The canine stars of BBC’s Lambing Live 2014 today (Thursday July 24th) helped launch a nationwide search for Scotland’s Top Farm Dog.
The antics of the mother and son duo Jess and Doug on the hit live TV show this spring led to them becoming unexpected favourites with the millions of viewers who tuned in to watch the trials and tribulations of lambing on the Dykes family farm, South Slipperfield at West Linton, south of Edinburgh.
The handsome Huntaway pair have been chosen as the figureheads in the quest to find Scotland’s Top Farm Dog, launched by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and supported by the Scottish SPCA.
The winning farm dog (which must be working or retired from working) will be the animal deemed to best deserve the title for his or her “exceptional” qualities. For example, the dog may have exhibited some exceptional skill or exceptional act of bravery, intelligence, loyalty or companionship or may have survived injury or defied the odds in some way.
The overall winner is set to be announced at the time of the 2014 World Sheepdog Trials, taking place at Fearn farm near Tain (courtesy of the Scott family) on September 3rd – 6th.
“We hope this initiative will raise the profile of these ‘unsung heroes’ of Scottish livestock farming,” said Uel Morton, QMS Chief Executive.
“Farm dogs have played a huge role in successful livestock farming in Scotland for centuries. As well as working with cattle and sheep, they are also valued guard dogs and companions these days when farming, particularly in remoter areas, could otherwise be a lonely occupation.”
Mr Morton said the award should also highlight the fantastic story the industry has to tell in terms of the stockmanship skills and welfare behind the production of Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork.
Working dogs are included in the farm inspections which are required by QMS’s farm assurance schemes.
Scottish SPCA Deputy Chief Superintendent Tom Gatherer said: "It is quite right that working dogs are included in the farm assurance inspection process. They do a very important job on a livestock farm, with little complaint and lots of devotion.
"It is only fair that they are given the highest possible level of care, including a good standard of nutrition, living accommodation and veterinary attention when required, thus ensuring the dogs remain healthy throughout their working life and retirement.
"Any good stockman will know that a healthy and happy dog makes a better working dog therefore we welcome this award which not only recognises dogs that have demonstrated excellence, but also highlights the importance of good animal welfare."
Ewen MacKinnon, Scottish President of the International Sheep Dog Society, said the Society is delighted to be working with QMS on this initiative as the countdown to the 2014 World Sheepdog Trials gets underway.
“The Scott family and the Scottish Trial community look forward to welcoming the sheep dog world, and members of the public, to Fearn where we have a super trial venue for the 240 competitors from 25 countries who will be competing for the honour of being crowned World Champion ,” said Mr MacKinnon.
“We are also thrilled to have received superb financial support from the Homecoming Scotland 2014 programme. Our event kick starts two months of Homecoming celebrations across the Highlands.”
QMS is seeking applications for all types of farm dogs - from Border Collies to Jack Russells – as long as they play (or have played, if retired) a working role on a livestock farm in Scotland.
To enter, simply email QMS at firstname.lastname@example.org (or message the Quality Meat Scotland page on Facebook) no more than 150 words saying why the dog should win. Where possible a photograph of the dog should also be sent.
The winner’s owner will receive £250 vouchers for the purchase of quality dog food (or other items to benefit the dog) and a selection of framed professional photographs of their dog on the farm. The winner, and two runners-up, will also receive a Scotch Lamb PGI goodie bag. The closing date is August 20th.