Carew does the entire gather by herself!

Working alone, Carew completes this morning's gather in record time!

Carew drives a large bunch of sheep towards the gate
Carew driving a large bunch of sheep towards the gate. About half the flock is already out of the field and on the way to the farm buildings

This morning's sheep gather and lamb drafting operation was completed in record time. Of course, the more the dogs and I do this work, the better we should get, but I really wasn't expecting things to go as well as they did today.

On Monday, John had warned me that we'd probably need to separate some cattle from the sheep before we started, so I took Carew's big brother Ezra along; he likes working cattle, whereas Carew and Kay keep well clear of them. As luck would have it, John had already managed to move the cattle into another field so, on this occasion, Ezra's assistance wasn't required.

We started the gather in a field with a strategically placed bank, which blocks the handler's view of the dog on its outrun. Almost as though they know this, a large proportion of the sheep can usually be found behind the bank. Previously I've used Kay for this field but, to increase Carew's experience, I decided to see how she'd cope with the challenge.

Carew set off on her "Away" outrun, but she wasn't going wide enough so I re-directed her and she responded well. Much of the time I couldn't see her but by watching the sheep, I could tell where she was. She'd more or less followed the hedge, and gathered the entire field with no need for further redirection.

A ewe challenges Carew, while some others try to escape
A ewe challenges as others bid for freedom

With Carew clearly in charge I left Kay and Ezra in the car, giving me two fresh dogs to bring into action if Carew got tired, but there was no need. Carew gathered all six fields efficiently, with little or no running back and forth, until a ewe with her lamb challenged Carew as they got closer to the gate (see picture). Carew put her head down and crept towards the stragglers - looking as though she really meant business - and the sheep duly turned away, but by this time some of the main bunch were making a run for it behind her.

The sheep in the field had seen those that were already on their way down the drive towards the farm buildings and had set off to join them but, of course, on the wrong side of the hedge. I hadn't noticed the escaping sheep because I was busy photographing Carew with the "stroppy" ewe at the time, but I shouted "Look!" just once and Carew spun round, as though she already knew what was happening. She spotted the runaways and set off in a beautiful outrun, all in one movement. The errant sheep were back with the main bunch in no time at all.

From there it was a simple matter of getting the sheep into the barn and drafting out the lambs and, before we knew it, we were finished. John expressed his surprise that we had the whole job done and it was still only 7:30 am. Poor Kay and Ezra didn't even get out of the car but, never mind, there will be plenty more chances for them soon enough.


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