Australia’s Cobber Challenge is for the first time expanding to include New Zealand farmers and their dogs.
The annual challenge has been going since 2016 and involves working farm dogs being fitted with a GPS collar that tracks their distance travelled, work hours done and speed over a three-week period.
Points are accorded, the dogs are ranked and a champion is named – winning $3000 and a year’s supply of dog food from the competition sponsor, Cobber.
It’s all about highlighting how dogs are vital members of the farm team, and how hard they work.
With 48 hours still to go in last year’s competition, three dogs were still in the running to take the title, with only 67km separating first from third. But in the end it was Buddy, a Kelpie-cross from New South Wales, who took the prize, covering a total of 835km over the three week period, working 98 hours in total and getting about his tasks at an average speed of 8.51km/hr.
Now that the competition has spread across the Tasman, the 2021 challenge will see nine Aussie Kelpies, Kelpie-crosses and Border Collies pitted against Kiwi heading dogs Pine, Spark and Trix.
Spark’s owner Peter Aitken, who works on a 4000 hectare sheep, beef and Hereford stud farm at Miller’s Flat, Otago, says all the two-and-a half year-old dog wants to do is work.
“He does hog a fair bit of the workload, and he sulks a bit if I share it around other dogs,” Peter said.
“Some days, especially during busy times, he’s working dusk to dawn. I’m really interested to see how he’ll shape up against other dogs around the country, and especially the Aussie dogs as well.”
Josh Tosh farms at Dipton and says he’s had two-and-a-half year-old heading dog Trix since she was a pup and “she runs really well”.
The third Kiwi competitor is Cam Layton from Ashburton Gorge with four year-old heading dog Pine.
“We’ll give it a good nudge, show you Aussies what we’re made of. Don’t know if we’ll keep up with those Kelpies, but we’ll give it a go anyway,” Cam told the organisers on video.
“Can’t wait to get into it.”
- Find out more and follow the Cobber Challenge at cobberchallenge.com.au