ACD’s and Ranch Work

Working on a Ranch

By Lynn Leach
Downriver Farm
Australian Cattle Dog Club of Canada – Vice President
CKC Herding Representative
Herding Judge – CKC, AKC & AHBA

My travels give me the opportunity to see lots of different farm and ranch set-ups, activity and stock management. I feel so lucky to get the opportunity to see so many dogs in a variety of situations. Because the Australian Cattle Dog is such a versatile dog, the dog fancier is able to see them compete in a huge variety of dog sports. But, most don’t get the awesome feeling of seeing them work in a chore situation! 

Controlling the movement of livestock; moving them from here to there. In a chore situation, we usually want it done quickly and efficiently so that we can get more chores done during daylight hours. When this relocation of stock involves large numbers moving over sizable areas of land, it is often done on horseback, quads, or trucks and requires several ranch hands or a good dog(s).

This scenario describes the activity at Dominion Creek Ranch in Heffley Creek, BC. Leroy and Bernadine Peters use their Australian Cattle Dogs to manage their livestock daily. After the mad-cow cattle disaster, they have cut down from 300 to 100 cow/calf pairs, which they run with their 40+ ewes on a 1200-acre ranch located in the British Columbia interior. Each of their ACDs have a job that they excel at, although all dogs learn to help out in every chore. 

Echo is their most experienced dog working right now. She took over when retirement forced her senior citizen to take some time off and enjoy her old age. Although Echo does a little gathering, and pushes cattle from pen to pen – her main job is to work during processing, which requires her to sort, push the beasts through alleyways and sorting chutes, then hold their position in the vetting squeeze until processing is finished. Processing usually includes worming, vaccinations, branding and any vetting required. All areas are built using rails strategically placed far enough apart to allow Echo to heel through the planks, and get to safety when required.   

At the end of this ‘obstacle course’ waits Tex, a young dog, whose job is to create movement after treatment and direct the cow through to the correct pasture or arena. The processing area allows for easy access to several different paddocks. This means that any sorting required for grazing over the next time period can be done now. Most of his training to date has been to get him to release the cows, and allow them to get away. He now knows that once he’s let this one go, there will be another one ready in a short time. 

Both dogs also work the entire ranch regularly. Completing rounds on such a large ranch can mean a ten-hour day. The dogs have learned to pace themselves, and relax on the quad when they are not needed. If rounds are done on horseback, short breaks are taken throughout the day. When Bernadine starts up that four-wheeler, the dogs come running with such enthusiasm!! The older retired dogs get some pleasing attention, and sometimes an easy job of bringing in some stray cattle or sheep that are close to the homestead. Then they are told to watch the farm, while the younger dogs go out for their day of work.  

Bernadine would like to try her hand at stock dog trials. Both of her children are involved in 4-H and thinks that it would be fun to exhibit her dogs too, as well as meeting other ACD people. 

Robin is another ACD who is invaluable working in a ranch setting. Again, he is a dog that people don’t get an opportunity to see at competitions as he works only in a natural setting. He is pictured here moving range cattle along a roadway from one grazing area to another. These ranchers are working on horseback – and the dog’s job here is to keep the cattle moving at a steady pace, and in the correct direction. Roadways can be tough, as there are usually grass areas on both sides of the pavement/gravel. 

Robin’s job during this exercise is to ensure that the cows don’t get into the wrong pastures, pick up any strays and work independently. Robin belongs to Sarah, the daughter of a friend of mine who lives in Baker, Oregon. Carol Delsman has been breeding ACDs for many years, and has always strived to maintain work ethics in her lines, as well as good confirmation…although – these go hand in hand. I don’t think there is any way that a dog can work all day long if he is not built correctly! 

There are many people who depend on their ACD’s in this manner. These are just two people who I’ve happened to visit recently!  

Happy Herding!

For more information on Lynn Leach’s training philosophy, training events or training videos please contact Downriver Farms, today!