Guest Blogger Darby Masters, 2022 Sunbelt Ag Expo Intern
The 2022 American Stock Dog Grand Finals are here. Stock dogs and their handlers come from across the southeast to compete in the stock dog trials held at the Sunbelt Ag Expo. Stock dogs are dogs that help farmers with livestock by moving the stock in an orderly fashion. The trials are an opportunity for a handler to exhibit the efficiency of their dogs and their herding skills.
The bond between a stock dog and its handler allows the dog to know what is expected when it is working. With a strong bond and training, the dog will be able to perform its job efficiently. The training stock dogs go through to develop their working abilities starts when they are puppies, about 10 to 12 months old. As they grow up, they begin to learn to move stock in small areas. As the stock dog’s training advances, they begin to work in larger fields.
Jim Shepard, the Stock Dog Trial Director for the Sunbelt Ag Expo, has worked hard to put together this year’s trial. Leading up to the event, Shepard organized the entry system and acquired the sheep for the herding dogs to move. He also works closely with handlers to ensure every question is answered regarding the trial. After everything was put together, he began promoting the trial to increase awareness and raise excitement for the event.
After spending the last 25 years around the sport, Shepard is no stranger to the Stock Dog Trials here at the Expo. During that time, he competed in trials, and then began working with the Expo. Shepard took over and began running the event after 12 years of working with Stock Dog Trials. When reflecting on his time as a competitor at the trials, Shepard praised the Expo staff. “It is easy to enjoy the trials when there is a “great expo staff to work with,” he said.
This year’s trials will consist of Open Sheep Runs. It will be a three-day trial and after each day there will be a winner. The winner will be selected based on the number of points that they earned for the day. Once the third day is completed, the judge will also select an overall sheep winner and a reserve champion for the Stock Dog Trials.
There is one word that Shepard uses to describe the trials at the Sunbelt Ag Expo: “fun.” “The handlers are wonderful and there is always a fun crowd,” he says. Be sure to stop by the Stock Dog Trials while visiting the Sunbelt Ag Expo to see handlers and their stock dogs show off their herding skills and abilities.