This is the modern cowboy:
While not entirely excluding work on horseback, we still find that the use of a 4wheeler with dogs is a pretty easy way to work cows.
There is a creek running through our ranch that wild hogs (and cows) use as a highway. The fence gates across the creek crossings are supposed to work like doggy doors, flipping up when the water flows bringing debris with it, and then settling back into place. The problem is that the cattle have figured this crap out and use the fence gaps like giant doggy doors. Thus they come and go as they please. Since our ranch has the only ponds in the area, they still come home to drink, but those hussies roam like tomcats in the hood.
This must stop. They have everything they need on our property: grass, water, shelter, cattle feeder. There is no need to adopt this "free-range" attitude. Talking to other ranchers in our area, this is common with their cattle too. One rancher even pointed out that Texas is a free-range state, thus fences are to keep cattle OUT not to keep cattle IN. Hmmmm...
I don't care. I don't want my cattle loose. I don't want my cows so far away that they can't even hear us calling them. Thus Other Half made plans to seal the doggy door closed. The first good rain will take it out since the fence can't raise up now, but for a while, it'll keep the cattle inside. But before he could change the fence, he had to find the cows and return them to the property. I drove around the first day and they were nowhere close. And since we've had some rain up there recently, there was obviously no burning desire to return home to water either because the next day they hadn't returned.
So Other Half loaded up the 4wheeler with his favorite tools: fencefixing materials and Trace
I have a love/hate relationship with this dog. I would probably like him more if he wasn't so dog-aggressive and so hard on my sheep. Other Half adores the little beast. He's happy enough with the way the dog works cows and they have a good relationship. I suppose the dog works because Other Half believes in him.
For example, they loaded up on the 4wheeler that cold rainy morning while I stayed in the warm house and did inside chores. He had a thermos of coffee, a walkie-talkie radio, a gun, and Trace, so I didn't worry much, but I didn't expect to see them for hours.
Less than an hour later I heard him bumping me on the radio. A half mile off the property Trace had found the cows, gathered them up, and headed them back home.
And after that he just settled down behind a cactus and watched them - like a peeping tom stalker.
That big black cow is Snickers the Water Buffalo who will stomp a dog to death if she can catch it. The trick to working these cows is to give Snickers a healthy amount of distance and let her think moving the right direction is her idea. Don't push this old girl to fight or she'll make an honest attempt to kill your dog.
He doesn't have a lot of formal training, but Trace reads cattle really well. He doesn't have a lot of finesse but he understands the basics - find the cows, get around them, pick em up, bring em to Dad, hop back in the 4wheeler. And because of this, he manages to be a basic tool for the modern cowboy.
I think it takes more than just having a good dog. I think it takes a healthy dose of believing in that dog. Trace steps up to the job because Other Half believes he can. He isn't nearly as judgemental with this little dog as I am, and it shows in the dog's performance. They ride out together, both having a big picture of the job, and working together, they get it done. And really, I suppose that's what it's all about.