Breeder loves border
Capital Press by Jacqui
Krizo, August 3, 2007
Geri Byrne’s passion
for the unique breed drives her to build business, politics
Geri Byrne looks on at the 2006 National
Sheepdog Final last summer on the Kerr Ranch. She has
coordinated three finals in the Klamath Basin, including
Calif. — “I’m interested in two things,” Geri Byrne declared.
“Border collies and politics.”
raised in the San Francisco Bay area, Byrne was active in 4-H,
then graduated from Cal Poly with a bachelor’s degree in
“I met my
husband, Dan, at Cal Poly, graduated one weekend, then got
married the next because haying was going to start,” she said.
“I got my first border collie, Meg, in 1976, and I gave Dan a
son of Meg as a wedding gift.”
the lives together of Geri and Dan Byrne on a cattle and sheep
ranch near Tulelake, on the Oregon-California border.
couldn’t find what I wanted to do so I started my own
business,” she said. Byrne created Border Collies in Action in
1987, a mailorder company with two sweatshirt and t-shirt
designs. It grew to a catalog of 300 items with a mailing list
of 35,000 households. She sold the company in 2006 to devote
more time to training dogs and producing training videos.
began competing in sheepdog trials to train the ranch dogs.
That got her hooked, and she has been trialing ever since.
of in awe when I’m out there with these dogs with instinct in
them and watching the action between dog and sheep,” she said.
“To feel what they are communicating is the trick to being a
good trainer, little clues you have to pick up on.”
Geri Byrne bred this litter
border collies for specific
desirable traits to work cattle. She
breeds some for working livestock
and some for sheepdog trials.
For more about
workshops, training, dogs,
Border Collie Training
Center 3701 County Road
114 Tulelake, CA 96134 USA
On the Net:
Byrne went to England in 1999 to see world-renowned
breeder and trainer Derek Scrimgeour, she watched a dog
named Sweep work sheep on a 1,000-foot hill.
dog had such stamina! That’s why I bought Lyn and Ted from
him,” she said, adding a ranch dog needs to listen, show
stamina, and have a mind of its own. Good breeding gets
you what you need.
and trainer Ellen Skillings take in dogs for training and
provide a place for handlers to come and practice. They
breed and sell dogs, and every year they hold clinics,
trials and play days.
Recently Byrne created Little Horse Mountain Productions,
producing and editing films of handler workshops conducted
by expert trainers.
to organize,” Byrne said.
organized the National Sheepdog Finals in the Klamath Basin in
1997, 2001, 2006, and will do so again in 2009, and organized
the Western States Regional Finals in 2000 and 2005. She
competed in the National Final with Ted, but she said it’s
hard to host a national event and compete well at the same
being born a country girl in the city, Byrne said with a
laugh, “I was born a Republican.”
there was a water crisis in the Klamath Basin in the early
’90s, Byrne went to Sacramento and talked to legislators. She
said she hadn’t realized how much politics affects one’s life
and livelihood. And in 2001 when stored irrigation water was
withheld from 1,400 family farms, she said, “The whole basin
woke up to the fact that you have to be involved.”
now chairman of the Central Committee for the Modoc County
Republican Party and is also president of Tulelake Republican
uncertain water deliveries, Geri said there are two other
immediate threats to raising sheep and sheepdogs: coyotes and
spring, coyotes killed one lamb per day and crippled others
until they relocated the flock. “We lost three calves being
born, and they chewed on some that were still alive.” She said
it is illegal in California to use physical traps or poison,
so they can only shoot them or use snares.
issue that threatens to destroy Byrnes’ businesses is bill
AB2449, to spay or neuter all dogs in California except show
dogs and some stock dogs. The bill was pulled but will
probably return in January.
the dogs on our ranch every day. We developed a blood line for
years, and then we would be forced to have them spayed or
American public is so far removed from farming and ranching
these days, they want to legislate it, but they don’t
understand it. It used to be everyone had an uncle or someone
who had a farm; now we’re only 3 percent of the population.
People are so far removed they don’t know where food comes