Women from the region took their working dogs to “school” on Friday when North West Local Land Services held its latest Women in Agriculture (WAGs) workshop.
Laurie and John Chaffey hosted the day at the woolshed and sheepyards on their property, halfway between Somerton and Attunga.
Guest speaker Tony Overton, a dog handler and stockman from Walcha, went through theory and practice for the 15-plus farmers who turned up, many with their own dogs.
Mr Overton said his key message was “that it might be about dogs and stock-handling, but money makes the world go around … It’s all about efficiency.”
“I’m such a lazy critter; I’m doing very little, they’re doing a lot,” he said.
He said whether the women and dogs were working with sheep, cattle, pigs, goats or even geese, one tip was to pay attention to the animal’s eye rather than its body.
Then they could apply “pressure and relief” to the animal’s “bubble” of space accordingly, to push them, allow them to drift, or make them stop.
Starting the day with calm and clear expectations was also key.
“A lot of the time with stock, you only get one go,” he said.
“If you get it wrong, you may as well give it up and come back tomorrow.”
Mr Overton spoke about pup selection, saying that although it was “pretty much a lottery in the litter” the odds could be stacked in one’s favour.
“I want to know what the pup’s parents are like; I want to know what the pup’s grandparents are like; and I want to know what the pup’s siblings are like.”
Mr Overton gave demonstrations with a few sheep in the yards, then invited some of the women to have a go at implementing his tips.
LLS livestock officer Sally Balmain said it had been “a great day”.
“I think all the ladies got something out of it and will go home with a few ideas and a few things to work on,” she said.
Ms Balmain said the response to the bi-monthly WAGs events had been very rewarding.
She and colleagues Naomi Hobson and Kate Pearce from the ag extension team facilitate the program, which has engaged with more than 100 women across four WAGs groups around Tamworth, Narrabri, Walgett and North Star.
“When we first started the groups, we thought a lot of women would be interested in learning more hands-on skills for agriculture, and we’ve been really overwhelmed by the response we’ve had to the groups; it's been fantastic,” she said.