Of the two strong working breeds in South Africa namely the Border Collie and Kelpie you can get good dogs for working cattle. Whatever breed you are buying the same rule applies. See the parents working.
There are other breeds in South Africa that work cattle in overseas countries but unfortunately most of these breeds in South were not imported to work stock. They came from breed/show lines. An odd dog was imported from working lines but not many. Australian Cattle Dogs also known as Blue Heelers or Queensland Heelers because they drive (heel) the stock. The breed on the whole is not known for its gathering ability and you have dogs that would rather heel/drive the stock. So you are unable to send the dog into the camp to gather the cattle you have to get behind them first. There are exceptions. Watching one Cattle dog work the owner admitted it is hard to get these dogs to flank. There are Australian Cattle dog crosses with Border Collie or Kelpie that are also getting the job done. There are also Kelpie-Collie crosses that make excellent dogs for working cattle.
Other known working dogs are the Australian Shepherd. Usually has a docked tail. These dogs are excelling in breed, obedience and agility but none are known to be working cattle in South Africa. Sometimes there is still enough instinct in the dogs to want to herd. The same way that we have Corgi’s or German Shepherd’s that use to herd but the selection of breeding dogs were for traits for the show ring and not Stock working traits.
One would want to have good bold working dogs to do the job. A good sheepdog does not necessarily mean that it will be a good cattle dog. Some dogs are intimidated by the cattle. Some of these dogs if encouraged and handled correctly will work cattle. Other dogs take to working any stock the same as if they were working sheep.
If you own sheep it would be good to start your young dog on sheep and get the basic training done. The age would depend on the dog but it is usually good to wait until the dog is a year old.
Many cattle farmers to-day do not have sheep to start their dogs on. So are going to have to train their dogs on cattle. There is nothing wrong with this.
You can follow these guidelines.
The cattle needed, can be light weight calves or young stock nothing that wants to fight too much.
You can test your dogs’ interest in cattle when they are eight to ten months old and see what his reaction would be.
If you have milk cows with older milk calves that are used to being handled and have some sense they are a good option to test you dog on. Have a light cane with you so that you can turn a calf around who wants to have a go at the dog. The dogs’ interest can be from hesitant and hanging back, here you can help, or keen and wanting to have a go at them or over keen and causing slight consternation. This is fine just keep them moving forward you might even need help from another person to keep the group together.
Or you can have a dog that wants to run away. Others that growl bark and look like they want to attack the cattle but are actually scared. Give this dog some more time and then try again. If you have a dog that just does not seem fit to work cattle find someone with sheep and see what his reaction is and then you can decide if the dog might have to find a sheep working home.
If you have a land/camp or a passageway to help you so much the better you don’t need to go rounding up calves all the time. You can just have your cattle grouped up against a fence. Then have your dog work around them.
I like a little space so that the cattle don’t feel threatened/crowded and you have room for the one that wants to break away so that it does not need to go over you or the dog.
If you have a confident dog you can try walking with him behind some cattle bringing them in or taking them out. If you have a calve that consistently wants to take on the dog put her in a kraal and work with the rest you don’t want to test the dogs grit at this time you want to see his interest.
Your basic upbringing of the dog would be the same as for sheep you need a dog that comes when called and walks on his lead on either side of you has a good lie down and stay. The cattle working dog is usually a little more forceful on the cattle. He will either nose bite or take a bite low on the heel of the cattle. This same dog when on sheep adjusts and is not as aggressive.
To go into training here is not the point of the article it is just to help people realize that it does not take a special breed to work cattle just a good Stock Dog. Which is what your top working bloodlines give you.
If you know of working dogs of other breeds in South Africa we would like to hear from you. It is all about getting the job done.