Unprecedented trade for field-run entries at Skipton Auction Mart’s autumn sale of working sheep dogs produced a top call of 9,500gns (£9,975) for a Co Antrim dog with impeccable bloodlines, a second top price of 6,000gns for another Irish-bred bitch, three sales topping 5,000gns, four above 4,000gns, five exceeding 3,000gns and a further 18 at 2,000gns-plus.
It was the most successful day ever at the UK’s leading working dog sales venue, which achieved record turnover and an all-time record average for broken registered dogs and bitches of £2.694.
Moreover, the overall average of £3,294 for the 26 broken registered bitches sold was the first time an individual section had averaged over £3,000.
The sale attracted another three-figure turnout of 120 dogs – 78 fully broken and 42 in the unbroken pen - from all parts of the UK and Ireland.
Buyers, too, came from near and far, with unprecedented interest from overseas customers. While some heady prices were witnessed for the top end among the quality entry, many other broken dogs were successfully sold at under 1,000gns up to 2,000gns, as the seasonal fixture once again provided a ready supply of dogs and bitches all day to suit any type of work without purchasers having to dig too deep.
Working dogs don’t come with much better breeding credentials than the day’s leading 9,500gns performer, a 20-month-old black and white bitch, Flo, from top Irish triallist Michael Gallagher, of Armoy in County Antrim.
His only entry on the day, Flo is by Littledale-based Ricky Hutchinson’s celebrated International Reserve Supreme Champion Sweep, who has bred multiple trial winners across the globe, out of fellow County Antrim handler Chris McNaughton’s Mist, also the dam of Val, a finalist as a two-year-old in the hands of Mr Gallagher in this year’s World Sheep Dog Trials, staged in the Netherlands in July.
Mist is herself by the legendary trials dog, Sid, bred in County Donegal by James McGee, of Glencregg Sheepdogs in Creggan, Ballybofey, out of another Flo, who finished third for Mr Gallagher in the 2015 Supreme, and is herself a daughter of Cap, the Irish handler’s 2010 International Supreme Champion.
Trained to nursery standard, Flo will follow this path in this year’s trials with her new owner, Scottish Highlands sheep farmer and regular Skipton buyer Jock Sutherland, of Sangormore, Durness, about as far north as you can get on the mainland and a 1,000-mile round trip to and from the North Yorkshire venue.
Flo will also go to work on Mr Sutherland’s North Country Cheviot sheep flock.
“Michael is one of the top handlers and always produces good quality dogs. I’d seen Flo on YouTube and was very impressed, so came down in the hope of getting her,” said Mr Sutherland, who around a decade ago represented the Scottish trials team and is set to make a welcome return to the trials field.
Also taking credit for the top price performer was Mr Gallagher’s American-born fiancée, Tierney Graham. She, too, runs dogs and the couple first met when her husband-to-be, who had a two-year and highly successful trialling stint across the Pond several years ago, was among the judges in the US National, in which Tierney, then living in Seattle, Washington, was competing. She has since joined Michael in Ireland and the dog-loving duo make a formidable team.
Ireland was also responsible for the second top price 6,000gns dog, Floss, a three-year-old black and white bitch from Colm Doherty of Tirbracken in Londonderry, who has already proved herself on the trials field, finishing third in the North of Ireland nursery final, along with open placings.
Floss is by James McLaughlin’s Dan (Ben), twice Irish National champion, Supreme runner-up and also winner of “One Man and His Dog,’ out of Queen, who is owned by Mr Doherty’s brother, Paul Doherty, of County Donegal. Floss will go to work with her new owners on a North Yorkshire sheep farm.
Earlier in the day, Colm Doherty achieved 4,000gns with another well-bred daughter of Queen, the tri-coloured four-year-old Roy, who also finished third in the North of Ireland nursery final in his year, with further open wins and placings to his credit. Another classy son of James McGee’s Sid, the dog found a new home in Scotland when claimed by Kevin MacKinnon, farm manager on the Luss Estate in Arnburn Arden, Argyll.
Three dogs made a rock solid 5,400gns. First up early on and making an impact for South Wales was Simon Wayman, of Tonteg, near Pontypridd, with his two-year-old black and white dog, Moel Dan, described by the handler, who has been training dogs for 41 years, as “almost human.”
Dan was bred out of Glan y Gors Jen, from Ceri Rundle, herself a well-known triallist, having been the first-ever lady to qualify for the Welsh National Team, the first to appear on One Man and His Dog and the first lady to be elected on to the Panel of National Judges for Wales.
Now semi-retired, Mr Wayman’s charge – he was selling the dog on behalf of his young son Harry – returned to her breeder Ceri, who also owns and runs CSJ Specialist Canine Foods at Bwlch Isaf Farm in Bodfari, Denbighshire. She established the business in 1998 and it has since become one of the fastest growing dog food brands.
Now having more time on her hands, Ceri, whose father H Glyn Jones is a former International Supreme and Reserve Supreme Champion, will be making a welcome return to the trials arena with Dan. “The pressure’s on now,” she commented.
Mr Wayman also sold a 12-month-old home-bred black and white bitch, Page, for 2,900gns to J Mitchell & Son, of Newton Stewart in Dumfries and Galloway,
Also hitting 5,400gns was Scottish farmer Dean Aitken, who breeds Texel and Beltex-cross and Scottish Blackface sheep at Uppercleuch Farm, Lockerbie, with his highly promising two-year-old black and white bitch, Meg, by North Wales breeder John Lightfoot’s Cap, out of Tweeddale Belle, from Lancashire’s Tom Riley, who bought Belle as a pup from Mr Aitken.
Meg returned north of the border to near Dumfries with a first-time buyer at Skipton, Malcolm Forster, who also keeps Scottish Blackface sheep, along with Galloway and Jersey cattle. She will be used both as a work and trials dog by Mr Forster, who qualified for the Scottish nursery final this year after making a welcome return to the trials arena after a 20-year break.
The third 5,400gns price fell to a 20-month-old black and white bitch, Jet, from North County Dublin’s Brian White and Aoife Smith, now familiar faces at Skipton. Again by Ricky Hutchinson’s acclaimed Sweep, out of the breeders’ own Malta Gwen, Jet flew away to Weardale farmer Glyn Gascoigne and has already gone to work on his Swaledale and Mule sheep flocks, and Limousin cattle herd.
Mr White returned to the trials field late in the day to achieve another solid selling price of 4,000gns with an 18-month-old tri-coloured dog, Malta Mac, bred by Carlaine Thom, of Malta Border Collies in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, being by her Malta Chip, out of Meg. Mac returned to his place of origin when reclaimed by the Thom family.
Another vendor from North Wales, Brynley Williams, of Holywell in Flintshire, achieved his highest-ever sale price of 4,800gns with his 18-month-old black and white dog, Tyke, by another Ricky Hutchinson star, Jock, the 2017 International winner, out of Meg, bred in Lancashire by Chris Taylor. Tyke fell to an Irish buyer.
Flying the flag for the ladies with several well-sold dogs was County Durham’s Jean Howes, of Redgate Lodge, Wolsingham, in Weardale. First up was her three-year-old home-bred black and white bitch, Herdmans Sally, out of her own Redgate Nell, which fell for 4,200gns to BM Baker, of Edgworth, Bolton.
Mrs Howes returned to claim 3,200gns with a two-year-old home-bred black and white bitch, Redgate Dot, by her father Bill Skidmore’s Star, out of the breeder’s own Bryn Derw Jill, The buyers were MD&E Campbell, from the Isle of Tiree in Argyllshire.
Mrs Howes also made her mark when jointly heading the selling prices at 900gns in the unbroken pen with Redgate Joy, a tri-coloured pup not yet five-months-old and another home-bred out of Redgate Becky. The youngster sold locally to Draughton’s Joe Throup.
North Craven’s Shaun Richards, of Pen-y-Borough Sheep Dogs in Eldroth, above Settle, who regularly sells high price dogs at Skipton, achieved the day’s top call for a dog under 12 months when selling his November, 2016-born black and white bitch, Jess, for 4,100gns.
She is by well-known Welsh handler and runner-up in this year’s World Sheep Dog Trials Kevin Evans’ Derwen Doug, himself a son of Tan Hill Glen, a top UK trials dog exported to America, out of fellow Welsh breeder Trevor Morgan’s Molly.
Trained by Mr Richards at his home at the foot of Pen-y-Ghent, Jess found a new home at the foot of the Austrian Alps with Robert Eder, who runs a small flock of mountain sheep at Kohlschnait, Neiderhof, near the ski resort of Zel am See.
Mr Eder flew over specially from Austria to make his first Skipton purchase and as well as putting Jess to work on his sheep will also use her for sheep dog demonstrations at the Eder family’s multi-facility holiday venue, which also incorporates the Berggasthoff Restaurant and Brewery and a 3km long toboggan run.
Other field-run dogs selling at between 3,000 and 4,000gns were:
3,600gns – Spot, January, 2016, black and white bitch from County Antrim’s Jake Hamilton.
3,300gns – Straid Caster, 21-month-old black and white bitch from David Young, of New Cumnock in East Ayrshire.
3,200gns – Burndale Jet, 11-month-old black and white bitch from John Bell, of Frosterley, Bishop Auckland.
3,200gns – Sali, March, 2015, tri-coloured bitch from Emrys Jones, of Sarn-Faen Farm, Tal y Bont, Gwynedd.
In the broken dog field, from an entry of 58 sold six made less that 1,000gns, 18 made 1,001-2,000gns and a further 18 2,001-3,000gns, clearly illustrating the diversity on offer to cater for all tastes and pockets.
Back in the pup pen, Pat Byrne, of Knockcroghery in County Roscommon, again did well when achieving joint top price of 900gns with his three-month-old black and white bitch, Love, which found a new home in North Devon with Chulmleigh’s Ray Edwards.
Sale prices and averages were: Broken section - 29 registered dogs from 800gns to 5,400gns (av £2,157), 26 registered bitches from 775gns to 9,500gn (av £3,294), 1 unregistered dog 1,000gns, 2 unregistered bitches from 950gns to 1,050gns (av £1,050).
Unbroken section – 15 registered dogs from 150gns to 650gns (av £439), 10 registered bitches from 500gns to 950gns (av £736), 4 unregistered dogs from 100gns to 300gns (av £205), 1 unregistered bitch 280gns. Working dog sales return to Skipton for the 2018 opener next February.