Shepherds’ skills put to the test at farm

Action from the Northumberland Heat Open Sheep Dog Trial at Kirkley Hall. Picture by Trevor Walker
Action from the Northumberland Heat Open Sheep Dog Trial at Kirkley Hall. Picture by Trevor Walker
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Northumberland College recently welcomed more than 50 dogs and their handlers from the International Sheep Dog Society to Kirkley Hall Farm.

The Northumberland Heat Open Sheep Dog Trial lasted nine hours and there were three different categories – New Handlers, Novice and Open League.

Kirkley Hall Farm stocksman Michael Stephenson with Peg, one of his four Border Collies. Picture by Trevor Walker

Kirkley Hall Farm stocksman Michael Stephenson with Peg, one of his four Border Collies. Picture by Trevor Walker

It was the first such event to be held at Kirkley Hall in eight years. Participants came from as far away as Scotland and Manchester.

During the competition, dogs were guided through a series of commands to complete a variety of tasks that reflect their everyday work with a packet of sheep.

Each competitor started with 100 points and for every mistake made during the run, judge Stuart Wallace – who is a well-known shepherd from the Borders region, deducted points.

Kirkley Hall Farm stocksman Michael Stephenson organised the event. He joined Northumberland College in 2011 as an animal management student and has since progressed to full-time employment on the farm.

He said: “I have four Border collies who work with me at Kirkley Hall Farm that I’ve trained from puppies, so I thought now was a perfect time to host the trials.

“It’s great to put Kirkley Hall Farm back on the map for these sorts of events, which are important in the farming community.”

The 190-acre Kirkley Hall estate, along with 1,314 acres at Carlcroft Farm, provide a valuable hands-on teaching resource for students studying various land-based courses in areas such as agriculture and horticulture.

For more information about what the college has to offer at this site, visit www.kirkley.ac.uk