October 5 I received this wonderful email:
This summer was the third summer I spent with a flock of ~700 sheep in the Swiss Alps.
Thanks to all your wisdom that you make available online I learnt fast and the last months were such a pleasure to work with the sheep! They were calm, my dogs were calm, I was relaxed — it was sooo rewarding. And we lost less sheep, doctored less sheep and they all looked nice when they returned back to the farm 10 days ago.
I would like to thank you and dear Bud for all the work you did, to let me enjoy working as a shepherd!
Best from Switzerland
I wrote him back:
Thank you so much for writing, Tinu.
I’m always happy to hear from people that our stockmanship information has helped.
I’d love to hear about your experiences herding sheep in the Alps.
I received the following email and photos:
Here are some thoughts about herding ~700 sheep at “Alp Starlera”, 750 acres near Innerferrera GR
The lower half of our Alp is (mainly) very steep, the upper half is less steep, but has no large fields without interrupting rockbands or streams. I use temporary fences and natural barriers to have pastures of 75–250 acres where the herd stays for 1–3 weeks.
It is not easy to ‘herd’, as it is usually not possible to send the dogs to the other side of the herd. But in the morning we can drive the herd to a place where there is fresh grass, keep them there for a few hours and then leave the herd on its own until late afternoon.
For the night we have to pen the herd, there are quite a lot of wolfs around. It takes us around 1–2 hours to collect the herd and walk them to the pen.
It was only my third summer working with sheep and dogs, before this I was in the office in front of a screen… So I don’t have a lot of experience.
But with your help I achieved a good bit into the right direction:
- The herd was quite calm and stayed together as a herd [except very few quitters…] after only a few days.
- I have the impression, that the herd likes it, when we bring them to a place and by doing this, show them, that we are here and care for them.
- One of my dogs was hard on sheep until I shut up and let him work instead of trying to control him. Now he is a champ & friend that thinks ahead!
- We (me and my three dogs) can drive the sheep for one hour and I don’t have to say one word to the dogs. They watch what I do and work accordingly
All in all I like the place and the difficult terrain. And I love working with the animals. Each time I walk to the herd together with the dogs I feel veeery pleased 🙂
One nice story:
When the herd was back home at the farmer’s at the end of the summer I stayed in the hut for another few weeks. After 10 days I got a call: There are 4 wild sheep on the mountain!
I searched them and when they saw me they took off far. It was too steep to follow them, so I came back the next day with the dogs.
We approached/zig-zagged carefully and one sheep let us come quite near. But then another one appeared, saw us — and off they went — wrong direction! This time we could follow them (after a good break). We could turn them from a good distance and start them slowly and from then on they never run again, walked into the right direction, even started to eat and after half an hour we could stay near them and bring them calmly down to the village, which took us another 3 hours. It was very rewarding to use all the tools I got to know. And it works 🙂