Welcome to HighTail Farms, LLC! We're a small farm located in Greensboro, North Carolina. We are dedicated to providing people with ethically raised and humanely processed pastured poultry and sheep, fresh eggs, and raw meat for pet food. We are currently not producing any products for sale.

Please follow the links in the top bar for more information on our products and their availability. Continue reading below for our blog where we detail the adventures of raisin' animals and whatnot.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Herding Training

Lately we have needed to move the flock of sheep more than in the past. We are trying to keep them off our first pasture as much as possible so that it doesn't get over grazed. We are also gathering them every week for health checks. Since the weather has started to warm, we have also been moving them into the backyard a few days a week so that they can act as living lawn mowers and enjoy the benefits of our very varied grass back there.

Rialey has always shown a very natural ability to move the flock. The problem is often that where she would like to move them and where we would like her to move them are totally different places. The last couple of weeks, I have started to make an effort to really dial in her herding training so that we can better communicate out there.

The other thing the girl needs to learn is to just slow down! I thought surely when she reached 2 years old she would mature out of the puppy brain phase and start acting like an adult. Nope. Half the time when she's working she is a jumbo bag of mixed nuts, running and barking and trying to do everything we ask before we ask it and at TOP SPEED! Whhheeee!!!

The fault here lies with my training, not with my over zealous, very driven working dog. I haven't taken the time to show her what to do and reward when she is doing things at a moderate pace. Instead we often find ourselves waiting until she has done something in a totally wild fashion and then yelling. This does no one any good.

Recently, I worked out a deal with a local trainer to trade a couple of our turkeys for a herding lesson. She was able to give me some great tips on reading Rialey's body language and getting the kind of performance I want without all the yelling and pushing.

Today, I decided to put some of her suggestions into practice so we went out to collect the sheep in the back pasture. It took a few tries, but eventually we moved the whole flock into the goat yard where armed with a clicker and some delicious treats (smokey bacon cheddar!), I rewarded Rialey for being calm, moving slowly, and getting around and behind her sheep. Thankfully, the sheep have finally grown out of the habit of trying to commit suicide by throwing themselves at the fence any time a dog moves anywhere near them! We moved the flock from one pen to the other and back again a few times then we decided to move the group into the backyard to graze for the day.

Our first attempt at moving from one yard to the other did not go so well. Unsure what I wanted, Rialey flanked around and ended up moving the sheep in the opposite direction and by a roundabout route then ended up back where we'd started. This time I got in front of the flock and just told Rialey to wait as I walked confidently in front of the group, out the gate, and across the pasture.

There was this beautiful moment when I looked over my shoulder and there spread out behind me trotting calmly was the entire flock of sheep. Bringing up the rear at a respectable distance was Rialey. She was WALKING behind the sheep. Keeping her shepherd's eye on all the young lambs to make sure they stayed with the group and calmly encouraging the whole flock to take my lead. Once the sheep saw the open backyard gate and the lush greens that awaited them, they all rushed through and Rialey to her credit slowed to a stop and waited for every last ewe and lamb to find their way through the small gate.

Gate shut, I turned around and had a huge party with my good girl, complete with a whole handful of smokey bacon cheddar!

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