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Exercise is as important, or more important as feeding. The club lamb people have fined tuned exercise programs better then anyone else. They have found that intensive, short duration exercise develops muscle more effectively then other types. Using a dog to chase the kids around a small track elevates their metabolism, thus decreases fat and promotes muscle growth.
A good way to describe how condition feels on a wether is to take your hand and make a fist. If the condition over the wether’s ribs feels like the back side of your hand, your wether is over-conditioned. If the wether’s ribs feel like the knuckles on your hand, your wether is under-conditioned. However, if your wethers’s ribs feel similar to the covering on the lower part of the back side of your fingers, you are on the right track.
Continually monitoring fat deposition will be essential in developing the ideal show wether. Knowing how your wether responds to a combination of feed and exercise will determine the outcome of this feeding and exercise regimen.
If wethers continue to be over-conditioned and soft-handling, one may consider decreasing the feed intake and increasing the amount of exercise. If wethers are losing too much condition, one needs to consider decreasing the exercise and increasing the amount of feed. If the condition of the wether is not continually monitored, wethers will either "wash out" or become over-conditioned. Not all wethers respond to exercise and feeding programs in the same manner so each wether needs to be monitored individually on a daily basis. The ultimate goal of a feeding and exercise program is to have your animal handling the best that it can on show day.
· The biggest mistake in exercising wethers is to exercise them before they have enough condition on them. · Exercising wethers for too long a period will actually tear down muscle, rather than build muscle. A 350 to 450 yard sprint is plenty. The goal of a wether exercising program is to produce adrenaline and get the adrenaline running through the wether’s body. Adrenaline production encourages the development of muscle. · Failing to keep the wether replenished with fluid to allow for proper muscle development is a costly mistake.
Our exercise track is oval-shaped with long straight-aways on either side and oval ends for smooth turns. Fencing is placed both on the outside edge of the track and the inside edge of the track, creating an oval-shaped opening in the middle. We guide the dog(s) from the inside of the track. Special care must be taken in order to prevent running wethers from smashing into the fencing, especially when going around corners. To do this, it's best to prevent the wethers from seeing out of the track by using a material like plastic from an above ground swimming pool, indoor/outdoor carpet, or what we use the orange plastic construction fence. Depending on the material used to cover corners will determine how much damage may be done to the wethers if they do run into the fencing. We are using the 4"x4" square panels 5’-6’ feet tall for the outside fence which will prevent escape. The inside fence we used a wire mesh type of fencing that isn’t any taller than 4 to 4 1/2 feet tall in case we need to get over it quickly to the wethers.
The track dog isn't just any ordinary dog. The track dog must be properly trained and in proper condition to work wethers. We currently are using Border Collies but some of our friends who train track dogs are crossing the Borders with Kelpies and Curs. Oakridge Farms in Hamilton Texas raise and train the best track dogs that we know of.
A track dog is a dog trained to chase wethers around an enclosed track. The wethers run from the dog, getting exercise and conditioning the muscle they already have. The difference between having a dog chase wethers, versus a person or other object (4-wheeler) chasing the wethers is adrenaline. The fear of being attacked by a dog causes adrenaline to rise through the bloodstream of the wethers, making them run even faster. The faster they run, the better workout they get.
The majority of those who track their wethers recommend tracking every other day to give the muscles time to rest. To start your wethers on the track, begin with two wethers. This helps the wethers feed off each other's fear and tends to keep them from jumping into the fence so much, which they will do the first few times they are ran. After they are used to the track, the really fast ones can be put in by themselves, so they get that full sprint going wide open. The ones that drag a little can be put together so the dog can keep both moving without one sprinting away from the other.
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