American farmers have many tools that help enrich them with advancements and improvements, but for many farmers and ranchers, they are lost without their furry, four-legged farm hands. A farm dog’s purpose is to provide companionship, protection, and a helping hand for its owner. Their diligence and reliability greatly contribute to making sure farmers are safely putting food on our plates. Farm dogs have been contributing to farmers’ success for centuries.
Each year, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) hosts the Farm Dog of the Year contest. The 2021 AFBF Farm Dog of the Year was an Australian Shepherd named Bindi. Bindi is a cattle dog on a dairy farm who nearly saved her owner’s life not long ago when she was pinned against the head gates while sorting heifers. If it weren’t for Bindi, her owner would have been severely injured that day in the cattle pen. This is just one of many stories that show how significant these canine companions are to the agriculture industry.
I remember as a young girl, one of my favorite things to do at Grandma and Grandpa’s house was get up before the sun, make Pa a scrambled egg, and head out to feed cattle. We would ride on the John Deere gator, and if I got lucky, Pa would let me drive. But as we were never alone when we tackled the morning chores, because every time, there sat Meg – Pa’s Australian shepherd. She would wag her tail and jump up between me and Pa on the gator, just as excited as I was to go see the cattle. Wherever Pa was, I always knew Meg wasn’t far behind. Even though things are different now, their relationship is the exact same.
When Pa was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2019, his health quickly declined. He had no choice but to sell the cattle and rent the land. Although Pa’s diagnosis forced Meg into early retirement from her days as a farm dog, she hasn’t stopped supporting her best friend. She still sits right by his side, wagging her tail, just simply joyful to be with him. Grandpa doesn’t have much control over his hands these days, but Meg often steps in and lets him rest them on her back. She may not have the duty of running cattle anymore, but her new role is just as important, and she understands that.
Missouri Farm Bureau members are encouraged to celebrate their own farm dog by nominating their four-legged farmhand to be the 2022 AFBF Farm Dog of the Year. The grand prize winner takes home a year’s worth of dog food from Missouri-based Purina and $5,000 in prize money. Applications close July 2 and can be found by visiting AFBF’s website – fb.org.
Farm dogs are lifelong friends, companions, and workers to all of their owners. Though their role may change over time, they never stop being a farmer’s best friend!