At a farm in Union City, large crowds gathered on Saturday to watch arguably some of the hardest working farm workers hone their trades.
A dark form slipped in and out of a narrow mass of mud-covered hooves, dodging stray kicks with the agility of an Olympic gymnast, as she moved almost silently across the clay court.
“Look at his eyes,” a woman whispered to a man leaning over a fenced pen.
The form suddenly pulled away from the tight circle of cattle, closing the gap between itself and the stray calf that had strayed too far from the herd.
Her gaze intertwined with the cattle, Rosa the cattle dog bounced between the calf’s hooves – sending a mute message to the other animal.
“Get back to the group now.
With a snort, the calf moved its hooves and turned to its fellows.
Rosa padded along the calf to make sure it returns to its place – without ever breaking eye contact.
It wasn’t until the calf melted into the mass of the other cattle that Rosa ran alongside Johnny Robinson, awaiting further instructions.
On Saturday, a similar scene happened again and again as many cattle dogs and their owners trained at Curtis and Barbara Tate’s farm.
It is an annual tradition on the farm.
Twice a year, once in the spring and then in the fall, farmers from across the United States come together at Tate Farm to meet other breeding dog owners, train, and swap tips. and tips.
It’s something Curtis Tate has been doing for about three or four years, all free of charge for anyone who wants to learn, needs help, or just wants to watch the dogs work.
Not only do the Tates provide the space and livestock that the dogs can work with, but the day also includes a buffet lunch for participants.
“He loves it and has a passion to help people and show them what it has done for us,” Barbara Tate said of the couple’s bi-annual tradition. “It started small, with only a few of his friends getting together to learn and train. Now we usually have about 50 people coming each time.”
Curtis Tate said he is carrying on the tradition so farmers can see the work of breeding dogs and the valuable addition dogs can be on a working farm.
“Most of the time, if you are a rancher and you need to prepare your cattle, you have to call your cousin, your uncle and your brother to help you round up the cattle,” said Curtis Tate. “If you have a good dog or a few dogs, you can do it yourself.”
Barbara Tate said cattle dogs can make farmers more independent.
“It saves a lot of work for the cattle ranchers. You don’t have to pull out a four-wheeler, call someone else, saddle a horse, or go out and try to beat those cattle. These dogs make it possible and much safer, ”explained Barbara Tate.
Robinson, who was at Tate Farm on Saturday with his dog Rosa, said helping the Border Collie on his farm changed his life.
Robinson bought Rosa three years ago from Curtis Tate, who had specially trained her to be a cattle dog.
“I was getting too old to raise cattle and thought there had to be a better way,” Robinson said of why he wanted a cattle dog.
Robinson said he was constantly amazed at Rosa’s intelligence.
“With them, if you have one that matters, they don’t forget about it a lot. It’s like riding their bikes. They can do it on their own. She hadn’t worked with cattle since March and I got her here today and she fell in, “Robinson said. “She knows her job.”
On Saturday, Robinson was hoping to expand Rosa’s training a bit with the help of Curtis Tate who accompanied the couple trying the dog’s paws to herd cattle.
Curtis Tate, who also breeds dogs bred specifically for herding work, said one of the most important things a good herding dog should be is gentleness.
“The dogs should be friendly. I have three grandchildren and the dogs should be gentle. It’s good for the cattle and good for the families they go to. We try to teach good breeding here too. nice to cattle, don’t mistreat them. Keep them gentle. Same with dogs. We try to be good on every side, “said Curtis Tate.
Barbara Tate said she was always amazed by the dogs.
“They can pretty much read and write. I can’t believe how they can work the cattle. It’s not just biting, barking, scratching, pushing and shoving. It’s all completely complete. under control, ”said Barbara Tate.
Curtis Tate said he usually starts training dogs on more docile cattle like sheep when they are puppies. As the dog grows larger cattle are introduced.
“You have to have a dog tough enough to handle cattle, but we work them up to it,” explained Curtis Tate.
Barbara Tate said her husband has always had an affinity for working with animals.
“It amazes me. He can be as firm as he is gentle. The dogs love him and he loves them. It’s a partnership. They are always eager to accompany him and to work because they can do something about it. ‘exciting, and he loves them because they are a great help,’ explained Barbara Tate.
Curtis Tate said his passion for breeding dogs actually started with horses.
The farmer said he trained a cutting horse and enjoyed it.
As he grew older he turned to the incorporation of dogs.
“I have an old Toyota truck with a feeder and a doghouse in the back and I can load the dogs in that truck and go to the pasture faster than I can grab a horse, saddle it, take the trailer. It’s just a lot easier when you get older with the dogs, ”explained Curtis Tate.
Curtis Tate said he tries to make training days fun, interesting and safe for everyone.
“We’re here for families. We have kids running around and we want everyone to have a good time. It’s great. You are always learning something and you have a lot of people who can help you if you want to. You meet so many good people with something like this, ”Curtis Tate said.
For the Tates, the day is mostly about sharing good food, good company and knowledge.
“We love it and will continue to do so as long as people still want to come,” said Barbara Tate. “I never dreamed that we would do such a thing, but we really appreciate it and I think everyone else too.”
Curtis Tate said that while he never wanted the tradition to become a biannual gathering for the community, he hopes it will help other farmers in their work.
“I love a good dog and I love my cattle. It makes sense for me to share what I have learned,” said Curtis Tate.