Amanda Radke: A Cowgirl’s Perspective 6-13-11
“Three yearling calves stand grazing upon a green, grassy hillside several hundred yards in the distance. A black-and-white dog is flying as true as an arrow in a wide arc to a point just opposite the group of cattle. Soft whistles instruct the dog forward in control of the cattle that are now under his charge, moving forward down the green hill directed by the presence and power of their new master. The test of wills between dog and cattle is occasionally punctuated by an attempted escape by the cattle, but a quick nip, or a fast flank, re-establishes the dominance of the canine guide. Directed by an expert livestock handler, the intense border collie expertly stalks and guides the black calves over the green hills through multiple gates set on a course nearly half a mile in length,” writes Jeff Mundorf, cattledog handler, finalist and committee chairperson for the 2011 U.S. Border Collie Handlers Association (USBCHA) National Cattledog Finals.
This eloquent description was brought to life on May 26-29, 2011 in Redding, Iowa, as 82 dogs and 50 handlers competed in the annual competition. I had the distinct honor of being asked to serve as the host for an RFD-TV hour-long special of the event, which will air on Sept. 5, 6 and 10, 2011. Although I had never attended an event like this one before, I knew it was a great chance to learn about border collies and how they can be better used on cattle operations. I seized the opportunity to be a part of this great event.
Although I had limited experience in this area, I didn’t have a spare minute to feel intimidated by the cattledog handling professionals surrounding me. My job was to interview each handler about their run, their strategies and the strengths and weaknesses of their dogs.
The film crew switched on their lights, flipped on their cameras and handed me a microphone. Lights, camera, action! Soon, I was visiting with dog handlers from across the country, and I quickly realized these folks are as passionate about ranching as they are about their dogs. Glitz and glamour of being on television aside, I quickly gained a new appreciation for the cattle handlers and their skilled expertise in guiding a cattledog using whistles and commands to quietly and respectfully move cattle across an open pasture into a small corral.
Juan Reyes, of Wheatland, Wyo., uses his border collies, Mac and Red, everyday on his cattle operation, and it’s the practical, on-the-job training that has helped Reyes find success in cattledog trials, as well. In 2010, Reyes competed with his dog, Zak, who was the youngest dog to ever win the National Cattledog Finals.
“Cattledog handling isn’t just a sport, it’s a practical necessity on working cattle ranches like mine. My dogs take the place of three or four hired men, and they don’t need days off or Friday nights on the town. No matter the day, no matter the weather, these dogs work hard for my family’s cattle ranch, and it’s fun to compete with them in these trials, too,” says Reyes.
At the conclusion of the event, champions were announced. Earning the 2011 National Cattledog Finals Nursery Championship was Jerry Davis, from Murray, Iowa, with his dog, Juanita. Davis took home the Jim Chant Memorial trophy, which served as a tribute to event committee chair, Jim Chant, who tragically passed away just two months before the event. Winning the coveted 2011 National Cattledog Finals Open Championship was Jimmy Walker from Hillsboro, Texas, with his dog, Mitch. Complete results and event highlights will be included in the RFD-TV special this September and additional information can be found at http://www.NationalCattledogFinals.net.
In my job, I wear many hats – writer, speaker, blogger, rancher, wife, daughter, sister, columnist – now I can add television host and cattledog enthusiast to the list. And, even though my job description changes on a daily basis, one thing always remains the same – my dedication to sharing the positive stories of the people and places in the agriculture industry today. Share your story with someone new; you might be surprised in the impact you can make!