Boots and Heels Blog: Training Sheepdogs with Emma Gray

As many of us know, farming can often be an isolating and challenging job and more often than not, I’m learning the true value of having a dog as a companion. For Emma Gray and Ewan Irvine, their farming journey has been followed by many, with their appearance on BBC’s This Farming Life, and has recently seen them move to the small Isle of Bute alongside their pack of dogs.

But how is farming on an island different to working on the mainland and is isolation a greater issue because of this?

On our Boots and Heels Tour, Becca and I set sail (on Becca’s first ever ferry ride) to find out exactly how they are finding their new venture.

About the author

Boots and Heels: Lizzie
Coming, as I do, from a non-farming family, I am the “heels” in the Boots and Heels duo. Neither my background nor my choice of shoes could ever hold back my passion for farming, though.  I joined the agricultural world almost four years ago in a marketing role for the poultry sector. I was immediately hooked on this brilliant industry, and I now work as community editor for Farmers Weekly, where I can spread the word!  Through “Boots and Heels”, Becca and I aim to prove that to everyone with an interest in where our food comes from.
Read more articles by Boots and Heels: Lizzie

Life on an Island

Arriving on the Isle of Bute, we were surprised to see an array of houses, busy shops, and people; taken aback by the now removed image we had of vast grassland with very few houses.

We drove onward, finding a beautiful cottage located by a small beach- the type of place I continue to dream of eventually living in.

Greeted by Emma and Ewan, the pair welcomed us before giving us a tour of the farm. Immediately, I was struck with Emma’s resemblance to Lady Gaga in ‘A Star is Born’ which she was flattered by.

In part 1, of the episode, you can hear all about how Emma and Ewan are adapting to their new life on an island.

Feeding the sheep… in a skirt

Next up, we were given the task of feeding the sheep and as I looked at my attire of a maxi skirt and wellies, I knew this was going to be an interesting job.

I gave it my best, but I’ll admit, you really do have to be fit to be a farmer. The weight of the bags were heavy and as I watched Becca tackle them with ease, it became apparent that this was no easy task for the heels of the duo.

However, I carried on working hard and lifting the bags to feed the hungry sheep- it’s fair to say I was quite proud of myself.

You can see the full video below, watch us help on farm and find out about Emma and Ewan’s thoughts on organic.

Team Boots VS Team Heels

Finally, as the rain clouds rolled in, threating to drench us, we followed Emma to see how she trains her sheepdogs.

Did you know that you can use dogs to herd cows as well as sheep? I was blown away by the prospect of my own ‘cowdog’.

Bringing Gray, her young and enthusiastic sheepdog with us, we entered the pen for training. The ground thundered as Gray herded the flock and I was left in awe watching Emma pilot.

We were then taught the basic commands of working with a sheepdog and left to the test. You can watch the first Team Boots VS Team Heels challenge here to see who was crowned champion.

Overall, it was an eye-opening experience to see the intellect of sheepdogs and how hard both they and their trainer’s work. I’m very grateful to Emma and Ewan for giving us the chance to work on farm and try our hand at working with Gray.

Plus, I’m still hoping for a Lady Gaga autograph.