The Mary Valley Stockmans Contest

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Riana Glide

I was talking to Rodney Garrett about running a stock-handling event at the Imbil Show grounds in the beautiful Mary Valley in S.E. Queensland. (Rodney says it has a great bar on a Saturday night.) A school or clinic perhaps? No let’s have a fairdinkum contest for all comers. A trial, yes, but not a demonstration of a persons control over a dog, but an honest attempt to exhibit the teamwork displayed between human, dog/s and livestock so essential for an efficient and profitable pastoral industry in Australia. As this region is sub-tropical , sheep are in the minority,  so, the livestock will be cattle.

The Rules.

This is where you can help. I will describe a format that should achieve the  stated teamwork outcome as well as provide entertainment and awe for spectators. Please offer your comments and ideas as this is very much a work in progress.

  1. One Judge. The course is designed to remove as much subjectivity as possible.
  2. Competitors can use from 1 to 3 dogs. They can not alter the number of  dogs from start to finish of the trial.
  3. There will be more than one mob of 20 head of dog educated cattle. Each mob will be made up of 5 sub-mobs of colour coded cattle. The colours will be prominently marked to be obvious to competitors and spectators.
  4. The Judge will tell the first competitor his/her colour.
  5. The competitor will start at a gate on the edge of the arena.
  6. The contest starts with a cast, lift and draw of the first mob of 20 head. 15 points (Cast 5, lift 5, draw 5.)
  7. When the cattle are held quietly at the gate by the dog/s the competitor will attempt to draft the 4 head with his nominated colour through that gate. 16 points. (3 for each beast and 4 for calmness and safety) (The competitor may draft a wrong coloured beast or draft too many cattle and continue but will lose points accordingly.)
  8. The remaining cattle will be yarded through an alternate gate with the competitor remaining in the arena. 4 points.
  9. The competitor will now position the dog/s in the arena in front of the initial gate and move the 4 drafted cattle out of the holding yard. The cattle must stop and be held by the dog/s. 10 points (Dogs waiting calmly, livestock walking out. 5 points Cattle halting and given relief by the dogs 5 points. The competitor may choose to have an assistant hold the dog/s but will concede the associated points.
  10. A modified, shorter campdraft course (figure 8 and gate represented by the traditional sapling trees) must be completed by the cattle with maximum points being achieved at the walk and inside the marked tramlines. The width of the tramlines is at the discretion of the judge. It is expected that the cattle will follow the handler for this section. 18 points. (Course 6, tramlines 6, rate 6.)

    Karrawarra Ruby Tuesday

    Karrawarra Ruby Tuesday

  11. After completing the “gate” the cattle will be settled in the centre of a “Target” Concentric circles marked on the ground Smallest circle 20 points, then  15, 10 and 5. After settling the dog/s will hold the cattle while the handler opens a gate in a set of portable panels in the arena and then returns to the mob. 20 points
  12. The handler and dog/s will drive the cattle through the opened gateway, closing the gate and move to the put away gate. Time is on the closing of that gate. 20 points.

Notes: The time allowed for this course will need to be assessed based on the size of the arena. Ultimately it will be the call of the judge and announced before the trial.

The second competitor will be given a fresh mob of twenty head of similarly colour marked cattle and the first mob will be rested. For a large number of entrants the number of mobs will be increased. The next contestant using mob 1 will be drafting out the next colour in the sequence based on a draw. Competitors nominating for multiple runs will be slotted into the draw so they have sufficient time to get organised.

A horseman with a whip will be onsite to “crack off” any runs displaying unnecessary violence towards the cattle and to assist with moving cattle from unfinished runs.

Prize money will depend on how we go attracting sponsorship. Entry fees will be commensurate with the prize pool.

Please assist us with your comments.

Imbil show arena

Cast, lift and draw

Figure 8, Target and Putaway Gate

Figure 8, Target and Putaway Gate

24 comments on “The Mary Valley Stockmans Contest

  1. Scott Amon says:

    Hi all,
    I like the concept very much! I guess you’ll need to run a trial or two like this and then iron out any of the pitfalls or problems. It is more akin to a ‘real’ work scenario than a conventional trial. A few points worth considering might include; the volume of cattle required would be significant if the trial was popular, any lot of 20 put out on the ground together should really be from the same mob or advantages/disadvantages for each handler could vary dramatically – particularly when drafting, no competitor should be able to train or work the actual course prior to the event commencing, presuming that the judge would need to be mobile (moving the course rather than in one single position) and should be a totally neutral person with the required cattle knowledge, the physical position that the handler can take up during all portions of the trial would need to be made clear (for example can the cattle be driven, pulled or positioned to the side of the handler for the outside part of the course?).

    I would be most interested in working trial like that, although this year is looking very full-on for me at present, but I would make a considerable effort to get to it within the first year or two. There should be a whole host of Queenslanders in close proximity to the venue interested. If I can help in promoting the trial please let me know.

    • Thanks for your insight Scott,
      We reckon we can access fairly large lines of similarly educated cattle to keep the contest as fair as possible. To keep the drafting time achievable we are leaning toward a mob size of 12. Also, handler position could work along these lines: Cast: Anywhere across the face behind a line. (Brown area on the images) Draft: anywhere but in the vicinity of the draft gate would be better; Campdraft course:You must lead your cattle under a “cone of silence” ie no commands other than moving your body position; Target: Be anywhere you and your dogs can stop and rest your cattle; Gate in panels; walk from your cattle and dogs over to open the gate; Drive: You must be behind the mob to drive them as straight to the gate as possible; Put-away-gate: Close the panel gate, walk to the put-away and walk the cattle through whilst holding the gate, close it.
      As far as anyone practicing on the course before the trial, good point. Because it is a show ground access is restricted until the afternoon before the event.
      The judge will decide where he can best judge from. The Imbil arena has a dedicated crows-nest which will likely be more than suitable. Of course the judge will be knowledgeable and neutral.

      • Scott Amon says:

        All makes pretty good sense mate – other than maybe the ‘cone of silence’. I communicate with my dogs via voice and whistle all of the time when we work, particularly when driving and of course when drafting.

      • Hi Scott,
        The “Cone of silence” only applies to the figure 8 part of the course. Voice and whistle are Ok, even encouraged, for driving and drafting.

  2. Marissa Taylor says:

    I think there should be a Jr. division or accommodations for kids that want to participate. Maybe they can go in teams or with a parent for certain parts of the course? Just a thought. I know there are a few young stock/dog handlers in AU that could win the entire thing on their own but maybe a good way to get families involved.

  3. Taryn says:

    sounds amazing – could be lots of fun – will be good to try a different sort of trial and work for the dogs – can’t wait to do this one!!!

  4. Blackdog says:

    Looks good I am working on the scoring but at this stage Scotch is the winner. Just a tip for any competitor.

  5. Marissa Taylor says:

    Love the idea! I am in to compete or judge if it is scheduled for the end of May. How much are you thinking for an entry fee and prize money?
    This is the best motivation to get dogs and handlers tuned up. If I can make is I will be running a side pool for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.

    • Hi Marissa,
      It’s good to see we are attracting international nominations already for our inaugural event. The most likely date is the long weekend in June (8,9,10th). The prize money is still being negotiated but we are aiming for $5000. Nominations will be commensurate with the prize pool. Perhaps we can organise a sister event for the US cowboys.

  6. Jodi says:

    This seems like a good practical test of stock work, I’m keen!
    I might need a penalty time for my team that will not have worked cattle before the day of the contest!

    • That is top stuff Jodi, as, apart from well educated cattle and a large prize pool, we need enthusiastic stock-handling teams. No, we don’t need “Never seen cattle before” excuses either…

  7. Grant says:

    Sounds like we will have to tune the dogs up a bit and organise a team NSW!! – The idea of a “practical” trial based on a more realistic approach to our everyday work compared to the finesse of a 3 sheep trial sounds great.

    • Bring on the cockroaches! Yes Grant I am thinking we need some hay in the “Target” to emulate feeding cattle out while being shepherded by dog/s. All of these challenges are what working dogs and stock-men do everyday at home.

  8. Just thinking about the time it would take to draft 4 head out of 20. The mob size could be adjusted down to a minimum of 8. Perhaps 12 would be a reasonable compromise if using a gate-man to help with the drafting.

  9. australianmeatgoats says:

    Sounds great Dave, one query….whose definition of educated? That’s a serious question by the way…I will definetly be there to spectate/support, might sit it out ’til you include a goat class.

    • Hi Grayleen,
      “Educated” as defined by the Blackdog bible, ie. been educated along Sean and Evonnes’ program so as to yield to pressure from handlers and dogs. Your dogs will definitely be competitive so don’t wait to sort the sheep from the goats. Get fairdinkum and have a go.

  10. Sue McMah says:

    Mary Valley Show Society have shown interest in adopting this event meaning that it can be run under their auspices giving us insurance, promotion opportunity and a home ground should it become an annual event which I am sure it will. There are good facilities in-so-far as toilets and showers, camping or other accommodation close-by in town, catering and bar and more importantly the use of very good grounds. I think this a grand idea and I am looking forward to being part of it all. I am in for the ride.

I welcome your comments.

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