The Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble has temporarily gone to the dogs as Australia battles with multiple Covid lockdowns. But at least there’s a four-legged Anzac alliance to keep Trans-Tasman ties strong in the interim.
The annual Cobber Challenge got underway yesterday (Monday), with 12 dogs from across Australia and New Zealand competing to be crowned as the hardest-working farm mutt.
In 2021, Kiwi challengers have been accepted for the fist time in what has traditionally been an all-Aussie event. Three New Zealand dogs are taking on their nine Australian counterparts from Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, WA and Tasmania.
According to the organisers, the Cobber Challenge is about recognising the hard work that these dogs put in, as well as celebrating their enormous contribution to farming.
GPS collars to track dogs’ hard work
For three weeks, the competitors wear GPS collars to track the distance, duration and speed of their work.
In Queensland, 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. “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,” he said.
Across the Tasman, Kiwi Peter Aitken and his Heading Dog, Spark, will be sorting cows into their calving mobs on Limehills Station in Otago, on 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.
Champion Buddy clocked up 835km
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,” she emphasises.
Now in its sixth year, the 2021 challenge runs until Sunday, 5 September.