The father and son take a break from crutching ewes on their family farm in Wendon Valley to talk to Shawn McAvinue about how the farm your work on plays a major part in producing top dogs and winning titles.
The tussock-covered hills of a Southland sheep farm are being given credit for a family’s success in dog trials.
For most of his life, Tom Dickison was apathetic towards dog trials despite his dad Brian being a seasoned campaigner in the sport.
"I wasn’t really interested in the sport until now," Tom said.
The 29-year-old decided to give the sport a go after his father was selected to represent New Zealand in the 2023 Transtasman Test Series in Ashburton in October last year.
"I thought instead of just watching, I’d take a couple of dogs and compete," Tom said.
Brian said he got the first inkling his son was interested in the sport after being away from the 850ha family farm Hillcrest in Wendon Valley, north of Gore.
When he asked Tom why the sheep were dopey, he was told it was because he had worked them in the training paddock.
"When I was away he was having a bit of practice up," Brian said.
A succession plan was unfolding for Tom and his partner Steph Lysaght to run Hillcrest.
Brian had moved to Waikaia.
"I’m sort of semi-retired but seem to be working harder than ever," Brian said with a laugh.
Another reason was the training for the sport helped in the day-to-day work on the farm.
A good pack of dogs was needed to work sheep on Hillcrest, Brian said.
"You can’t work the farm without good dogs."
The hilly terrain of Hillcrest was a great place to produce top trial dogs.
Tom is the third generation to run Hillcrest.
Before the Dickison family owned Hillcrest, the previous owner had won national titles in the sport in the 1930s, Brian said.
"It is the farm that makes the dogs."
"My dogs are only as good as they are because of this place — they have to be — and that leads to success."
The father and son both had success at the Tux New Zealand Yarding Challenge at Springbank Farm in South Canterbury earlier this month.
Tom and his dog Husky won the national maiden yarding title at the event.
Coincidentally, the title Tom won, his partner’s grandfather Des Lysaght won three times.
In the same competition, Brian and his dog Cole were runners-up in the New Zealand open yarding title.
Brian and Cole won a national title in the long head at the New Zealand Sheep Dog Trial Championships in Greenvale in 2021.
All of the winning dogs were bred on Hillcrest.
At the South Canterbury event earlier this month, Tom won the maiden South Island final with 3-year-old dog Husky and placed second with 11-year-old dog Sam.
To find the winner of the national maiden title in South Canterbury, the South Island winner went head-to-head with the winner of the North Island, Heather McGrannachan and dog Radar.
"It was a close battle - there was only one point in it," Tom said.
A toss of a coin decided McGrannachan would compete second.
She had a great run until she missed penning the sheep, which was the difference between them, Tom said.
"I was holding my breath in that moment."
All of the sheep on Hillcrest were Perendales and it had been busy recently weaning lambs and crutching ewes.
Before returning to Hillcrest, Tom studied at Lincoln University before shepherding in the South including two years at Earnscleugh Station near Alexandra.
"I had a good team of dogs going from there."
Brian said Tom broke Husky in and was a natural stockman and could handle pressure, which would take him far in the sport.
"There is more to come."