Farm dogs prove their worth

Sheep and cattle dogs have long been praised for their work ethic on Australian farms but now a new challenge has been set up to demonstrate their endurance and show how valuable they are to farms. 

MAN'S BEST FRIEND: Matt Ehsman and his dog Minute are part of the three week Cobber Challenge to track working dogs in their natural environment. Ehsman breeds working dogs on his property.

MAN'S BEST FRIEND: Matt Ehsman and his dog Minute are part of the three week Cobber Challenge to track working dogs in their natural environment. Ehsman breeds working dogs on his property.

Jeremy Grills and Tammy.

Jeremy Grills and Tammy.

The Cobber Challenge has been set up and will test eight working dogs across the country in their natural environments. 

The dogs have been fitted with a GPS collar and their activity including kilometres travelled and speed will be logged for three weeks. 

Two New England farmers have dogs entered in the challenge- Armidale’s Jeremy Grills with two-year-old Tammy and Delungra’s Matt Ehsman with his seven-year-old dog Minute. 

Ehsman said the value of his dogs can’t be underestimated and believes they can get through the workload of four men.

"It saves a lot of time and effort plus it handles your stock a lot better so the biggest thing with handling cattle and sheep is how to handle them right so there is no shrinkage,” he said. 

"The best thing about dogs is when they are well bred and under control quite well is they are always in position and always know how to handle the stock even better than we do at times.” 

Ehsman breeds and trains his own dogs and said he put Minute forward for the challenge for his ability to work in a team with up to three other dogs to get the job done. 

Many farmers have elected to use vehicles to move sheep and cattle over the last few decades but Ehsman said a team of working dogs can get the job done more efficiently and place less stress on stock. 

"When everybody was using horses and dogs all the time, the horses got you from A to B and the dogs did all the work, where nowadays people are doing a lot of stuff on the bike so sometimes they lose that 'stockability',” he said. 

"With that as well, the cattle are running a lot more and when they are running they lose shrinkage and that can cost you a lot more dollars in your pocket than what you think it can. 

"When stock is handled right, it can save you a lot of money.” 

Grills agreed with Ehsman and said working dogs can access some of the tough New England terrain vehicles couldn’t. 

“You can’t get the buggy in some of this rougher country so you wouldn’t get the job done without a dog,” he said.

“We’d be lost without a good dog like Tammy.”

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