Tuesday, July 05, 2011


have only myself to blame.

This is a livestock farm. OK, so at the moment I've only got some Highland Cattle, but the plan is to have a flock of sheep soon. To be more specific, a flock of Romney ewes. Romneys are the main breed run in New Zealand for meat production and they are noted for their hardiness and easy lambing. The old saying goes that when the Kiwi farmer hears the first lamb, he goes on holiday, and to a certain extent you can see why. New Zealand sheep farms are large and the terrain difficult. Sheep roam over vast areas and one shepherd might have five or ten thousand ewes to look after. It would be simply impractical to try and bring them all in to sheds at lambing time, let alone wander among them pulling lambs, fostering twins onto mothers who have lost their own lambs and all the other extremely labour-intensive things sheep farmers do over here. The New Zealand system has been developed to be as hands off as possible. In the UK, this has been adapted into what is known as the easy-care system, and what's not to like about something called that?

The downside, of course, is that you'll never get the high lambing percentages that intensive farming systems in the UK can manage. Fewer lambs per ewe means fewer lambs going to market and a smaller pay cheque. On the other hand, not having to spend hours every day dealing with sheep means that time can be put to other more profitable ends. Also, when it comes down to it, I'm not as big a fan of sheep as is the Horse Doctor. And she only likes them for their wool. It's important to mix the species of animals grazing the grass though, so some sheep are unavoidable.

Which means some kind of sheepdog is, also, unavoidable.

I've been putting it off though. It's not as simple as just buying a ready-made sheepdog. You can do this - get one raised and trained by an expert - but it's very expensive (£2k+) and you end up with a dog whose personality has been already been formed. Bringing such an animal into an existing pack can also cause all manner of problems. Far better all round to get a pup and train it. Except of course that I've never done this before - hence the putting things off. And even an untrained pup, from good working stock, can cost both an arm and a leg.

So when the Horse Doctor texted me to ask if I wanted a Huntaway cross, I didn't immediately scoff at the idea. Huntaways are common in New Zealand, after all. They're bred for greater stamina than your average Border Collie, and work well as cattle dogs too. This particular Huntaway was crossed with a collie, came from a dairy farm in Pembrokeshire and was free to a good home.

As it happens, I was heading down to Wales anyway, for a friend's 50th birthday party. That was Friday, and on Saturday the Horse Doctor and I made the trip to Fishguard, just to look, of course.

And came home with this:

Much debate went into what to call this little fellow. He comes from the Preseli hills, so Elvis was one consideration. Benfro was another, but that's really a name for something a bit more laid back - a dachshund perhaps. It would have been shortened to Ben, too, which is just another sheepdog name. Just outside Fishguard, on the way to the farm where he was born, is the small hamlet of Trecwn - or dogtown. Ci is the Welsh for dog, the plural being cwn (pronounced coon). I did consider just calling him cwn, even if it might lead to odd looks when shouting for him in public places.

Much was the discussion in the car as we made our way home, unnamed small dog curled up and happily asleep on the Horse Doctor's lap. Then we rolled slowly down the hill towards Cardigan, neatly bypassing the tiny village of St Dogmaels.

Not much is known about St Dogmael. He was a prince of Ceredigion - Mael is Welsh for prince - son of Ithel ap Ceredig ap Cunedda Wledig. He preached in Wales for a while, then moved down to France. No-one seems to know quite what he did to be canonised other than sacrificing the good life to become a monk, but he's remembered in town names in Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. And he has the perfect name for a sheep dog. He can be dog if he's bad, and Mel if he's good. Dogmael it is.

The journey back to Fife yesterday should have been traumatic, with an eleven week old pup separated from his mum and siblings for the first time. I put him in a cage in the back of the car fully expecting seven and a half hours of pitiful whining punctuated with the occasional horrible whiff as nature took its course. As it happened, he curled up and went to sleep, did his business when I let everyone out for a leg stretch at Westmoreland, and then went back to sleep again. I foresee great things ahead if this can be maintained.

On the downside, he's not really house trained yet, and he seemed to think that four o'clock this morning was a perfectly acceptable time to be getting up. I am somewhat brain dead as a result.

Tomorrow morning he goes to the vet to have his jabs. Then all I have to do is train him. Should be a breeze.

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Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Awww, what an adorable little fellow.

July 24, 2011 8:38 pm  
Blogger Rohitpal said...

Title is new for me but i really like to because i have dog . i enjoyed to read like this title . thank's for showing such a different title.

August 20, 2011 7:08 am  

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