|By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
HAMILTON, Ohio — A few days before a Custom Stockdogs herding clinic was scheduled at the farm of Carol and Richard Lightfield a fire burned down their 120-year-old barn.
They should cancel the clinic, the organizers said. It was too much. But Lightfield was determined to hold the clinic; his belief in herding dogs had been reinforced.
“We had show calves in the barn,” said Lightfield, who raises Murray Grey cattle. “My wife tried to get the calves out; it was getting hot and smoky fast. If it wasn’t for the dog we would have lost them. No doubt about it.”
“Katie,” an Australian blue heeler, herded the three calves from the burning barn.
“The calves were in the back,” he said. “We usually have them tied but we did not have them tied this time. That barn is their security and to leave that under trying times, under an emergency situation, they’re not going to do it.
The calves needed special prompting and that’s where training came in, Lightfield said. Katie knew exactly what to do and how to do it.
“The dog brought them out one at a time,” he said. “The barn was on the ground within 30 minutes. It went that fast. The fire department was here in about seven to eight minutes and all they could do was control the fire and keep it out of the back barn.”
Katie works with Lightfield regularly. He uses a three-day pasture rotation with his cattle and she assists him.
“Every time I head to the field she’s right at my side and helps me move the cattle and take care of everything,” Lightfield said. “I couldn’t do the job I do if it wasn’t for the dog.
“I believe that much in stockdogs,” he said. “I trust them implicitly. That’s why I volunteered to have this clinic here.
Katie had been trained, but Lightfield said he thinks herding dogs are intuitive.
“Sheep dogs circle the sheep,” he said. “An ordinary dog will not do that. They have to have that instinct. Then you explore that and use it to your best advantage.”
And if you’re lucky, you’ll end up with a dog like Katie.
This farm news was published in the May 24, 2006 issue of Farm World.