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A retired shepherd with beardies

by Richard Smith

I was brought up on a hill farm in Wales and worked on my parents farm before and after school and all day during school holidays or at busy times during the farming year. Over time I have worked as a herdsman on a dairy farm later changing direction slightly looking after sheep and beef.

A traditional style farm building from a hill farm in North Wales is shown here.

In my thirties, I became a farm bailiff running an 800 acre hill farm on the Wales/England border. Here I tended 900 Welsh Ewes and 60 Suckler Cows in one of the last working farms to still farm in the traditional ways. I also produced fencing stakes and rails needed on “our” farm and the owner’s lowland farm from the farms' own forestry.

At this time, I had one working dog of my own and worked two others that belonged to the farm. The bitch was very heavy coated and liked to think for herself; looking back I think she may have been part Beardie. After mating this bitch with my own working dog, I kept one of her pups and trained it to work. This bitch puppy turned into one of the best dogs I have owned. She was easy to train and excellent when gathering the moors.

Repeating what I wrote for the Wales page, below is another aerial view of a farm I worked on in mid-Wales. The area of water was also once a valley occupied by farming families. In the 1970s the government decided the best way of getting water to some of the heavily populated areas of England was to build a dam here and let the valley flood so forming a reservoir. The Clywedog dam was the result. Only part of Pen y Banc farm was flooded (the farm can be made out by following the track up from the boat club on the lake.)

Years later I moved to work on an Estate; my assistant worked a Beardie Collie, the first pure bred Beardie I had ever come across. He was a good dog and happens to be in the distant pedigree of my bitch named Fen.

After moving to my present home of nine years, I started to train and sell young sheepdogs. I saw an advert for a pure Beardie pup when visiting my local vet's surgery and thought it would be nice to train a Beardie for a change. When I went to look at the pup, he was absolutely gorgeous and already showing an interest in the sheep; needless to say I brought Jimmy home.

Jimmy, (Elan Jim), is now 4 years old (2005) and fully trained. He has excellent power and will work any stock. He has a wonderful character and temperament and just loves to work. Although he has full command of the stock he is working, and when told, he will move the stroppiest of rams, yet he will be very gentle with baby lambs.

One day I sent him on his outrun to gather the sheep in the steep meadow, and as usual he disappeared over the mound. There is a big gully that runs down the middle of the field, and normally I see Jimmy on his outrun down by the bottom fence. But this time he didn’t appear; instead he came back up over the mound from where I had sent him on his outrun, and he stood there looking at me. I sent him off again and the same thing happened. I walked to the top of the mound wondering what was wrong. Jimmy was standing by a lamb that was lying flat out and I thought it must be dead. As I got within a couple of feet of it, the lamb opened its eyes and jumped up and legged it—it was fast asleep, not dead. Jimmy had come back each time to let me know something was wrong.

Before my retirement, I used to breed a few pedigree Bluefaced Leicester rams for sale to local farmers who would use them for crossing on Welsh or Speckle faced ewes to produce Welsh Mule lambs. Bluefaced Leicesters can be seen here.

The ram lamb I am holding is six months old, and he is a very fine example of the breed.











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