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Koorawatha farmer enters Cobber Challenge, but poor Sally is out of the race

Hannah Sparks15 July 2021
Daniel Pumpa and Turbo the kelpie

Daniel Pumpa with Turbo, his new entrant in the 2021 Cobber Challenge. Photo: Supplied by Laura Griffin.

Farmer Daniel Pumpa, from Koorawatha, near Young, has been selected to take part in the annual working dog Cobber Challenge for a second time, but he won’t be competing with kelpie Sally by his side.

Three weeks ago five-year-old Sally dislocated her right elbow, which meant Turbo had to step up to the challenge.

Perhaps it was meant to be, given Daniel entered the challenge with the five-year-old male kelpie in 2019 but dropped to the bottom of the leaderboard due to the drought.

Not only did the drought mean there was less work about, but Daniel and Turbo were also called to a ram show during the Cobber Challenge.

“We didn’t do very well because we had a whole week where there wasn’t any work,” says Daniel.

“I think we did about 180km in the two-week challenge, but that was within only a few days. It really didn’t reflect the work Turbo normally does.”

Now Turbo has the chance to prove just how many miles he really clocks up, particularly now that Daniel has become the assistant manager at a fat lambing enterprise.

Sally the kelpie standing on back of ute

Sally the kelpie had to drop out of the Cobber Challenge after dislocating her elbow. Photo: Daniel Pumpa.

“Our feedlot is 200 metres long and there are 22 pens,” he says. “Just running in and out of pens all day, you’d clock up a fair few kilometres, and on a big day you’d easily be looking at around 60km.”

Turbo will be up against 11 other dogs, including Koby from Coolac, between Jugiong and Gundagai.

Emma Stocks owns the two-year-old male kelpie and says he has the widest cast of any dog she’s worked with.

At 19 months of age, he’s as good as, or maybe even better, than the four-year-old and five-year-old dogs in Emma’s team, and will soon be her main dog.


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“He’s young, he’s an athlete, he goes the miles and he does not disappoint,” says Emma. “He’s a young dog with a big future and I’m ready to show him off.”

For the first time ever, the working dog Cobber Challenge is welcoming New Zealand dogs to compete against their Australian counterparts.

“It’s awesome to compete against the New Zealanders because it will show the differences between us and them in how we handle our dogs and ourselves,” says Daniel.

Daniel thinks the New Zealanders will be tough competition because they cast their dogs a lot more to cover steep country compared to many of the Australian competitors who take their dogs to stock on a motorbike.

Emma Stocks on rural property

Emma Stocks is entering her kelpie, Koby, in the Cobber Challenge for the first time. Photo: Supplied by Laura Griffin.

Each dog will wear a GPS collar to track how far, fast and long they work during a three-week period.

Now in its sixth year, the 2021 Cobber Challenge will run from 16 August to 5 September.

It promises to add to the friendly Aussie-versus-Kiwi rivalry, already stoked by the Bledisloe Cup rugby union Test matches that are played between the nations throughout August.

On each day of the competition, data is uploaded to the Cobber Challenge website so fans can follow the performances of their favourite dogs and national team.

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