Stars steal show at Kelpie Muster

TOP DOGS: Frank Finger with his star working dogs Annie and Lucifer at the Australian Kelpie Muster in Casterton.

Trevor Jackson

DOGS were clearly the stars at the annual Australian Kelpie Muster in Casterton recently, with a couple standing out from the crowd.

They were not participating in the events but attracted plenty of attention.

Frank Finger from the television lifestyle series Muster Dogs brought along his two kelpies from the show, Annie and Lucifer and the crowd could not get enough of the pair.

Annie and Mr Finger were the eventual winners of the competition, while Lucifer was the bad boy early in the show.

Mr Finger took Lucifer on and has turned his fortunes and reputation around to now be a valuable working dog.

Mr Finger said he enjoyed being a part of the series and noted the dogs were definitely the stars.

“It was really good,” he said of the series.

“It was good to get to know the other participants and we did a bit of travelling with it.

“So far as the filming on the place was concerned, we just did what we do normally.

“That is what endeared me to the series, it wasn’t scripted, we were never told what to say, what we did is what they filmed.

“They took what they wanted to air but it was just natural, no smoke and mirrors.”

The series was certainly popular and showed the importance of the working dog in general farming life.

For someone like Mr Finger who works his dogs regularly on his central Queensland property, the value of a good working dog is hard to put a figure on.

Mr Finger simply said they were ultra important in a working situation.

“Possibly not so much as to getting your cattle in today but to train your weaners to have your livestock right in the mind,” he said.

“If you stick with the program, after about 10 years all your cattle become trained.

“If you start working newer dogs you would start with young cattle, your young cattle become older cattle and eventually everything is trained and it puts so much calmness into your livestock.”

However, Mr Finger said there were certain situations where a working dog could do a job others might not be able to.

“If there are a few dollars to made extra in a market where you have to get your cattle quickly, it might be too wet for people to get cattle to a train, or there might be an order somewhere where they can’t get all the cattle because it has rained, we can get them with the dogs super quickly and gain a few cents like that,” he said.

Regarding the amount paid for good working dogs at auction, Mr Finger said it was hard to put a value on.

“I don’t know so much about the big money but what I do know is it is worth buying a good pup of good genetics like from Joe Spicer,” he said.

“I paid $2500 for the last pup at eight weeks old, then the handler makes it special.

“I still think the best way to get the connection is to have the pup and you rear it.

“That’s where you get the best connection.

“I still say an adult dog will never be any more than what has been put into it as a pup, that is why I prefer to use pups and you become one with them.”

As for Annie and Lucifer, Mr Finger said everything was going well with both since the television series finished.

“It is 12 months since I took Lucifer,” he said.

“Annie doesn’t need any more training – I would say for our work she was fully trained 12 months ago.

“I just had to steady Lucifer up a little bit and get him used to cattle and he is fine.

“I just had to get him to back off – you don’t want put too much pressure on cattle, or any livestock for that matter.

“It is not that he was working too fast, he was working too close.”

The dogs appear well trained and calm around big crowds and they certainly enjoy their lives up in Queensland, some 400 kilometres inland from Rockhampton in the Central Highlands.

“We don’t work them on a daily basis but there wouldn’t be a day we don’t take them somewhere,” Mr Finger said.

“It might be fencing or we just take them out for a fun run.”

It is that close connection with his dogs which Mr Finger said is important to ensure they work well.

“They have to be your best friend and you have to be the boss,” he said.

“There can’t be a boss dog – we are the boss workers and they are the scouts.”

As for Mr Fingers’ preferred breed of working dog, the kelpie comes up trumps for a few reasons, although he said one breed is not necessarily better than another.

“I think (kelpies) think for themselves and I think they are easier to train,” he said.

“You can make it so they work very quickly and are very easy to train.

“I have had collies but I just like kelpies, that is just how it is.

“I don’t think one is better than the other, I just like them.”