22 Sep 2023

Must Love Dogs

From Country Life, 7:31 pm on 22 September 2023
sheep dogs in ute

Kelsie Meads with Sass at Coleridge Downs Station Photo: Sally Murphy

Canterbury farmer Kelsie Meads is passionate about her job, and the best part is easy - her dogs.

Based at Coleridge Downs in the Rakaia Gorge, she has nine, seven working dogs and two pets.

Leader of the pack Sass is taking part in this year's Cobber Dog Challenge. The trans-Tasman comp sees 12 dogs fitted with a GPS tracker to see how far and fast they travel over a three month period - with the hardest working dog being announced next month.

Small in stature but not in attitude, Sass is compact, only about two thirds the size of a normal heading dog, but out in the paddock she uses the trait she's named after to show the sheep who's boss.

"I just entered the competition for the sake of it at the start, but it was great to get picked, it's been really cool seeing what Sass can do," Meads says.

"Some days she's running 42 kilometres when we're set stocking which is a lot, but then other days when it's a bit quieter on farm, she's hardly doing anything."

sheep dogs in ute

Sass not taking her eye off the sheep Photo: Sally Murphy

sheep dogs in ute

Photo: Sally Murphy

A small walkie-talkie-like remote turns on the GPS tracker when Sass is on the job.

"I control it because we obviously can't have it on when we're driving down the road in the ute at 100 kilometres an hour."

Chasing sheep, cattle and deer all over the farm, Sass is only three so has a few good years work left in her yet - but Meads can't wait for her to retire - "She's my mate".

While chatting to Meads about the competition, Sass is never to far away and when the rest of the pack on the back of the ute start whining she's quick to tell  them off.

Meads says her dogs are vital on farm as they can reach parts of the paddock she cannot.

"They're such hard workers and I love taking proper care of them, farm dogs are usually just workers but mine are a bit more like pets, when we're at home I try give them as much time out of the kennel as possible."

She even has a tattoo of her much-loved first dog Tahi on her arm.

Dogs in the back of the ute

Photo: Sally Murphy