Jillaroos, jackaroos and their pups undergo specialised TAFE training for future farmers and their work dogs | Ralph-Lauren

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Australia’s future farmers and their working dogs are being given specialised training, in an effort to train up enthusiastic young people for long-term careers in agriculture.

The nationally accredited TAFE certificate includes sheepdog training — a favourite course for many participants.

Teens fresh from school have jumped at the opportunity to start traineeships at Australian cattle and sheep stations in a promising sign for the future of farming; particularly as the industry works to overcome serious worker shortages.

Nyngan-based educator Dave Motley said sheepdog training was critical to establish good habits in the pups and their owners.

“We’re trying to establish control of the dog and good flow of the stock,” Mr Motley said.

“A lot of these jackaroos and jillaroos are handling stud sheep, which are worth a lot at the moment so we want to have control.

A man and young woman, both in straw hats, stand in a sheep rail with a happy dog sitting on stop of sheep.
Jillaroo Rose Duncan and her dog Molly undergo sheepdog training with educator Dave Motley (left) in Nyngan.(ABC: Lucy Thackray)

The practical sessions, organised by TAFE, also cover other crucial industry skills including sheering, crutching and butchery.

Any dog breed welcome

While many farmers debate if kelpies or border collies make the best sheepdogs, Mr Motley said he would help train whatever dog the young trainees brought.

“I use kelpies around the farms but I’ve got no bias, a good dog’s a good dog,” he said.

Mr Motley said it was important to skill and prepare these young hopefuls to fill some of the current skill shortages and to keep them in agriculture long-term.

“It’s always tough but that’s what we’re here for, to train the next generation,” he said.

“We all need to do our bit to keep people in the job.

A woman and her kelpie pup lean up against a rail in a paddock.
The program’s only jillaroo, 18-year-old Rose Duncan, is loving the program and her bond with her puppy Molly.(ABC Western Plains: Lucy Thackray)

‘Like another person in the paddock’

Rose Duncan is the only jillaroo in the programs in Warren in western New South Wales — and the 18-year-old is loving every minute.

“You get the knowledge directly, it’s really hands on and it gives you a really good idea of the industry before university,” Ms Duncan said.

She said her kelpie, Molly, was already showing some promise.

“She’s getting better every time I take her out,” she said.

“Usually I get her out in the paddock and wing it, but it’s really good to learn the real knack to training the dogs and working them properly.

“You definitely need a dog out in the paddock — they’re like another person!”

Farming has always been a dream for Ms Duncan, and so far it has been everything she hoped for.

“I want to own my own properties with merino sheep, cattle and a few horses. And definitely some good dogs!”

‘Growing up fast’ as a jackaroo

Will Hayes, an 18-year-old jackaroo, grew up in Canberra but has always felt the pull to work in the bush.

“Seeing this sheepdog training; it’s pretty amazing what the dogs can do and what they’re capable of,” he said.

“It’s pretty special, you bring them as up a little pup and then it’s pretty special when they start working and pay you back.

“You’ve got them for life.”

A kelpie stands, facing off with a huge flock of sheep who are facing the camera.
Sheepdog trainer Dave Motley’s experienced work dog, Crue, faces off a flock of sheep.(ABC Western Plains: Lucy Thackray)

Mr Hayes was pretty confident he had found where he belonged.

“It’s a good industry and atmosphere to be a part of, hopefully I can give my helping hand and give back to the community,” he said.

“Growing up in the city, I never really liked it.

“As a jackaroo, you learn so much so quick and you grow up pretty fast.”



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