Work­ing dog sur­vey

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - NEWS -

EFFECTIVE work­ing dogs im­prove farm pro­duc­tiv­ity and sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce stress on farm man­agers and live­stock, so it’s un­sur­pris­ing they are known to re­place hu­man labour in live­stock en­ter­prises.

En­ter AgriFu­tures Aus­tralia with Emerg­ing In­dus­tries pro­gram re­search to map how tem­per­a­ment and abil­ity shape great work­ing dogs, im­prove dog wel­fare and pro­vide value to live­stock man­agers.

An on­go­ing Univer­sity of Syd­ney sur­vey, sup­ported by the pro­gram, aims to mea­sure and record be­havioural and health at­tributes of Aus­tralian work­ing dogs for the first time.

The project builds on a pre­vi­ous AgriFu­tures Aus­tralia project Valu­able be­havioural phe­no­types in Aus­tralian farm dogs com­pleted in 2015, funded to sup­port and in­crease the con­tri­bu­tion work­ing dogs as an in­dus­try make to Aus­tralian farm­ers.

The lat­est project is funded by AgriFu­tures Aus­tralia and the Work­ing Kelpie Coun­cil of Aus­tralia (WKCA).

Univer­sity of Syd­ney Chair of Com­pu­ta­tional Bi­ol­ogy and An­i­mal Ge­nomics Claire Wade said an es­ti­mated 83,000 dogs are work­ing on Aus­tralian farms and their con­tri­bu­tion to the ru­ral econ­omy is sig­nif­i­cant, but poorly un­der­stood.

“We are look­ing to im­prove the se­lec­tion process of live­stock work­ing dogs to bet­ter suit the needs of the farmer and work­ing dog breed­ing com­mu­nity,” Prof Wade said.

“Be­havioural at­tributes have con­sid­er­able im­pact on the suc­cess of young dogs in the training pro­gram, the length of the dog’s work­ing life, and whether it is ul­ti­mately cho­sen as a breed­ing an­i­mal.

“Sim­i­larly, health con­sid­er­a­tions have pro­found eco­nomic im­pact on the in­di­vid­ual dog’s work­ing life.”

It will de­ter­mine how dogs (whether reg­is­tered stud­book an­i­mals or not) re­flect char­ac­ter­is­tics of par­ents, and traits such as bark­ing will be mapped so breed­ers and farm­ers can select dogs to suit their needs.

“What suits one per­son may not suit an­other and if a dog is re­quired for load­ing trucks that will be dif­fer­ent to a dog needed to muster a large pad­dock alone while the farmer waits at the gate,” Prof Wade said.

“The breed­ing and training of suc­cess­ful farm dogs is a com­plex en­ter­prise, not least be­cause they are se­lected for at least two dif­fer­ent con­texts: sta­tion work and tri­als.

“For breed­ers, the re­sults of the study should as­sist in iden­ti­fy­ing po­ten­tial breed­ing matches to al­low out­cross­ing with­out los­ing the work­ing at­tributes you value.”

AgriFu­tures Aus­tralia Emerg­ing In­dus­tries Pro­gram Man­ager Dun­can Far­quhar said the sur­vey pro­vides a unique op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a data­base of Aus­tralian and in­ter­na­tional live­stock work­ing dogs with their par­tic­u­lar tem­per­a­ment and work­ing traits.

“This will be a pow­er­ful re­source for work­ing dog so­ci­eties to learn more about how these traits are passed on from par­ents to prog­eny and also to in­ves­ti­gate the genes re­spon­si­ble for the valu­able be­hav­iours,” Mr Far­quhar said.

Visit dogge­net­ics.net.au/ Kelpie/Far­mSur­vey for more in­for­ma­tion.

PHOTO: ZOE PHILLIPS

NEW STUDY: A sur­vey will help im­prove the se­lec­tion process of work­ing dogs.

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