Cattle WorkDog and People Stories and PicturesRanch and Farm

Susan Boyd on ranching with dogs on arid land

By November 6, 2017June 1st, 2018No Comments

Susan Boyd is a Working Aussie Souce member with amazing photos and a recent video clip that led to this article.

WAS:Can you tell us about your operation?

Boyd Ranch

My husband Curt and I purchased and established Boyd Ranch, LLC in 2004. It is situated on 25,000 acres and is located in Central NM about 75 miles SE of Albuquerque. The headquarters are in the old ghost town of Chupadera, NM. Over 100 years ago this town was a hopping little community and there is still the old Church here, where dances were held, and there also was a school house and several old farm houses and barns. Chupadera now has a population of 2 (just Curt and I), 16 Aussies, commercial cattle, and ranch horses.

We are a cow/calf operation and most of our cows are Angus or Hereford cross bred with a little Brahma. This makes them a little hardier and they do well on this high desert ranch. Our bulls are mostly registered Angus with a few Herefords. We also sell Ranch horses and Aussies here.
Did you start with dogs or start with cattle?
I’ve always had dogs and showed as a junior handler. I’ve also shown Paints and Quarter Horses most my life. I’ve had a horse breeding/showing and also training business and I use to spend a lot of my time on the road traveling to horse shows with my horses and clients. My horses and I have been fortunate to have earned 27 World and Reserve World Titles. I got my first Aussie about 19 years ago, he passed away 3 years ago at a very old age. He went to some horse shows with me and was also a great cow dog here at the ranch.
Curt has cattle ranched most his life and came to New Mexico from Texas. He is a farrier and also showed/trained cow horses and has owned many different breeds of cow dogs. Not long after purchasing this rough “Cowboy” ranch both of us quit shoeing/training of outside horses and put all of our time in here, making ranch horses and cow dogs, and taking care of this place. We don’t have any employees.
Why Australian Shepherds ( what do you look for in dogs for your operation)?
Realizing how beneficial cow dogs were for this country and using different breeds, we decided Aussies did the best for what we needed.Those with natural instinct are very easy to train and they do well with pasture gathering and driving work. Aussies are happy to be anywhere you are and that was a big plus too. Some of the lines we originally bought did not work for us and we placed a couple in pet homes in town.  We ended up being drawn to some of the older working lines. Most important for us is natural instinct, a sense of group, and a desire to work. I want them to think on their own and have a lot of stock sense but be able to come off stock if we call them back. A medium framed dog works well here because they can go all day. Sometimes we go 20 miles and we want a dog that can do that. A heavy framed Aussie will get too tired with our long days.

How do you use your dogs?

Throughout the year, we use our dogs quite a lot as we rotate thru some smaller pastures with our replacement heifers and I’ll take a younger pup with a trained dog to do some of this shorter easier stuff. I train them to drive cattle with me and my horse and to bring cattle back to the main drive. This way they’ll be more prepared to handle older cattle and pairs. Our busy times of the year moving cattle are April/May when we’re gathering and driving cattle out of the Winter Pasture and moving them to our Spring pastures closer to headquarters for branding. June we gather the Spring pastures and move them to our Summer pasture. Sept/October we gather and bring them back to headquarters for shipping calves and then move them once again to the Winter pasture. We usually take 2-3 dogs together when we gather cattle. It’s a long day for them so I rotate the dogs during our busy times. I’ll work 2-3 one day and then give them a few days off and take 2-3 others. Some of our dogs are too old or too young to work these long days and they stay home.
Our ranch is very rough with few roads and I look at it as team work here. When doing a days work gathering and driving cattle we all must do our part, If we only used our horses we would run out of horse, and if we only used our Aussies we would run out of dog. If we work together, gathering and driving cattle, we can get a lot done in a day. We are gathering cattle in big pastures some as large as 15 sections so 15 square miles. In these pastures the cattle don’t run in a single herd, they have to spread out in order to find grass, and some days you might spend all day riding and gathering and only bring out a half dozen. It’s so thick in some of our pastures, if a cow decides to run off you can’t get a horse around it, and the dogs will get around and bring it back. The ability for our Aussies to think on their own and to get in the right place on cattle, is very important to us. Most of our ranch is very rough and brushy and we use our Aussies to flush out cattle and drive them. Our dogs are very well trained to work off the direction our horse is going.
A typical gathering day for Curt and I is we ride horses from the headquarters and we’ll trot for miles to get to the pasture we’re needing to gather. The dogs will long trot next to or behind our horses. We’ll then ride to a back corner or side of that pasture, spread out some, and ride towards a water or place Curt and I are planning to meet at. A lot of the time we can’t see the cattle as we’re riding thru the thick brush, and I’ll ask the dogs to find the cows because they will find them easier than I can.  We’ll each push what we find and the dogs will gather and bring back cattle to the main drive and we’ll continue gathering cattle to the water or meeting place. When we both meet up there we then take the group of cattle we’ve gathered towards and out the closest gate (which could be miles and miles away) to the next smaller pasture we’re moving them to. Once we get it all gathered (it takes about a month for our Summer and Winter country) and get the cattle to our smaller shipping and branding pastures the dogs will help gather it and we’ll bring all the cattle together into the headquarters pens.
A lot of your photos show a ton of dogs running together – how do you manage them day to day?
I take all the dogs together with me everyday to the barn to do chores and they spend the days with us doing whatever needs to be done, such as repairing fence, riding horses, checking waters and putting out salt. I take all of them together several miles a day to keep them in shape either horseback or with a 4wheeler. Again, some are too old or young to do this. I’ll practice different things with them while I’m riding, it’s very beneficial for the younger dogs, and also keeping the older dogs in tune to me. When I take them out horseback they learn to stay behind my horse and I’ll work on having them stay in different areas. At the barn and pens our pups learn to have manners around stock, stay, a recall, and also how to “get out” of the horses/cattle pens and turn outs. Learning to “get out”  works well when we move pups up to cattle work. I like to have a handle on the whole pack and spend the days keeping them all legged up and also mentally ready for all the cattle work we do here!