The innovative device helping a sheep farmer and his dog carry on herding

  • Watch: Video report by ITV Wales Rural Affairs Correspondent Hannah Thomas


A farmer from Beulah, Powys, has been given a life-changing piece of equipment which will allow him to carry on herding sheep despite cancer leaving him unable to shout commands.

Alun Jones nearly lost his life to throat cancer 12 years ago but while treatment saved him, he can no longer use a shepherd's whistle or shout commands.

Believed to be the first of its kind, a special 'whistle keyboard' means Mr Jones can now continue doing what he loves.

Sheepdog trainer Angie Driscoll and the charity Remap designed the innovative device and helped train puppy Jock to respond to the different tones.

Ms Driscoll came up with the idea for a keyboard device that Mr Jones could use after seeing a similar piece of equipment used by somebody in Germany.

However she soon realised they would need something more bespoke to suit Mr Jones' needs.

She said: "I had actually seen one whistle, one tone, working for somebody in Germany - again somebody who can't use a normal whistle.

"But we needed five tones. We had to develop something where we had four main commands, plus a recall whistle."

She then turned to the help of charity Remap, who design products for disabled people.

While the product design and assembly was fairly simple, they questioned whether Ms Driscoll would be able to successfully train Jock the sheepdog using it.

It became the trainer's lockdown mission to get Jock responding correctly to the whistle keyboard at her farm near Llanllawddog in Carmarthenshire. Something she successfully managed to do.

Jock can now move a flock based on the five different tones, allowing Mr Jones to continue doing the job he has done all his life.

Mr Jones said he was "very" surprised initially when he was presented with the unfamiliar technology but thinks he will get on with it well as Jock is already responding to him nicely.

Jock is still only one year old but after four months of learning, he seems to be mastering the technique and will be put to test on Mr Jones' farm in Beulah very soon.