Cobber Stories & Media

Victorian Kelpie does Australia proud in inaugural Trans-Tasman farm dog challenge

6 September 2021

It was Aussie dogs all the way in the first trans-Tasman Cobber Challenge.  

The Kiwis may have kept their stranglehold on the rugby silverware this weekend but a Victorian Kelpie took out first place in the unique competition to find the hardest working dog across Australia and New Zealand.

The 2021 Cobber Challenge winner is Skyblue Jack, and owner Ben Jeffery, Leading Hand at 3200-hectare farm in Victoria's Western District, could not be prouder.

“I’m in awe of my dog,” Ben says.

Six-year-old Skyblue Jack mustered sheep for drenching; checked up on lambing ewes and showed his owner ones that needed help; and shifted sheep and cattle onto paddocks with more feed.

With Ben’s boss unable to get back to Mepungah Pastoral because of border closures, Ben, Skyblue Jack and his kennel mates had to step up to get all this stock work done.

Those circumstances gave Skyblue Jack a leg up in the competition and saw him clock a Cobber Challenge record of 1012.6 kilometres over the three-week period.

They worked every day to record 87 hours worked and an average speed of 11.59 km/h. That’s an average of just over 4 hours and 48 km a day.

“Jack’s happiest when he’s working – I even had to hold him back on a few days to make sure he still had plenty in the tank.

“He is thriving. It’s like my dear friend and stockman mentor used to say, ‘Take an old dog for a hard road’.”

Like any great athlete, this year’s Cobber Champion had to prepare for the Cobber Challenge. Having been injured in a fight with another dog just months before the competition, once healed, Ben gradually rebuilt Skyblue Jack’s stamina by taking him on nightly runs.  

“I love my dogs; I couldn’t do my job without them. And I knew with Jack, that I cracked a great bloodline so it’s been awesome to put him to the test and capture just how hard he works,” Ben says.

Skyblue Jack was among 12 working dogs from across Australia and New Zealand that competed in the 2021 Cobber Challenge. The three-week competition saw dogs from each state wear GPS collars to track their distance, average speed and working duration on farm.

Now in its sixth year, the Cobber Challenge organisers were thrilled to invite Kiwi farmers and their dogs to compete for the first time.

Cam Clayton and his Heading Dog, Pine, are the top ranked New Zealand team. Cam is amazed by the distances Pine travelled during winter months, a quiet period on the sheep and cattle station near Ashburton in New Zealand's South Island.

“I believe Pine would be right up there in the top, giving them a good run in the summer,” Cam said.

Fellow Kiwi competitor Peter Aitken from Otago agrees that it was eye-opening to see how far his dog Spark travelled.

“We love the Cobber Challenge because it acknowledges the invaluable contribution that working dogs make on Australian and New Zealand farms every day,” said Kellie Savage, competition organiser and Cobber Marketing Manager.

“Our farmers always tell us that a good dog is worth at least a few workers. They don’t just provide a safer, more efficient work environment, but there is an incredible mateship between farmers and their dogs.”

Cobber Working Dog Food provides the fuel for the dogs competing in the Cobber Challenge as well as thousands of others working hard every day around the country.

Leaderboard for the 2021 Cobber Challenge

  1. Ben Jeffery and Skyblue Jack, from Wannon, Victoria, Australia
  2. Emma Stocks and Koby, from Coolac, NSW, Australia
  3. James Leahy and Glenlyon Jill, from Highlands, Victoria, Australia
  4. Bradley Dunlop and Roxy, from Wanganella, NSW, Australia
  5. Cam Clayton and Pine, from Ashburton, Canterbury, New Zealand
  6. James Knight and Krui Snowy, from Devon Park, Queensland, Australia
  7. Peter Aitken and Spark, from Millers Flat, Otago, New Zealand
  8. Daniel Pumpa and Turbo, from Koorawatha, NSW
  9. Antony Mulder and Narroonda Ritz, from Prairie, Queensland, Australia
  10. Bree How and Kit, from Oatlands, Tasmania, Australia
  11. Rob Sibley and Boof, from Kojonup, WA, Australia
  12. Josh Tosh and Trix, from Dipton, Southland
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