
People ask me how long does it take to train a border collie to herd. It takes six to eight months to teach a dog the commands. The dog has to work two years to gain experience and solidify the commands to work as a real team, with few commands. And a few dogs will learn their job so well, hardly any commands are needed, these are an exception and MHT Hank is one of those dogs.
Today, we sorted off lambs from the ewes as it was weaning time. The work is so much easier with a great ranch hand working with you. Good working border collies sale for $5,000 to $7,000 USD, and some well above that. For me, no amount of money can purchase by partner, MHT Hank.
P.S. One year, hoping for 2023, MHT Hank and I will compete at the Meeker Classic Sheep Dog Herding Trial.