Whoever said dogs are a man’s best friend must have had livestock. Before we got our bitch Whiskey I swear we had more marital spats over herding cows, goats, and sheep than almost any other topic! and they were the worst. I think Border Collies have probably single-paw-edly saved more farm marriages than any other one thing.
Sure if you are a small time farmer hobbyist, the expense of a good dog and all of the training that go along with it may not make financial sense. It may make sense from a self care perspective, but the numbers probably don’t stack up. But if you are running more than a few animals and especially if you are transporting them to lease properties or between pastures the amount of time you can save by using a dog is astronomical. Even just your regular checking and counting of the ewes takes a small fraction of the time it used to, because Whiskey can find the flock, and bring them up to me for inspection. The downside? I am not getting nearly as much exercise as I used to.
Another great feature of running dogs is that you can get more done with less infrastructure. In order to load a flock of 7 ewes with their 14 lambs onto a trailer straight out of the field we used to need holding pens and to do a lot more traipsing around. Now a couple of panels to funnel the flock in, and the dog does most of the work. While I am a big fan of building permanent infrastructure to reduce stress on sheep and farmers alike, it is not always practical, especially when running animals on multiple properties. Dogs make up for a multitude of inadequacies on the part of the farm and farmer.
Now I know none of YOU good readers would EVER be irresponsible enough to lose livestock, let alone have them escape your property. . . But we definitely have. Escaped animals can eat up literal hours of your life in running around looking like a panicked idiot. In fact, two weeks ago when Whiskey was 6 hours away visiting her boyfriend we had a little goat incident that had me trotting my uncoordinated pregnant ass all over a lease property for hours. We all came out of the experience bruised and scratched; except the goat, which we never caught. Fast forward a few days when we had Whiskey back and the goat was incarcerated in under 15 minutes.
One can expect a well bred, keen working dog to run $450 to $850 as a pup, and if hiring a trainer to get the dog started is required, between $600 and $1000 in training. I do occasionally see started young dogs for about $1500, which is probably not a bad way to go if you do not have the experience to start one yourself. I also highly recommend connecting with a trainer to teach you the basics so you don’t mess up your dogs training too fast. If you put in the investment of time and finance, I can practically promise that you will thank me and wonder how you ever got by without your helpful herder. 😉