YOU don’t have to look far to find the inspiration for young Luke Harris of Dumbalk continuing in a sport that, by its own admission, is the domain of retired farmers and old dog owners.
That’s the owners, not the dogs.
From a family that has always prided itself on the skills of its working dogs, Luke followed his late father, Owen, into the sport four years ago.
It was long enough for him to well and truly get the bug and he competes at about a dozen competitions annually, including last week’s Korumburra Sheep Dog Trials.
“We’ve always had good dogs and when Dad went on to the farm, we decided we needed better dogs, so we got involved in the sheep trials,” said Luke last week.
“Dad passed away, as you know, earlier this year but it’s been good for the dogs and good for me too.”
Luke has a team of four dogs at various stages in their training and one of them, Gypsy, a patient and measured Border collie, came second in the final of the Novice section and also won her way into the Improver final as well.
It’s likely the dogs get more practice on cows than sheep through Luke’s work on a local dairy farm but they clearly loved rounding up the sheep as well.
“Hopefully one day I’ll have my own dairy farm. That’s the aim at least. The dogs, they’re just a hobby. I don’t train them for anyone else.”
The Korumburra Showgrounds is this year hosting its 55th sheep dog trial and for many of those years, John Macdonald of Koonwarra, has been a permanent fixture.
He was there again last week, competing in close to his 50th Korumburra competition.
“We didn’t go so well this time,” he said of his work with his latest dog.
“But it’s a terrific event and we love supporting it.”
John once won a national title in Canberra and he’s twice taken out the open at Korumburra.
Jean Moir, the champion dog trainer from Berry Creek, was also competing with four of her dogs, ahead of her own working dog trial last weekend.
Eddie Thompson of Foster had his dog ‘Ned’ competing but took time out to raise his concerns about the South Gippsland Shire Council’s attitude to working farm dogs.
“They’ve really gone too far with what they are doing. We’ll basically be reduced to one dog if they have their way and after that, no cattle,” Mr Thompson said.
“They want all our bitches to be spayed but the reality is that dogs don’t really start doing their best work until they are five or six.
“I hope the new council is prepared to take another look at the shire’s attitude to farm dogs.”
Most of what happened at the Korumburra Sheep Dog Trials last week was as far from politics as you could get and that goes for what was happening across the Pacific last Wednesday.
“It’s an iconic event that has been going for 55 years,” said one of the organisers, Louise Rielly.
“We’ve had a really good response this year with 76 dogs in the open and improver sections and 45 in the novice; a total of 35 competitors in all from New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
“It’s mostly older people, especially retired farmers who are attracted to this sport but we do have a parish priest, Fr Peter Kerin, from the Don Bosco Youth Centre.
“We work closely with the Korumburra A & P Society and the event runs under the Victorian Working Sheep Dogs Association.”
Luke Harris and Fr Kerin aren’t the only ones to diverge from type.
Leigh Foster, a female dog owner from The Hawkesbury in NSW has never owned a farm or lived on one.
She only keeps a few sheep on her small property to train the dogs but loves nothing more than travelling around the country, meeting up with old friends and taking her dogs for a run.
On a beautiful green day in Korumburra last week, what’s not to like.
Korumburra A & P Society Sheep Dog Trials
Results . . .
Novice, judged by Mrs Keren Collins, from Toora, 1st: Irene Kelly (Bennison), Keldara Jordie 80+72=152; 2nd: Luke Harris (Mt Eccles), Rockbarton Gypsy 64+65=129; 3rd: Leigh Foster (NSW), Me Mate Maud, 78+retired=78; 4th: Joe Tipper (NSW), Tippers My Girl, 75+retired=75; Cast, Lift & Draw: Irene Kelly, Keldara Jordie, one point lost; Fastest penning time: Colin Reid, El’Shamah Barry, six minutes, 11 seconds.
Improver, judged by Mrs Keren Collins, 1st: Mary Sotheran (Tas), That’ll Do Bubble 95+89=184; 2nd: Leigh Foster (NSW), Me Mate Maud 86+78=164; 3rd: Leigh Foster (NSW) Me Mate Brie 80+51=131; 4th: Luke Harris (Mt Eccles), Rockbarton Gypsy 80+retired=80.
Open, judged by Mrs Keren Collins, 1st: Mary Sotheran (Tas), That’ll Do Bubble 95+89=184; 2nd: Leigh Foster (NSW), Me Mate Annie 90+92=182, 3rd: Maurie Burke (Timboon) Morri-Lynne Zeb 94+86=180, 4th: Luke Harris (Mt Eccles), Roseneath Banjo 91+84=175, 5th: Peter Kerin (Brunswick), Don Bosco Rocky 90+81=168, 6th: Michael Deppler (Condah), Somerville Buddy 90+78=168, 7th: Kevin Wilson (Tatura) Kayvin Old Cobber 93+41=134, 8th: Eddie Thompson (Bennison) T.K. Kitty 91+disq=91; Cast, Lift & Draw: Leigh Foster, Me Mate Maud, no points lost; Fastest penning time: Kevin Wilson, Kayvin Old Cobber, six minutes, 18 seconds.