At some point in the past year — I don’t remember the exact circumstances — I tried to get Cass to move some sheep for me after dark. She struggled, and I realized that of course she can’t work if she can’t see the flock. I’ve tried to refrain from putting her in similarly impossible situations since then, but I was in a bit of a jam tonight. When I checked the flock this morning, I saw that the biggest breeding group had eaten most of the way through their feed. I had an early meeting in Boston this morning, so I convinced myself that there was enough baleage to get them through the day. I got home this evening just as the last daylight was fading, and when I checked the hay situation, I saw that the sheep were down to twigs and icicles; I’d have to bring out another bale before morning.
If I didn’t have sheep, bringing out round bales would be pretty simple (though less useful): pick up a bale with the tractor, drive it out to the field, set it down and close the bale feeder around it, and drive back. The process is more complicated, and dangerous, with 27 ravenous sheep pushing their way onto and under the tractor, out of the fenced enclosure where I opened it for the tractor, and battering me as I try to assemble the bale feeder. I brought Cass in to move the sheep and hold them away from me as I worked, but I wasn’t optimistic given the dark and the food-crazed sheep.* But it seems that her past difficulties were more about lack of experience than paucity of photons. Tonight, with minimal illumination from my headlamp, she gathered the flock, including the uncooperative ram, pushed them up to the top of the enclosure, and held them as long as I needed to set up the bale and feeder.
She even checked in with me. Good girl!
*Sheep (like me) become much less reasonable and cooperative when they’re really hungry. Willingness to tolerate a bossy border collie is one of the first things to go.