Animal lobby groups across the state are worried the drought might be increasing the homelessness of working dogs.
Australian Working Dog Rescue and Herd2Home have registered a substantial increase in dogs delivered to their agencies in NSW and Queensland since January.
At Wagga’s recent working dog auction, one pup has been known to fetch upwards of $10,000.
It has left kelpie trainer Steve Condell not surprised of the incentive to sell.
But, he remains unconvinced that it will present anything more than a short term strategy.
“It’s a feasible decision to sell some working dogs, especially if a farmer has an excess,” said Mr Condell.
“If the prices weren’t there, they’d keep them.”
An average trained working dog might see a bid of between $5,000-$8,000. An above average dog might raise up to $10,000 but an exceptional pedigree could go for between $15,000-$20,000.
“Every year that has increased at the Wagga sale,” said Mr Condell.
“Twenty years ago they’d be averaging $400 to $500, now the average is about $3,000 to $4,000.”
In that time, the volume of dogs for sale has fluctuated.
On average, it has been steady around 20, but at times it has reached up to 60 dogs in the sale catalog.
“I see it in the clinics, the dogs we have these days, they have better skills,” said Mr Condell.
“The days of having five or six dogs are gone. One or two can do the job for a whole lot less.”
Coupled with the record prices Wagga has seen recently at its livestock sales, a farmer could stand to receive a hefty payday for just their animals.
But Mr Condell does not expect to see the sales increase astronomically over the next year.
“Most farmers who have a good working dog will know the value of it,” he said.
“A very good dog is not common. They might be struggling now, they might have sold their sheep but if they have plans to buy more in the coming years, they will need that dog again.
Nevertheless, for many farmers the decision is not so simple. Without stock to drive, a working dog is just a pet.
“In rare cases if they’ve sold all their sheep it might be cruel to keep the dog. They’re a working dog and they need to work.
“There is always work for a dog on a farm, even if they’re not moving livestock across the paddock. To contractors, to a truck driver that dog is like a mechanic’s toolbox.
“You can’t do the job without it, and as the old saying goes, a good dog is worth 10 men.”