Predator and Prey

shepherd collage 3

When I’m not herding ducks at shows, I’m employed as a shepherd full time. Once I finish here I’ve got to go back and see what else has lambed. Mainly the job involves keeping the sheep alive and they’re worse than ducks for dying.

I saw Katy Cropper using ducks at a demonstration about 30 years ago, so this idea isn’t a new one. When people started asking me to do demonstrations, ducks were the obvious way. I don’t have any sheep myself and I’d have to borrow them off my boss, but you also need bits of paper to move livestock around. The ducks save a lot of paperwork, which is always a good thing as far as I’m concerned. The ducks enjoy getting out on some grass, but having a dog behind them when they’re used to being by themselves – I don’t think they’re too impressed with it. They’ve got to be scared a bit though, or else they wouldn’t move for the dog. The dog is the predator and they’re the prey and that’s how we move them. Same with the sheep.

I’ve been a shepherd most of my working life. My father worked on a farm and I grew up with farming all around. I saw the milking going on and thought, ‘Eight hours a day just putting clusters on dairy cows – no thank you’. So sheep was the other one. I enjoy doing these shows as long as I’ve got my son to work the mike. I’ll work my dog quite happily any day, but I don’t like doing the talking. Tomorrow there’s a sheepdog trial at Delabole and both my sons are competing. My son Mark represented England last year in One Man and his Dog, so they’re both following in my footsteps.