Each dog will wear a GPS collar to track how far, fast and for how long they work over a three-week period.
It’s the fourth year of competition, with the southern states and Kelpies dominating to date. Can a northern state or a different breed of dog seize the trophy this year?
Last year, Victoria’s farmer Henry Lawrence and his Kelpie Boof won, clocking an impressive total distance of 638.1 kilometres and average speed of 10.62km/h.
Hoping to keep the trophy in Victoria are Mitchell Leek and his Kelpie, Ajay, from Nar Nar Goon, and Sharon Barry and her Kelpie, Cliché, from Hamilton. At 11 years old, Cliché may be the oldest dog competing in this year’s Cobber Challenge, but Sharon says her work ethic hasn’t wavered.
Tasmanian competitors will try to reclaim the title, after Brad McDonald and Flow won in 2017. Representing the Apple Isle this year are Brendon Johnson and his leading dog, Lady, and Jack Febey and his number one canine, Monty. Both Tasmanian competitors work on mixed farming operations of about 2000 acres.
NSW put forward the largest number of nominations, making the selection process tough. This year the state will be represented by Daniel Pumpa and his Kelpie, Turbo, from near Dubbo, and Emma Lawrence and her Collie, Kelpie, Koolie cross, Mick, from the Liverpool Plains.
Two competitors from Western Australia are keen to see how the distances in the largest state stack up against their eastern counterparts. Livestock contractor Jim Harradine says his Border Collie, Bridie, is always the first dog off the ute whatever the situation – mustering, drafting, crutching, lamb marking. Bailey Vlahov says his Kelpie, Buddy, was born to work livestock and is an invaluable team member when working on his uncle’s mixed farm with 3000 sheep and 3000 cattle.
The size of the properties will also mean tough competition from the north, with those hailing from Queensland. Sam Wright is keen for his dog, Bonnie, to be recognised for the enormous amount of work she does on his family’s cattle breeding and backgrounding operation southwest of Mackay. Heidi Harrold says she couldn’t ask for a better partner to work on the station at Prairie every day and compete in the Cobber Challenge than her Border Collie-Kelpie cross, Socks.
South Australia is represented by two Border Collies. Contractor Peter Barr says his dog, Breakit, works with calm assurance, while showing strength and bravery when handling livestock. Peta Bauer also finds working dogs part and parcel of farming life. Her dog, Jed, has an enormous work drive and in downtimes, is easy going.
Ian Moore, Group Marketing Manager of Ridley which produces Cobber, said number and quality of nominations demonstrates the keenness of Aussie farmers to see their dogs recognised for the work they do.
“We had nominations from across the country and you could clearly see how everyone values their dogs for the work they do as part of the farm team, their natural herding instincts, and for their mateship,” Ian said.
Cobber Working Dog Food will provide the fuel for these dogs, as it does for thousands of working dogs every day around the country.
The competition will run for three weeks from Monday, 12 August to Sunday, 1 September. The competitors 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.
“You can follow the performance of your favourite dog at www.cobberchallenge.com.au and on the Cobber dog Facebook page, as well as keep track of how your state is doing,” Ian said.