Marshall and Suzie Jacobs' return to dairying has created a bit of extra work for their three heelers Mate, Fly and Max. While their working ability may be questionable at times, Marshall has found the dogs are enjoying their return to full-time employment on the Ballendella farm, near Rochester. They are happy running around the farm and helping out whenever possible, but they are also equally happy kicking back on the lawn relaxing if there is not much on. The old dog, Mate, is semi-retired, Fly hasn't ever forgiven the electric fence and Max has been run over. While the breed may have a shocking reputation, Marshall firmly believes it's all about how they are raised. He reckons they are great dogs and great pets.
Why blue heelers?
Marshall: I have had a heeler all my life. I got my first one when I was eight after I told a group of older friends that I was going to look at a heeler pup. They all threw in $20 each and bought me my first one and I have had them ever since.
I have had kelpies, too, but I think they are too smart. If there is no work around a heeler knows how to kick back and relax while a kelpie is always looking for work and will be off chasing something, even butterflies, if he is not kept busy.
So where did they all come from?
We got Mate from a bloke at Tennyson; she is 11. She was a super dog when she was young and she would work anything from a poddy calf to a bull with no fear whatsoever.
I was mustering some stock with her in the mountains once and the bloke I was with couldn’t get his dog to get the animals out of the berries. I just threw her in there and she soon got them out — she’s been a good dog. She is also great for training pups.
What about the other two?
Max is an eight-month-old red heeler. He has great potential, too, but he got run over in the buggy — $1200 later he now has no hip bone. He is a bit of a gangly teenager at the moment and looks a lot like a dingo. He has started to show a bit of interest in the cows when we are working them around the shed and he is starting to have a bit of a go.
Fly is Mate’s daughter. She was the runt of the litter and has ended up staying pretty small. She showed a lot of promise when she was young but she got cracked by the electric fence and has been sulking about it ever since. She has had one litter of pups and we are keeping her for her bloodline and we will breed from her again.
Do you have much trouble getting rid of the pups?
I have sold pups to every state bar Tasmania and Western Australia. I had one bloke on a station buy two simply to protect his property and his ute, he didn’t care whether they could work or not. I have found if you have one tied up on the back of the ute or around your house, people are wary. They are great security dogs. Ours are kept locked up in their own pens at night though.
Words: Sophie Baldwin
Pictures: Luke Hemer