“Come by” are two words you’ll hear a lot Saturday when Webster Township resident Jim Valley gives demonstrations of sheep herding at the . The command will send his border collies circling clockwise to round up a small flock of sheep.
Valley, who enjoys dog training and sheep herding, has a small flock of Katahdin and Scottish blackface sheep at his farm on North Territorial Road. He will bring his four dogs for the demonstrations, scheduled for 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
“I use the dogs to help manage our flock and help other farmers gather or move their sheep,” he said. “One farmer, I help when he needs to move his sheep to another pasture; what would normally take him two hours takes us about 20 minutes.”
Valley does demonstrations at various events, including the Saline Celtic Festival. He competes at sheepdog herding trials throughout the United States and Canada as well as the national finals. He gets his dogs from a breeder in Michigan and starts training them when they are about a year old.
It takes a couple of years to train a dog to herd sheep well, he said.
While his dogs Dot and Cooper are younger and Spec is a “farm dog,” 12-year-old Lita is Valley's “star,” qualifying for nationals every year and winning trials throughout the country.
“She’s my wonder dog,” he said.
Valley, who uses whistle and voice commands on his dogs to steer the sheep, also hosts a herding trial event at his farm each year. This year’s daylong event will be held Oct. 8.
Valley, a Saline High School alumnus and president of J.L. Enterprises
Inc. in Ann Arbor, is a member of the U.S. Border Collie Handlers Association and American Border Collies Association. He has been volunteering his demonstrations at the Webster Fall Festival for several years.
“The dogs love to go, and I love to show them off,” he said. “If our demos help attract people to the festival and help the township, I’m happy to donate my time.”
The free festival, co-sponsored by the Webster Township Historical Society and , opens at 10 a.m. Saturday and features pony rides, a petting zoo, children’s crafts and games, artist exhibits and live music by the RFD Boys.
For information on the festival, call 734-426-5115. The festival will be held at 5484 Webster Church Rd.