Telford graduate, Davey Drummond, is passionate about sheep dog training and as an essential component of his job as a Stock Manager, making the cut for the New Zealand Sheep Dog Trials is not just about winning, it’s also about having dogs which help him succeed in his day-to-day work.
Davey says he was pretty focused on going farming from a young age; his family moved to the country when he was around eight years old, and by age 12 he loved the farming life. This influenced his decision to pursue farming as a career and attend Telford for his qualification. He was also “as keen as” when it came to dog training. “My stepdad got me my first pup at age 13, and at 15 I’d broken in my first heading dog. I’ve always wanted to have the best dogs,” Davey explains.
Studying at Telford in 2013, Davey graduated with a Certificate in Agriculture with Merit, which included farm management and a shearing module. Davey was the recipient of a Jeff Farm Scholarship, which he describes as “a life saver”, the scholarship helped pay for some of his costs while training. Davey knew gaining the qualification was essential for job progression, saying his motivation was “I don’t want to be the boy my whole life, I want to be the boss.” Achieving the paperwork at Telford has helped to open doors in his career.
Dog training is part of Telford’s curriculum , which allowed Davey to continue with his passion while there, with the benefit of tutors Ken Payne and Alister Ward on-site to give advice. After graduating, Davey took two trained dogs with him to his first shepherding job at Cattle Flat Station. He also credits bosses from throughout his working life who’ve taught him a lot about training dogs.
Davey says he’s definitely more into his huntaways than his heading dogs. “They’re nice natured, easy to get along with, I’m just more passionate about them... heading dogs are a necessary evil, he laughed,” adding, if he could get by without them, he would.
Davey said it was important in farming to have well-trained dogs because of how they assisted with stock work. “You’ve gotta have them – someone can do the work with average dogs but it’s not as efficient – with good dogs you’re far more efficient.”
“A good dog you can’t beat; a dog changes the whole demeanour of the sheep,” he explains. Stock become more responsive, and if a dog is well-trained, there can be two or three working at the same time, getting the stock work done with more ease.
First getting involved in dog trials around 2014 because it came with the territory of training dogs, Davey says to see results, you need to regularly spend time in the training paddock. “Even ten minutes a day will help train them up; anything is good but you’ve got to invest the time to get the benefits out of it.”
Davey qualified for this year’s trials by winning two local opens; he usually attends the locals’ trials in Lumsden, Mossburn and Winton. The 2023 TUX South Island and New Zealand Sheep Dog Trials was held at Warepa, South Otago, 22-27 May. Entered in the Zig-Zag Huntaway and Straight Huntaway events with Thorn, his 12-year-old huntaway, Davey admits he was pretty nervous for his first time at the trials. “It was a challenging course, it’s a step up from your local dog trials.” The 13th run in a field of 277 competitors, on the day, the pair didn’t have the numbers to reach the top of the field. Davey was pleased to have competed and would like to go back to give it another go, with a different dog. Thorn is semi-retired and Davey has nine other working dogs to continue training.
He fits in his dog trial participation around his work commitments at Ryan Farms, a 2,500 hectare property near Mossburn. As Stock Manager he is in a position to encourage and support the shepherds in their dog training. “Dog trials are great, but work wise you do use your dogs differently.” In the competition environment everything needs to be exact. “Most young guys just need a dog to do the job,” he explains.
Davey enjoys dog trialling because it provides people connections. “It’s the people you meet, the social side of it, and I’m off farm for the day.” It’s also satisfying training up his younger dogs. “The pleasing part is seeing them developing and coming on,” Davey says, and this reward keeps him returning to challenge himself and his dogs.