Benefit from herding with a difference
Ireland should tap into major demand for tourism-based sheepdog demonstrations
Published 18/01/2011 | 05:00
The following is taken from an article recently published in the Wall Street Journal. It was sent to me by a friend now living in California, who suggested that Irish sheep farmers could be missing out on a great money-making enterprise.
Once upon a time, Americans got dogs to herd their sheep. Now it seems they get sheep for their dogs.
Border collies are very popular in the US as pets and Sue Foster decided she needed to do something drastic when her collie, Taff, was expelled from puppy school for herding the black Labradors into a corner.
Being resourceful she decided to rent some sheep and some grazing land. She then bought another border collie and rented some more land. Then she bought a third border collie.
Now, like the old lady who swallowed the fly, she keeps a llama to chase off the coyotes that threaten the lambs that go to market to finance the sheep that entertain her dogs. Collies are compulsive herders, with instincts so intense they sometimes search for livestock behind the television when sheep appear on screen. According to Geri Byrne, who owns the Border Collie Training Center, in Tulelake, California, if left unoccupied, they'll dig up the garden, chew up the doggie bed or persecute the cat.
Herding experts -- yes, there is such a thing -- say it's more common for people who get border collies as pets to wind up renting or buying sheep just to keep their dogs busy.
"It's something that's snowballing all the time," said Jack Knox, a Scottish-born shepherd who travels the US giving herding clinics.
Each day, an average of 18 dogs visit Fido's Farm outside Olympia, Washington, their owners paying $15 per dog to practise on the farm's 200hd flock of sheep. According to owner Ms Chris Soderstrom, herding revenue is up 60pc over the past five years.