Landmark Equine have confirmed water buffalo will replace cattle during pre-work and potentially sale demonstrations at next year's Landmark Classic in Tamworth as a result of the struggle to find livestock in the current dry season.
About 60 to 70 weaner steers and spayed heifers weighing 200 kilograms were selected from Katherine, Northern Territory, and are currently being spelled at Mt Isa, Queensland, before resting again at Blackall and arriving at the Nebo property of leading campdrafter Pete Comiskey.
Mr Comiskey, who has experience working with water buffalo, will educate and train the young stock for about 10 weeks before they are used at the event from February 1 to 9. Those working the animals in the back yards will also visit Mr Comiskey and learn how best to handle the buffalo, which will be under a water sprinkler set up in Tamworth to reflect their natural environment.
The entire Landmark Classic requires about 3500 head of cattle, with about 1300 of those used for pre-work and sale demonstrations alone.
This year's sale is yet again over subscribed with around 640 horses on offer, but with the pressure of the season, Landmark's Mark Barton said they faced the prospect of offering horses without any access to livestock.
"People that have had experience with trained water buffalo believe we can provide the same opportunity to showcase those horses on around 60 to 70 buffalo we are hoping we will do the same job that 1200 to 1300 cattle would do previously," he said.
"It's a bit of a leap of faith but if there is a year to try it, I think our clients agree, it's sound logic this year that we don't really have another option so we are going to give these guys a go.
"We picked two decks out of a run of 250 odd weaners and what we were looking for was probably not the quietest ones or the toey ones but a suitable temperament to do what we want. "
Cattle will be used for the other events sourced from regular donors but Mr Barton said they would seek feedback from clients around the future use of water buffalo.
"If they work as well as we hope they will we will consider adopting this as an annual part of our program," he said.
"Ten or 15 years ago you would never sell quarter horses and stock horses in the same sale and no one had ever pre-worked horses before and sold them with access to cattle. Someone said, do you think you can pull it off? We have done things like this before where we have tried something new."
Sale horses will be able to work on the water buffalo prior to the pre-works to ensure no one is at a disadvantage.
The animals are also advertised for sale, with delivery after the completion of the event. About 12 head will be held for an auction at the sale.
Mr Barton said a number of his clients had already sought interest and would use the animals for training and in some cases as pets.
Water buffalo breeders in NSW have commented to The Land that campdrafters often found water buffalo more athletic than bison or an ordinary cow.