Trans-Tasman farm dog challenge kicks off

Coolac’s Emma Stocks and her Kelpie, Koby, will be part of a Trans-Tasman challenge to determine the hardest working dog.

And away they go! The 2021 Cobber Challenge starts today, with 12 dogs from across Australia and New Zealand – including one at Coolac ­– competing to be crowned the hardest working dog.

Over three weeks the dogs will wear GPS collars to track the distance, duration and speed of their work.

“The Cobber Challenge is about recognising the hard work that these dogs put in and celebrating their enormous contribution to Australian and New Zealand farms,” said Kellie Savage, Cobber’s Marketing Manager.

“For the first time ever, the Cobber Working Dog Challenge is welcoming New Zealand dogs to compete against their Australian counterparts and we can’t wait to see that friendly rivalry play out.”

Three New Zealand and nine Australian dogs are competing.

So, what are the fierce competitors getting up to on Day 1?

Kiwi Peter Aitken and his Heading Dog, Spark, will be sorting up cows into their calving mobs on Limehills Station, in Otago in New Zealand’s South Island.

“It’s our chill time before everything gets hectic, but I think Spark will still ramp up the number of kilometres and do a fair amount of work because he likes to hog the work,” Peter says

Meanwhile, over the Tasman Sea, stockman James Knight and his Border Collie, Krui Snowy, will be checking stock across properties in Queensland and branding calves later in the week. During the competition they will also muster groups of cattle including cows to be pregnancy tested.

James has high hopes for his team.

“If I look after Snowy, feed her right and manage her workload well, she’ll be competitive. But deep down I think the Kiwis are the ones to beat,” James said.

There’s a chance of rain in Coolac, where Emma Stocks and her Kelpie, Koby, will be hoping for the clouds to part so they can mark lambs.

“Where there is work, I know Koby will put in some solid miles as he is a big strong dog with loads of stamina and determination. We may not make it to the top but we’re certainly going to do the best with what we get in terms of weather – Mother Nature always wins!” Emma says.

Emma is the livestock overseer at “Warralong”, where they run 5000 Merino breeders, 1000 first-cross ewes and 70 cattle. 

Emma, with the help of her six all-rounder dogs, mostly works with the sheep, which at this time of year also includes wethers and lambs. 

She has established the Myru Kelpie Stud and has started competing in trials with Koby, who is showing skills beyond his 19 months of age.

Emma bred Koby, who is by a dog from the Kevin and Kay Howell’s Karana Kelpie Stud. He came from a litter of nine, and even as a pup he showed exceptional maturity and ability. 

Northern NSW Kelpie-cross, Buddy, was last year’s winner, and his owner Glenda Rogan is looking forward to seeing how this year’s competitors compare. Buddy set a new record, clocking 835 kilometres over the three-week competition.

Glenda has some practical tips for this year’s competitors: charge your GPS collar every night and plan your time.

“I didn’t book many social outings during the Cobber Challenge because if you’re fair dinkum about competing, you have to give it priority.”

Now in its sixth year, the 2021 Cobber Challenge will run from today (Monday 16 August) to Sunday 5 September with 12 dogs across the two countries giving it their all.

Each day of the competition, data is uploaded to the Cobber Challenge website so fans can follow the performance of their favourite dogs and national team.

Cobber Working Dog Food will provide the fuel for these dogs, as it does for thousands of working dogs every day around the country.

For three weeks, the dogs will be scored based on distance, speed and duration of work per day with points accumulated based on daily activity to determine the winner of the Cobber Challenge trophy.

People can follow the performance of their favourite dog at cobberchallenge.com.au and on the Cobber Dog Facebook page.

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