Assessing current feeding practices of farmers and energy requirements of working farm dogs in New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Animal Science at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Working farm dogs in New Zealand (NZ) where studied in this thesis, and were found to usually be fed once a day on a diet consisting of 50% TUX Energy biscuits and 50% homekill (50:50). Diet composition does not change between peak and off-peak work periods. Instead the amount fed changes, with dogs fed more during peak periods. The digestibility of the average diet of the working dog is high and working farm dogs fed 50:50 or 100% homekill meets all energy and minimum nutrient requirements, including essential amino acids, calcium and phosphorus as set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The calcium: phosphorus ratios were high in both diets (1.85:1 in 100% homekill and 1.93:1 in 50:50). However, these minimum requirements are defined for the household pet dog and may not fulfil the requirements of working farm dogs.
Actical® activity monitors were calibrated with doubly labelled water to estimate activity associated energy expenditure in the dog. A constraint of this study of the weight range and number of dogs used and may only be useful for dogs weighing between 18 and 26 kg. However, when using activity monitors, the basal metabolic rate (BMR) has to be estimated.
The mean energy requirements for Heading dogs and Huntaways were different between peak and off-peak periods, with dogs requiring more energy from their diets during peak periods. Global positioning systems were used to measure the distances covered by farm dogs in this study (10 ± 0.7 km/d during off-peak periods and 20 ± 1.3 km/d during peak periods), with these results similar to distances that sled dogs cover while training (Grandjean and Paragon, 1993a), and they are also similar to data obtained from Australian cattle dogs.
Currently there are no nutritional guidelines which state the requirements of a working dog, and the findings from this work show that the farm dogs in NZ may not be receiving the energy required for work from their current diet.