My project remains the same as stated. I have set dates for the fall 2017 and spring 2018 workshops. There has been a facebook page set up and I have begun reaching out to livestock/ ag affiliated groups to advertise to members. I am advertising in two magazines currently as well as online ag groups. I have also begun a handout for the workshops.
Producers manage their stock within unique constraints that limit the sustainability of their operation. Constraints include time, skilled labor, land, adequate facilities and fencing. Physical limitations and lack of understanding of livestock movement and behavior also limits producers’ success.
Off-farm employment and caring for young children limits producers’ time to devote to livestock care. Producers with grown children exit livestock production because they don’t have the available labor to care for stock. The physically stressful and demanding nature of livestock production can discourage women, physically challenged and older producers causing them to exit the industry or not enter.
In the Midwest thousands of acres that could support livestock are not grazed. Crop fields are not grazed after harvest. Hilly or wooded land is regarded as unusable. Well-managed livestock can concurrently improve land health (targeted grazing has been shown to reduce weeds, increase soil fertility, and allow managers to meet specific biodiversity and production goals) and improve the sustainability of operations by diversifying enterprises and improving profitability.
Sheep and goat production requires relatively little initial investment for infrastructure and can be maintained with little added input thus providing an entry point into agriculture. The trade-off is small ruminants require more hands-on management than other livestock. Stockdogs can be key to profitability by enabling timely, humane and safe handling of sheep and goats. A dog replaces several people, saves thousands of steps a day, and reduces fuel, equipment repair and maintenance costs. Stress is a major concern among producers. Working alone for hours takes a toll, but a well-trained dog provides a silent, willing, skilled, dependable ‘working partner’ that adds emotional support to the tangible benefits they provide. Having the skill to use well-trained stockdogs addresses many constraints opening up possibilities for each operation to participate in sustainable agriculture.
This is a personalized three-part educational program to introduce livestock producers to the benefits of stockdogs through demonstration, enable skill building through hands-on learning during workshops and provide continued learning and support through discussion and video instruction after the workshop.
I will use experienced stockdogs to demonstrate ways stockdogs are used to assist in the care of stock. Participants will see how the individual skills of gathering, driving and holding stock work together in an operation. Young dogs will demonstrate instinct, the progression in learning and the handlers’ role in training. Each participant with a dog will work with the clinician twice a day on the skills they need to perfect. They will then work alone building their understanding of and confidence in the skills learned.
I will offer continued support for one year after workshops. I will design an internet discussion forum where videos can be posted that I will critique. I will post videos taped to personally address questions asked, demonstrate needed skills and suggest ways to achieve success. I anticipate spending 12 hours a month throughout the year providing this on-going support.
I anticipate 100 people attending the on-farm demonstrations (one will be focused on youth), 8-20 producers participating in each workshop with 10-25 additional producers participating on-line.
Participants wanting to figure out if a herding dog will be a good addition to their operation will able to work my dogs on stock enabling them to get a feel for doing chores with the assistance of a dog and learning basic doghandling skills. They will leave knowing if they want to obtain a stockdog and have assistance finding one that suits them and their operation.
My farm will serve as a hub for educating producers about all aspects of incorporating stockdogs successfully into livestock operations.
1. Improve land health and sustainability of operations in livestock management practices by using stock dogs.
2. Educate livestock producers on the benefits and training of stock dogs through demonstration, hands-on workshops, and online materials.
3. Enable more sustainable practices in livestock management using stock dogs including rotational grazing and less need for gas-powered equipment.
4. Help farmers improve their livestock management practices using stock dogs to increase time efficiency and reduce stress to people.
I have held clinics for several years always attempting to inform livestock producers of the benefits, uses, and training of stock dogs. The SARE support has enabled me to make the clinic more affordable to producers as well well as reach out to more producers. The “marketing” has always been a challenge and continues to be. Using traction I have gained in the past couple years as a freelance agriculture writer has helped. My name is more widely known. My articles on stock dogs has helped me be seen as very knowledgeable. Writing specific articles articles about stockdogs has been helpful to foster interest. Many folks contact me by email and phone which has required considerable time. I am also checking in with workshop participants occasionally to ask if there is any roadblocks in their training and use of their dog that I might be able to offer suggestions. This also is time consuming but very well received and needed to further their success. Lots of leg work and coordination is needed to get ready for the clinic. Advertising, following up with interested folks, letting them know what they will need to bring, and preparing for lunches. The pastures are all checked, holes filled, fences and gates fixed or adjusted to ensure safety of stock and participants. All vet history of dogs coming is double checked. emails sent as a reminder of how things are organised, what they should prepare for and bring. Once the clinic is here I do all my chores before the clinic, make breakfast for those staying on the farm and have sheep moved to places they will be needed. During the clinic I move stock as needed and take care of any questions or concerns. After the clinic more chores and prep for the next day.
Participants filled out a survey before and after the first workshop to see what they found the most useful and where we need to add information. We are adding a special demonstration afternoon prior to the second clinic allowing for in-depth discussion to occur. We are also planning a social event one evening to enable more interaction.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Herding demonstration at Henry Co Harvest days July 29th, flyer advertising Workshops
Herding demo scheduled April 26th in conjunction with clinic #2 April 27 – 29 2017
Articles appearing in Stockman Grass Farmer, Acres USA, Sheep and Cow Country News in 2018 to promote workshops and consultation/training video opportunities.
Flyers sent to extension offices, vet clinics, farm stores, livestock markets, feed stores, livestock assoc.
Videos used to advertise on facebook
One sheep producer learned at the fall clinic that stock dogs need the correct instincts to be of greatest benefit. She had brought two Ausssies to the clinic. Working these dogs and a Border Collie of mine showed her the difference breeding makes in ability. She has purchased a trained dog through the clinician. She is in the process of expanding her flock and going to a pasture lambing system enabling her to enrich her land at the same time her flock is growing. Several other producers have been investing time and training in their dogs using methods learned at the clinic. Many producers that attended the first workshop are joining us again to continue learning and advance the training on their dog.
The first workshop had 19 livestock producers participating. Those participants raised sheep, cattle and poultry; two of which were involved in dairy. Most participants learned that it takes a dog with instinct and ability built in – instincts – to work stock. They realized they needed the right tool (dog) for their operation and training can not make up for the dogs lack of ‘want to’ and built-in knowledge. SC of northern IN said “I now see with the right dog the growth potential of my operation is unlimited.” SC purchased a trained working Border Collie to assist her with her flock as a result of the first workshop. After 1 week she reported less stress on the sheep and family members because Miles was able to assist her with chores. She is expanding her flock because she has the help she needed with Miles. Her husband is also getting “ewes of his own” because he enjoys raising sheep more now. ” Miles has decreased the work load, cuts time for chores in half and makes everything more enjoyable.”
DH in western Indiana bought a started Border Collie because of the workshops. He is now daily helping her feed beef cows. She is wanting to expand into sheep production. Both are planning to attend the second workshop in April 2018 along with several other producers that attended in the fall.
CO called asking for training advice several times in the fall/winter of 2017. She has a young Border Collie she is training for work on her PA family farm. She was referred to specific videos in order to picture what needed to be happening during training at home and was asked to take video of her dog working for further assistance.
KS of southern SD called with a training problems and was pointed in the right direction. Several follow up emails gave her more suggestions on how to proceed.