Otago sheepdog trial adds drones to competition

The annual central Otago sheepdog trials always attract dogs and their handlers from all over the countryside.

But the 106-year-old event now has a completely new kind of competitor.

It's time for the annual Lowburn Collie Club Trials and there are all the usual suspects, with the trusted huntaway dog rounding up the mob.

But this year there's also a new entrant to the competition - it doesn't bark and it's got no bite.

Drones are becoming a more commonly used tool on farms, from checking water troughs and crops to helping muster stock.

This year the Lowburn Collie Club decided to give farmers a chance to put their drone mustering skills to the test.

"It's basically a competition to see [them] get the sheep through the flags up the hill with a drone," says Lowburn Collie Club secretary Pru Heaney.

Tony Buchanan is a high country musterer - usually with a team of five dogs at his side. But recently he bought a drone.

"I never thought I'd use one because I've never played Space Invaders and I'm no good on computers but after a wee while I learnt how to use it and it's been the best thing I ever bought," he says.

Buchanan says drones are good for mustering cattle and can save him from walking for hours to check remote and rugged paddocks.

But it's not all bad news for the faithful huntaway.

"Definitely the trusty old dog is never going to lose its place on the farm, that's for sure," Heaney says. "It's just another way of doing things."