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Meat pies Kangaroos and Holden cars, how Australian is that, well about as Australian as the Kelpie.
All my life I have been a great fan of the Australia kelpie, my first dog was a kelpie, and when I scraped enough money together to buy my first farm, I bought another kelpie and I still have one, even though she lives a more relaxed and suburban life.People ask how do you choose a kelpie, my first port of call would be a reputable breeder whose reputation depended on matching the right dog for the purpose required. For instance if I wanted a dog that worked wide with plenty of eye it would be of little use looking at a dog that was bred for force and bark.On the other hand I may want a dog that has little bit of each a genuine all-rounder, I would be confident that there would be any number of reputable breeders who could supply me with a pup to suit my needs.Over the years I’ve heard people talk about the law of nature and how it comes about by survival of the fittest. Well the kelpie breed is a great example of that if the dog is a dud then it won’t last long on most farms, and would certainly not be used for breeding, this means survival of the fittest whether it be the ability to work, their health, or structural integrity, they had been culled over many generations by a savage selection pressure, leaving us with a fantastic all-purpose working dog.Years of selection has meant we now have a broad gene pool of Kelpies that are able to fit nearly all requirements that a farmer needs, saving farmers millions of dollars a year in employment costs. It still amazes me that the Kelpie can work all day in trying conditions but still wag their tail with excitement at the end of the day.

To me this sort of selection is the market working by selecting the best traits and getting rid of the bad traits, clearly the results are working, and good Kelpies are in strong demand.

So why would Meat and Livestock Australia see fit to fund under its R&D program a study into the kelpie to ensure the right genetics are out there. My first 2 questions are, 1) what has this got to do with red meat production, 2) where is the need to do such work, and who said there is a need?, was this research concucted by a scientist wanting some money to keep working?

Iam not sure this is good expenditure of our levys the whole project will cost $642,000 (MLA’s share is $180,000) to do a detailed survey on the elements that contribute to the success and economic value of a working dog. This information will be used to record and measure both the working and health attributes in a farm dog.

It appears the goal is to develop a plan for state-of-the-art breeding program for working dogs integrating

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behavioral and other things, that will reduce the cost of wastage incurred annually by dog using sectors in the rural context and beyond.

The breeding and training of the successful farm dog is a complex enterprise because people and dogs at different temperaments and different people have different needs and ideas on how to train a dog.

MLA goes on to say labour is one of the parts of running a farm and dogs certainly save a lot of human labour and don’t require a wage. Certainly dogs are a tool used to save labour and MLA believes it is logical then to consider an investment that leads to an understanding of the contribution working dogs farm practices and resulting program that could improve efficiency of such dogs. I am convinced that every farmer has a good understanding of the contribution working dogs make to the farm, I didn’t think farmers need to be told that.

Apparently the project will look at better genetic potential for performance and this will lead to better welfare and fewer conflicts between dogs and their handlers.

To my way of thinking if it’s hot and things are going wrong it is very easy to blame the dog and perhaps we should be looking at putting more effort into training the handler. It would be interesting to know how many good dogs are actually put down because of the handler’s incompetence .

This program is predicted to improve working dog graduation rates and working longevity.

There is talk of developing operational tools and strategies. These include data and software, creation of analysis database, logging devices and software creation of the analysis database, design behavioral tests, producing instructional videos, and development protocols for the exchange of genetics of across sites.

There will also be meetings of stakeholders to discuss share breeding animal selection goals, selection criteria, sharing breeding stock and genetic data management.

It is a shame MLA does not understand people have been breeding Kelpies for 100’s of years, with dogs being sold and used not only all over Australia, but overseas as well.

To me this whole project shows just how desperate the MLA R&D section is for projects that will cause publicity and little else .

As I said previously, hundreds of thousands of kelpies are working throughout Australia and to actually identify their health and ability is virtually impossible as suggested earlier this breed has developed through the survival fittest and if there is a problem the end is very swift.

Surely the time has come for not only producers but the government to actually have a close look at some of the R&D undertaken by MLA.

Meat and Livestock Australia should be focusing their R&D funding on issues that directly affect the profitability of the red meat industry, what will be next how to build an environmentally friendly chook shed?

Australian Beef Association
P.O. Box 529

Mowbray, Launceston, TAS7250

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