March 20, 2017

Farm employment for school leavers

By Dr Clive Dalton

Remembering the students in my time (1993-2000) who went through The Waikato Polytech (TWP) farming courses, we learned so much from them and their experiences, and we also learned from their employers, many of whom had been former students years before.  There are a host of issues for young folk leaving home and starting their first farm job – with the aim of making farming their long-term career.

From school to adulthood
Teachers with students who considered them as low academic achievers always saw farming as a good employment option.  Investing further time in trying to rescue them was not worth it, and in any case the school didn’t have the time, facilities or money to fix the problem.  The problem still exits and nobody in the education system seems to have a solution.

The education system had failed these and generations of students, and as they could leave school at 15 if they had work or further training to go to, the story was to get them out the school gate as fast as possible. 

So a full-time farming course like our Dairy Farm Trainee course was ideal.  Many students told me that their teachers said that ‘it would be better for the teacher and the school, if the student left!  So the student couldn’t wait to get out of boredom, and frustration that school was.

Full-time training
It was hard for many 15-16 year-olds who had had a bad experience at school, to realise that they had moved into the adult world where what was expected of them was very different.  I regularly failed to get them to realise that school class behaviour didn’t apply at a Polytech, where we were tutors and shouldn’t be expected to wast time (and their money) on class discipline. I regularly reminded them that they or somebody was paying for their tuition.

But a Polytech full time 6-month course (January till June) for these young folk was ideal, as they could enjoy the social bonding with their peers, at a time of their lives where they matured so quickly in so many ways – before the shock of going to a farm to start the calving.

They came to the Polytech as youths and left as young men and women ready to play their part in the farming world. The two periods of work experience (three weeks each) that students did on Polytech approved farms were invaluable, for students to see what was required of them, and the farmers could provide an accurate assessment for the Polytech about the student on their strengths and weaknesses before full time employment at calving.

Many work experience farmers employed the students they had for work experience, as they were so pleased with them.  The sad thing was the dropout rate when measured 2-3 years later and showed what could only be described as a large exodus.  We had no accurate data on this, as it was hard for the Polytech to keep track if the initial trainees, unless they came back for further advanced courses.  It was from these students that we found out what happened to their classmates and where they had gone.

Living with the boss
This is probably unique to farming. What other jobs do you live 24/7 in close proximity to your employer?  It’s a situation rich in hazards. For the first-time trainee, the student had to eat with the family with meals provided, with their own separate bedroom in the house, or they could have a ‘sleep out’ attached to or near the house.  In some jobs a farm cottage was available as part of the contract (if there was a signed contract which is mandatory).

Depending on the contract the new employee could be faced with the added chores of cooking, laundry and cleaning, and other chores, which parents may not have taught them. One of the things we included on our Dairy Farm Trainee course was how to make a bed, how to sew on a button, and how to prepare some food.

Then there were issues like the choice of music in the house and in the milking shed, and the TV programmes watched.  Later the use of the Internet was the main issue.

The employer’s children could also be a problem for the young worker, where the kids pestered them or the kids’ behaviour caused frustration in the house and the worker could not discipline them in front of the parents.

Who is the boss?
It would seem clear at interview that the boss was ‘him’ on the farm, and ‘her’ in the house.  But after a few ‘domestics’ during milking and other arguments on the farm, that the trainee found out that ‘she’ was in charge of all directions and management decisions, so taking orders could be tricky to avoid getting reprimanded from one or other of the employers. 

Three is a bad combination.  That's why three sheep are used in a dog trial because they split into a 2:1 combination.

So the biggest risk area to avoid conflict is job priorities – the question of which jobs had to be done and in what order?  And whose instructions did the employee follow to avoid conflict?

What will I learn?
This is a key issue for a young person starting work on a farm, as so often despite all the great prospects with a top farm employer, by the end of the season, very little has been learned. In so many cases all the employee gets to do is to milk and then spray weeds between milkings. 

It’s easy for this to happen as the employer finds it easy of letting staff concentrate on what they are good at, and forget about their mental stimulation and ambition to learn as much as possible, so they can climb up the farming ladder and build their CV to move to management in quick time.

I remember one top student who we helped get employment with a local prize-winning sharemilker so he would progress at maximum speed.  I saw his mother and asked how he’d got on.  She was not pleased and said that all he had done was spray weeds and spread Urea on each grazing block when the cows had vacated.

How much time off?
Time off the farm was ‘the’ top priority for the new employee as well as everyone else on the farm, but for a young first-time worker, in some contracts time off was never enough.  One weekend off a month in the contract was the standard, with variations of this to cover calving.  But when you think about this – it’s not all that generous for a young worker away from home for the first time.

Depending on the isolation of the farm, the question was where did you go for a short break?  So many young folk were so tired that they spent most of their time off in bed.

I once asked a class – what was the biggest deficiency on a dairy farm, expecting to hear it was pasture quantity and quality.  Once student was in no doubt – he said it was ‘sleep’ and the whole class of 20 others agreed with him.

Most farms are separated by distances that need a vehicle to get anywhere, and for many the nearest town for a drink and a feed could be at least 30 minutes away.  Then there were the hazards of getting home again, depending on where you had been and what you had been up to when out.

I was often surprised at how many 15-16-year-olds were secretly homesick, but maybe not in these days of social media and Skype.  But then we know the other side of this – getting off the phone to do some work!

Time off for classes
It's critical that first time employees are encouraged to attend classes so they can start on their NZQA Units, and that the employer agrees to help with this and becomes an approved trainer.

Your CV
In the old days when you had to handwrite your CV, this could tell the employer a lot.  But since word processing came in, fancy paper and folders and folk in town who will come and organise your CV for a fee, things are different as a fancy layout can cover up a lot of deficiencies.

It’s still a good idea to add a covering hand-written letter to your CV, but make sure there are no spelling mistakes and it’s neat and tidy.  There is plenty of good information available these days on the Net about preparing a CV. See my blog (

The thing to remember is that an employer could have 10-20 CVs to look through for a top job, and it’s not a daunting task deciding which applicant to call up for interview, as it cost considerable time and money to do this.  More employers now are hiring an agent to sort out a short list for interview.

One student had a trick where he knew the employer would have many applicants and he phoned him to say he was passing the farm soon and could he call in for chat about the job.  He always got the job as he knew that he would save the employer hours of work sorting out who to contact.  Mind you, he was a really top student and has gone on to great heights in the industry.

Memorable student tips for interviews
See my blog (

1.     On the way to an interview, ask at the local garage or shop for directions to the farm, saying that you are going to see about a job.  Carefully note the response you get.
2.     Ask the employer how long the previous workers had stayed.  See if you can be given their contacts.
3.     Ask how long milking takes, as there’s plenty of evidence that shows after an hour and a half, concentration falls and you’ll need some food and drink to boost your energy.  Some workers are milking for four hours twice a day.
4.     And at the interview, check early on if the female boss is signed up with Jenny Craig, because if she is you’ll die of hunger.
5.     If the employer takes you for a farm inspection, make sure you get out of the vehicle and open the gates!
6.     If you have a serious girlfriend or partner, be up front and take her along.
7.     If you’ve been on dope – don’t apply for the job.
8.     Be careful about listing your pastimes, as many bosses see these as demands on farm work time.  But be honest.

March 1, 2016

Farm working dogs in New Zealand. 12. Dog Trials

  By Dr Clive Dalton

Photo of 'Old Hemp' bred in Northumberland (UK) and now has his DNA in dog trial and working dogs around the world.

Dog trials have been part of New Zealand life since the establishment of sheep farming.  The late Neil Rennie’s research found that the first NZ trial was probably held at Wanaka in 1867 although it was not reported in the press. 

However, Neil found a trial reported in the Oamaru Times (now the Oamaru Mail) of July 9, 1869 as the third trial held on June 22-23 at Wanaka.  So these trials certainly outdated what was considered to be the world's first dog trial at Bala in North Wales in 1873!  Neil was always very thrilled with this historical fact!

The first trials were a bit sporadic, and it wasn't until dog trial clubs were formed that regular events took place.  The first trial, which included huntaway events Neil found was at Black Forest station in 1870.

Dog trialing in NZ is controlled by the NZ Sheep Dog Trial Association which is made up of affiliated member clubs with meetings starting with the summer A&P shows and culminating in regional and national finals in about June.  There are shepherds trial and maiden dog trials for the less experienced held throughout the year.

Dog trialing, while still an important way to select top dogs, has through Television become a competitive sport with great public interest.

Entry qualifications for trials
The only qualification for a dog to enter a trial is its ability to work sheep.  Pedigree, colour, age or sex are not important.  Handlers can be of any age and there is no sex discrimination!  Competitors must be the bona fide owner of the dog being run, and should have owned the dog for at least 6 weeks before the competition.

Each trial has its rules of entry. At some you may have to pre-enter some days before with runs pre-scheduled to keep to a strict timetable.  In others you enter on the day but may have to wait till dusk to compete!

Most trial organisations now insist that dogs have a current hydatids treatment certificate

Check the rules
It's very important for competitors to check the rules of the particular SDTA before they start.  You can get them from any Dog Trail Club secretary and are fairly common to all trials.  However, there may be some non-standard events which are displayed at the trial. 

In almost all NZ trials one dog works three sheep.  The running of "doubles" where a shepherd works two dogs or more is a British practice and is only used here for television presentations to provide more entertainment for the viewer. 

Standard classes
There are four main standard classes for trials run under the NZSDTA.

Class 1: - Heading dogs - long head or long pull.
The competitor and dog stands in a ring from 200-500m in diameter, and in a direct line away from where three sheep are set free by a "liberator" or "slipper".  When the judge calls "time" the dog is sent on its "outrun" or "cast".  It should be free-running and the dog should not waver, tack or stop.  Most long-head runs start on a hill and finish on the flat, depending on the trial location.

A pear-shaped outrun is ideal and it can be to the left or right of the handler.  Generally most courses favour a right-hand cast.  A very wide outrun as used in a big paddock is not wanted but it's also important that the dog does not run so direct at the sheep that it panics them and they take flight.

When the dog completes the outrun, it should stop in such a position that when the sheep move, they come in a straight line to the handler.  This is known as "stopping on balance," before the dog "lifts" the sheep or starts them moving.

The dog now executes the "pull" or drive the sheep straight towards the handler.  The sheep should not stop on their journey and the pull is completed when the sheep enter the ring where the handler stands.  This is the "hold" and is "claimed" by the handler standing still with outstretched arms.  After the "claim" the judge will call "right".

To go for the perfect hold the handler moves around the sheep as they enter the ring so the final scene is the sheep facing the dog with the handler behind them. 

The time allocated for this event is usually about 9 - 14 minutes.

Class 2: - Heading dogs - short head and yard

The competitor and dog stand in a pegged quadrangle or "quad".  As in Class 1, the dog makes an outrun and pulls the sheep to the handler, entering the quad between the front markers.  Even if the sheep escape, they must be taken back to enter the quad through "the front door", and the handler cannot leave the quad until this is completed.

Competitor and dog then move the sheep along a pegged 20m-wide lane towards two parallel hurdles.  They cannot stray outside the lane on this "first drive".  The handler can move across "the drive" but shouldn't get ahead of the shoulder of the leading sheep or move backwards.

Points are lost for excessive movement or running, or for the competitor and dog changing sides during the drive.  This first drive ends at a peg in the middle of the lane, 10m away from the hurdles through which the sheep have got to be driven.

After all the sheep have passed the peg, the handler may move about freely to help the dog drive the sheep through the hurdles.  The sheep are now in the "free working area" ready to pass through the hurdles that are 3m apart.  All sheep and the handler must pass through the hurdles.  So if any slip past, they must be brought back.

The "second drive" is similar to the first and ends at a line 10m from the yard.  Once over this line, the competitor can go to the 2m square yard and open the gate until it hits a stop that prevents it opening more than 90 degrees.  Once the hand is on the gate, it cannot be released until the sheep are completely inside the pen.

The gate cannot be used to frighten the sheep and drive them in.  That's the dog's job!  No part of the competitor, including the stick which must be no more than 1m long, is permitted to come forward of the line extending along the gate and out from its head.  Only behind this line can the competitor move about to assist the dog.

The run is completed when the sheep are penned and the gate shut.  The time for this event is usually about 10 - 14 minutes.

Class 3:  Huntaways - Zigzag hunts

For the "zigzag" or "huntaway with slew" the competitor stands at the bottom of the course, usually in a pegged area and facing a steep hill.  Three sheep are liberated at the top of the course and at the call of "time" the trial starts.

The competitor directs the dog to hunt the sheep in a straight line through the first two pegs marked on the course.  The sheep must then change direction or "slew" towards a second set of makers and then proceed to the top markers in line with the first.

The dog must "face-up" to the sheep.  In other words it must bark at the sheep, and not at the handler.

The time for this event is usually around 8 - 10 minutes.

Class 4:  Huntaways - straight hunt

This begins in the same way as the zigzag but the only markers are those at the top of the course.  The sheep have to be hunted directly to the centre of these top markers - in as straight a line as possible.

At some trials, class 3 and 4 are run on the same course, with the two sets of markers being ignored for the straight hunt.

Time allowed for this event is usually about 8 - 10 minutes.

General points
·      The aim of trials is to demonstrate a high level of stock handling and dog control.
·      The challenge is to be able to assess quickly the sheep's strengths and weaknesses.
·      The aim is to direct force at stock from a distance.  The dog must be careful but firm.
·      The first contact of the dog with the sheep is a critical time and must be accomplished with great care.
·      There is no disgrace in not finishing a run.  It's better to withdraw with grace than hound some other person's sheep to injury or exhaustion.
·      Withdrawal is indicated by a wave to the judge or walking off the course.  If you cannot control the sheep, then leave them for the officials to handle.

Judges are all experienced dog trialists who aim to judge each run with impartiality and to a uniform standard.  Judging in nearly all NZ trials is by one judge who takes points off the perfect score of 100.  There are a large number of reasons to deduct points.  Here are some major ones:

·      Not completing the run.
·      A dog that loses concentration and stops to sniff an area or urinate.
·      A huntaway that shows inattention to the sheep, eg looks back and barks at the handler called "barking off the stock".
·      A heading dog that makes a slow outrun without much purpose
·      A heading dog that bites sheep.

Cattle dog trials
Although sheep dogs work cattle, trials to demonstrate this skill have not been popular in New Zealand.

The Stud Book
The NZ Sheepdog Stud Book, in which all dogs that win trials can be entered started in 1940.  It is run by a stud book committee and a registrar. 

Further information
New Zealand Sheep Dog Trail Association, PO Box 307, Hastings, New Zealand.

Further reading
Burns, M and Fraser, M.N. (1966).  Genetics of the Dog.  London: Oliver and Boyd

Dalton, D.C.(1983).  Farm Working Dogs.  Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries AgLink advisory leaflets.  FPP 613, 695, 696, 697, 698,699, 700, 701, 702, 703,704, 775.

Fox, M.W. (1965).   Canine Behaviour. Springfield: C.C. Thomas.

Fox, M.W. (1972).   Understanding Your Dog. New York: Coward. McCann and Geoghegan.

Kelly, R.B. (1958).   Sheep Dogs. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.

Longton, T and Hart, E (1969).   Your Sheep Dog and its Training.  Battle (Sussex):  Alan Exley.

Lorenz, K (1953)   Man Meets Dog.  London:  Penguin Books.

Rennie, N (1984).   Working dogs.  Shortland Publications, Auckland NZ.  96p

Scott. J.P. and Fuller, J.L. (1965).  Genetics and Social Behaviour of the Dog.  Chicago: University of Chicargo Press.

Farm working dogs in New Zealand. 11. The Law and your Dog

-->  By Dr Clive Dalton

The law
Ownership of a working dog carries with it some clearly-defined legal responsibilities under current legislation.  Your main responsibilities are to:

·      Make sure a dog is registered and that the certificate is in a secure place and readily available.
·      Have collars, discs, or tags for all dogs and make sure they wear them at all times.
·      Notify any change of address, either permanent or temporary if you move, or if you sell the dog.
·      Ensure discs or labels are not tampered with.
·      Present all dogs for treatment for hydatids as required.
·      Keep dogs under control at all times.
·      Make certain dogs are well housed.
·      Ensure dogs are well fed.

The dog is also covered under legislation that states that an animal must be provided with adequate food, water, and shelter, and given adequate exercise.  Ill-treating your dog or cruelly ill-treating it is an offence under the law.

All dogs must be registered annually with a "territorial authority" such as a borough council, county council, district council or city council, or a hydatids and dog control authority acting on behalf of these.  All farm dogs over 3 months of age must be registered. 

The fees vary with each territorial authority and some charge lower fees for working dogs and neutered dogs.  You are not allowed to shop round for the cheapest authority - you register your dog where you live! 

Proof of ownership, other than the owner's certificate is the label or disc that the dog should wear at all times.  This shows:
·      The territorial authority where the dog is registered.
·      Year of registration, also shown by the colour of the tag.
·      The dog's ownership number.

New collars can be purchased from the authority.  Old ones can be used provided the current label or tag is firmly attached.  If a collar or disc is lost, you can apply to the authority for a replacement and you'll have to pay for it. 

Remember that if a dog is found without a collar, it will be "deemed as unregistered" until you can prove the contrary.

Selling a dog
When selling a dog, if it's under 3 months of age, there is no obligation to register it before sale.  If you sell the dog when over 3 months of age you must notify the territorial authority in writing within 14 days that the dog has been sold.  There's no fee charged for change of ownership. 

When selling a dog you must:
·      Give the new owner a current treatment certificate showing that the dog has been treated for hydatids in the last 42 days.
·      Provide the authority with the name and address of the new owner and the address where the dog in normally kept.

Buying a dog
If you buy a dog under 3 months of age, the vendor doesn't have to produce a hydatids treatment certificate.  As a new owner you must:

·      Register the dog before it's 3 months old
·      If over 3 months old, get the original owner to provide a certificate to show the dog has been treated for hydatids in the last 42 days.
·      Notify the territorial authority in writing within 14 days of purchase the name of the authority the dog came from.

Moving with your dog
If you move within the same territorial authority, then notify the territorial authority of your address change, in writing, within 14 days .

If you move to a new authority, notify them in writing within 6 weeks of moving where the dog came from.   Then inform the authority you have just left that you've moved, and give them the new address where the dog is kept.  It would pay to do this in writing too.

These two situations are important for stockpersons doing casual work and for those having dogs on trial before purchase.  It's also important for people traveling outside their district to always carry their dogs' hydatids treatment certificate. It should show that treatment has been carried out within the last 42 days.

Control of dogs
This part of the act is important for farm dogs.  It covers the fact that dogs must be kept under control at all times.  If a dog is considered to be out of control, then a number of things can happen.  Important examples are:

·      A Dog Control Officer can impound it.
·      The occupier of the land on which the dog is found can impound it.
·      If the dog is in a public place from which dogs are prohibited, anyone can seize the dog, or arrange for it to be seized and impounded.
·      Anyone can impound a dog (or dogs) if they consider it to be causing distress, annoyance, and damage to property other than the owners.
The occupier of land where a dog causes a nuisance can either return the dog to its owner or hand it over to a Dog Control Officer or Dog Ranger.

Barking dogs
If a barking dog has been reported to a Dog Control Officer or Dog Ranger, and there are reasonable grounds to believe that its barking constitutes a nuisance, an officer or ranger can:

·      Enter the land or premises (other than a dwelling house) at any reasonable time to inspect the conditions under which the dog is kept.

·      Give the owner a written notice requiring him/her to abate the nuisance or remove the dog.  The owner may object within 7 days.

Disqualification from ownership
A territorial authority may apply to a court to disqualify a person from owning a dog if convicted of a range of listed offences in the legislation.

Dogs attacking people or livestock or rushing at vehicles
Anyone who sees a dog attack stock or poultry, or who is themselves attacked, can either seize the dog or destroy it immediately.  Note that police dogs are exempt!  Once you have seized the dog, you must hand it over to its owner or to a Dog Control Officer or Ranger.

If you cannot catch the dog, you may call a police officer who can shoot it.  It need not be caught in the act for this to happen, but the office must have reasonable ground for believing the attacks took place.

The police officer is empowered to destroy the dog only if he/she is unable to seize it.

Dangerous dogs at large
It is an offence for owners of a dangerous dog to have it at large without a suitable muzzle.  A "dangerous dog" is one that has attacked people, stock, poultry or property of any kind.  If you keep it in a vehicle or cage, then this is acceptable.

Destroying dangerous dogs
A court can order the owner of a dangerous dog either to keep it under proper restraint or make an order for it to be destroyed.

Seizure or destruction of a dog found at large among livestock
If a dog is found running at large among livestock or poultry, the owner may either seize a dog or destroy it.  Owners can also request their "agent", a constable, a Dog Control Officer or Ranger to do this on their behalf.

If seized the dog must be returned to its owner or delivered into the custody of a Dog Control Officer or Ranger.

Dogs seen worrying livestock
If a dog has been seen worrying livestock of poultry, the owner may make a complaint to the District Court.  The court as a result may make an order of restraint or an order to destroy the dog.

Liability of the owner for damage
The owner of a dog is liable for all damage done by the animal.

Dog control bylaws
A territorial authority can make bylaws for a range of purposes.  Those of interest to farm dog owners are:

·      Prescribing minimum standards for accommodation of dogs.
·      Limiting the number of dogs kept on land or premises.
·      Requiring dogs to be tied up during the hours of darkness.
·      Requiring owners to remove faeces left in public places or other people's land.
·      Requiring a bitch to be confined but given adequate exercise.
·      Impounding dogs found at large.

Wounding of dogs
If you wound a dog while trying to shoot it, you are under no criminal or civil liability for injury to the dog or for its death.  However, it's incumbent on you to take all reasonable steps to terminate the animal's suffering.

Offences relating to offal and untreated meat
It is an offence to:
·      Own a dog infected with hydatids or that has been infected twice in the last 12 months.  Your only defence will be to show you took all reasonable steps to prevent the second infection.
·      Feed a dog raw offal or raw sheep or goat meat.
·      Sell offal or untreated sheep or goat meat for feeding to dogs.
·      Leave the carcasses of any sheep, cattle, horse, deer, goat or swine to lie in the open accessible to dogs.

Farm working Dogs in New Zealand. 10. Practical Feeding

By Dr Clive Dalton

Old  dogs need special care after many years of loyal service
 Balanced feeding
Dogs need a balanced diet, which has everything in it to meet their needs for maintenance and production.

What does a dog need for maintenance?
Table below has a mass of information on the energy and protein that a dog needs.  First, look at the layout. 

  Note these features:
·      There is information for three weights of dogs.
·      The maintenance needs per weight of dog are shown in kcal of energy and in grams of protein.  So a small dog (15kg) needs 1005kcal of energy and 72g of protein each day to sustain its body functions.
·      There is a range of diets in the left column and their energy and protein contents are shown beside them.
·      Look back in the column for each weight of dog and you can see how much of that diet to feed and how near that quantity comes to meet the maintenance needs.

For example: 450 g of meat will provide 900 kcal of energy and 81g of protein.  This is 105 kcals of energy too little, and 9g of protein too much.  It's "near enough" you could say.

What about 'production' (working)  needs?
Here you have to provide feed over and above maintenance.  See Table below which shows the number of times you multiply the maintenance feeds by to meet the dog’s nutritional needs.

Dogs in work
Light exercise                 1.5 x M
Medium exercise            2.0 x M
Heavy exercise            2.5 x M

Late pregnancy            2.5 x M
Early lactation              3.0 x M

Up to 7 weeks                  2.0 x M
7-9 weeks                        3.0 x M
9 weeks onwards            decrease to adult levels

Calcium and phosphorus
The Calcium and Phosphorus daily needs for a dog are shown in table below.

The table shows when supplements are needed for that range of diets.  If you need to add Ca or P, how much do you provide - the answer is in table 4, using the most readily available sources of dicalcium phosphate or bonemeal, and calcium carbonate.

Minerals and vitamins
Look at table below to see which type of diet is likely to be short of minerals and vitamins.

Note that the all-meat diet is short of all those listed so has serious implications for health.   Note also that vitamins D and E are going to be short in all the diets.

The all-meat diet
So many farmers will tell you that an all-meat diet is ideal for a working dog and they'll back their opinion with a lifetime's experience of feeding meat.  They point out that dogs are carnivores so meat is their natural diet.

These opinions are flawed!  But there are hundreds of farmers who won't accept these basic facts and nutritionists are regularly criticised for their ignorance of real life on a farm.  Owners also argue that commercially available diets are too expensive and there are plenty of cull stock to eat up which have little market value.  Again, remember my first question of what is a dog worth to your business.

There are all sorts of problems with all-meat diets for working dogs, and they require substantial supplementation with minerals like calcium, phosphorus and iodine, as well as vitamins.  Dogs on these so-called all-meat diets are in fact supplementing them by scavenging.  They are eating dung, carrion and goodness knows what else.  They maybe look all right but are not being kept at peak fitness, which a balanced diet allows.  Skinny underweight dogs are unhealthy and are even more prone to parasite attack.

The second common error is thinking that adding milk will balance an all-meat diet.  This is not true either. 

Bones with a red tinge of meat on them provide very little nutrients.  Bones are good dental exercise - and that's about all.  They do contain some calcium and phosphorus but it's better to supply these important minerals in other more digestible forms if needed. 

How long was the meat frozen?
This is a concern on farms where there are many shepherds using meat out of the same freezer.   There are no problems if the meat is cut up, bagged and dated, but so often this doesn't happen and you don't know how long the meat has been frozen.  If you mark on plastic bags remember the ink may come off or be hard to read when iced over.  Tie-on labels are always readable.

The rule of holding meat at minus 10 degrees C for 7 days is a MINIMUM.   Please note well this point.   And it's important to make sure the meat is at minus 10 right at the centre.  As many old freezers are used for dog meat, they sometimes are not at peak efficiency.  If you have any concerns, get your Dog Control Officer to check the freezer.

Big bags of mince for example will take much longer than 7 days to get to minus 10 C in the middle so they are not treated properly.

The key is to have a system that rotates the meat, and that everyone involved in using the meat understands it.  If you buy low-grade carcasses from a meatworks, make sure they have been held at the correct temperature and for the correct time.  The same would apply to local abattoir meat.

All meat sold at licensed pet food shops must meet the requirements of the Hydatids Act, so you can buy there with confidence.

Thawing frozen meat
Imagine working hard all day and getting a frozen joint to chew at all night.   What a great reward from a grateful boss!   This happens to many dogs when things are busy and the planning breaks down.  Allow at least a day for meat to thaw out and in winter it may take 2-3 days.  So allow plenty of time for this.

And remember – the juices that flow from frozen meat contain important vitamins and minerals that the dog should have.  The chore of catching the juice and returning it to the meat just shows impractical all-meat feeding is.

Cooking sheep and goat meat for dogs  

Do NOT feed any fresh sheep or goat meats to dogs, to prevent the spread of sheep measles.  Cooked meat must be brought to the boil and then left for a minimum of 30 minutes, and probably more like an hour.  If there is still blood showing at the end of the cooking time, then boil it a little longer.

Cooking offal and sheep and goat meat
This is a messy time-consuming business, even when proper facilities with modern electric cookers and time switches are available.  Although the law allows the feeding of correctly cooked offal, you would be wise to forget the idea.  

With so many good dog feeds available these days, it’s unwise to feed cooked offal to dogs.   If you think that feeding cooked offal produces a cheap dog feed, then you should do your sums again.  The true costs and the risks make it a poor alternative feed for dogs.

The risks of inadequate cooking are high because cooking time can vary depending on many things.  As a general rule, 1.5 to 2 hours is needed.  If there is still blood showing at the end of cooking time, then the meat needs some more treatment.

Feeding other meats
Meat from cattle, horses, deer, rabbits, pigs and possums can be fed raw to dogs without risk of infection from sheep measles.  However, it would be unwise to feed raw possum in areas where there is a risk of Tb which dogs could pick up.

Other dietary problems
There are a few problems such as bad breath, anal gland infection and bad teeth which can all arise as a result of feeding.  Check them out with your veterinarian.