One of the most successful working sheep dog sales ever staged at Skipton Auction Mart produced a record catalogue entry for the autumn fixture of 163, a top price of 7,600gns (£7,980), a brace of 6,000gns-plus sales, eight at 4,000gns and over, a centre record average of £2,910 for broken registered dogs, plus the second highest ever price in the unbroken pen of 2,450gns.
Yet, despite some heady prices there were once again plenty of opportunities for potential buyers to pick from a good cross-section of affordable dogs - both solid broken entries for work and up-and-coming youngsters to further bring on and run in trials.
A total of 15 dogs sold up to 1,500gns, six more making 1,500-2,000gns, a further 18 selling at 2,000-3,000gns, with nine others selling up to 4,000gns.
Vendors at the UK’s leading working sheep dog sale venue again came from across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, plus one from Belgium, many again making good use ahead of the sale to promote their dogs widely via facebook and youtube
Top dog on price at 7,600gns was Welshman Ross Games, from Talgarth in southern Powys, with his fully home-bred August, 2018, black and white dog, Bill, by Caefelin Clem, acquired from fellow Welsh breeder Maxy Edwards, out of Nel, bred by Mr Games’ father, Danny.
Bill found a new home with a Scottish Highlands farmer who requested anonymity. It was the highest price ever achieved at an official sale by Mr Games, who works as agricultural contractor and sheep shearer. He is also a well-known trialist, having qualified as a member of the Welsh national team for the 2020 World Sheep Dog Trials to be held next September at Castle Howard Estate, near York.
Also claiming his highest ever Skipton price of 6,800gns was a regular Irish vendor of quality broken dogs, former National Hunt jockey Michael McAlister, of Glenariffe in County Antrim, with his March, 2018, tri-coloured dog, Nap, acquired unbroken eight months ago from fellow Irish handler Jake Hamilton.
By Brendan McAllister’s much-acclaimed Spot, out of Eamon McAuley’s Jill, Nap has since made great strides in the capable hands of Mr McAlister, winning an intermediate trial in Ireland and finishing in the top five in both his nursery trials.
The dog returned to Ireland and County Londonderry with Limavady’s Wilton Goligher, who was also represented on the trials field with a well-bred four-year-old tri-coloured dog, Gyp, a son of James McGee’s famous Seth (Sid), which made 3,100gns when claimed by County Tyrone’s Aidan Ward.
Welsh handler, Ceredigion’s Dewi Jenkins, of Tal-y-bont, Aberystwyth, who continues to produce some of the most sought-after and best-sold working sheep dogs in Britain, was again among the frontrunners when selling a brace of dogs for a combined 11,100gns.
Doing best at 6,500gns was his 18-month-old red and white bitch, Graylees Dollar, bred in Northumberland by Bellingham-based Michelle Anderson’s Red, out of near neighbour Emma Gray’s Glan y Gors Peg. Emma, who farms near Morpeth, hit the headlines at Skipton in February when establishing a new world record price for a working sheep dog bitch at an official sale of 14,000gns.
At Skipton’s Spring sale in May this year, Mr Jenkins also sold a full sister to Dollar for top call of 8,500gns, his highest ever at the North Yorkshire venue. His latest offering from the same litter found a new home in the Scottish Borders with Jedburgh’s Frank Hickson.
Also selling well at 4,600gns for the Welsh handler - and to Kim Barker, a phone bidder from Pennsylvania in the United States - was his 14-month-old black, white and mottled dog, Tynygraig Mac, the first to be sold by Mr Jenkins’ new main stud dog, Jock, bred in Mid-Wales by Martha Morgan, from a litter out of his own Malta Jess
The three-year-old Jock, who has back breeding to Mr Jenkins’ former top-notch stud dog, Moss, is already making an impact in the trials arena, the duo winning the 2018 North Wales Sheep Dog Society Singles Championship. They will also represent Wales – Mr Jenkins is team captain – at next year’s World Sheep Dog Trials.
Another Welsh handler selling a brace of dogs for a combined 9,000gns was Brynley Williams, of Holywell in Flintshire. Doing best at 4,900gns was his May, 2018, black and white dog, Foxbridge Dale, by Ace, one of many classy performers for well-known Welsh trialist Kevin Evans, out of DW Edwards Tanhill Lilly, with whom Mr Williams has himself done well on the trials field. Dale was claimed by a regular buyer from Northern Ireland, Seamus Gormley, of Kilcreen Sheep Dog Centre in Claudy, Co Derry.
Mr Williams also set the early pace in the sale when achieving 4,100gns with a second May, 2018-born black, white and mottled bitch, Madog Nel, by Gary Lewis’s Sam, out of C Pritchard’s Groesfaen Fern. It caught the eye of Kevin Evans, who is based at Modrydd, Brecon in Powys,
The same buyer, a familiar face at Skipton, also went to 4,400gns to claim Nell, a November, 2017, black and white bitch from Irishman Willie Torrens, of Killen, Castlederg, in Co Tyrone. Fully home-bred in Ireland by Pat Byrne’s Moss, out of Gem, the granddaughter of Ricky Hutchinson’s legendary trials dog, Sweep, had finished fourth in a recent nursery trial.
Another Northern Irishman making the trip over well worthwhile when achieving a 4,600gns sale was John Kinney, of Ballycastle in County Antrim, with his July, 2018, tri and mottled dog, Shilo, by DR Wood’s Blue, out of AJ McKeegan’s Meg.
It fell to Scottish buyer J Thompson, from Thornhill in Dumfries and Galloway, who also went to 3,600gns to claim a well-bred older dog related to multiple high profile trials winners, the five-year-old tri-coloured bitch, Nell, from Colm Doherty, of Tromaty in County Donegal.
Skipton regular Emrys Jones, of Tal y Bont, Gwynedd, in the Snowdonia National Park, had a satisfying and rewarding day, first claiming 4,100gns with a field-run bitch and later selling one of her sons for the second highest-ever Skipton price in the unbroken pen of 2,450gns, just 50gns short of the centre record price established in 2017.
His broken dog was the September, 2017, Tam, by Martin Evans’ Mac, out of good friend and Skipton regular, Penant Williams’ Bet. Mr Jones explained: “I had Bet and she had pups, one of which was Tam, who I sold to Mid-Wales handler David Smith, then bought her back because I liked her so much. She was so tough as a pup.
“The original intention was to sell Tam at Skipton’s Spring sale this year, but she herself fell pregnant and we were unsure as to the parentage. After extensive DNA testing we discovered that the father was Aled Owen’s Ken, himself a son of Aled’s Welsh National and International Supreme Champion, Llangwm Cap.
“Tam produced a litter of eight, so I brought her back to sell at the autumn sale, along with one of her sons, who I also knew was special,” said Mr Jones, who has retained another bitch from the same litter which may well be seen at Skipton at some stage in the future.
Tam returned to Mid-Wales with Aled Bebb, of Llwydiarth, in Powys, and will be used for both work and breeding, while her top price by far son in the unbroken pen, the five-month-old, Sarn Faen Spot, found a new home north of the border in Dumfriesshire with Colin Armstrong, shepherd manager on the Archbank Farm Estate in Moffat, and will work on Cheviot ewes. Mr Armstrong also trials, having won local events and competed for the Scottish National team
Being wheelchair-bound for the past 32 years, the result of a car accident, has proved no barrier whatsoever to Scottish handler and leading trialist, Jock McMillan, from Carse of Clary, near Newton Stuart in Wigtownshire.
Far from it, as Mr McMillan has been successfully training and trialing dogs for a quarter of a century, winning open trials north of the border and also representing Scotland at both National and International level.
He took to the Skipton trial field with his three-year-old black and white dog, Straid Zac, by his own trials-winning dog, Lamp, out of Straid Gypsy, bred by fellow Scotsman Dave Young, from New Cumnock.
“It still gives me great pleasure,” said Mr McMillan, who was also achieving his highest price at an official working sheep dog sale with Zak, who sold to regular North Wales buyer John Roberts, purposely purchasing the dog on behalf of a fellow Welshman.
The intrepid Mr McMillan is also well-known as a pedigree Beltex sheep breeder. In 2017, his Clary flock stood supreme champion at Skipton’s annual pedigree breed highlight staged on behalf of the Beltex Sheep Society’s setting a new all-time mart record high livestock price of 11,000gns (£11,550).
One local vendor who also caught the eye with a 4,000gns sale was Willie Bell, from Foulridge, with his three-year-old black and white bitch, Ruby, by D Henderson’s Burndale Brad, out of S Atkinson’s Upland Gem. Having followed up a nursery finals qualification with a second and two fourths in open trials, Ruby found a new home in the Lake District with Keswick’s G Fearon.
Other vendors achieving 3,000gns and over sales with field-run dogs were: 3,600gns – Susan Venney, Co. Antrim, and Laura Barnes, Pickering, 3,300gns – Henry Hughes, Welshpool, 3,200gns – JR Gilman, Co Antrim, 3,000gns – RC Owen, Anglesey, and Co. Antrim’s Daniel McAllister.
The youngest broken entry to take to the trials field in the hands of working sheep dog stalwart John Bell, of Howden, Selby, was the tri-coloured Parks Farm Sam, due to turn nine-months-old the day after the sale and whose breeding is surrounded by Supreme International and other high profile trials winners.
Fully home-bred by Mr Bell’s Smithymoor Tweed, out of Florence, by Emma Gray’s 2016 All-England Nursery champion Tweeddale Jamie, Sam sold well at 2,800gns when claimed by Welshman Emyr Anwyl, of Staylittle in Powys, on behalf of his 18-year-old son Harry. He will go to work on the family’s Welsh sheep and Mule flocks.
Back in the unbroken pen, two further youngsters hit four-figure prices. Second top at 1,050gns and the top price bitch was Staffordshire handler T Smith, from Yarlet, with his rising six-month-old black and white Mileburne Bonny, by parents both bred locally by Beverley Fort, who runs Beverton Border Collies in Steeton with her family.
The sire, Beverton Butch, is a grandson of Michael Gallagher’s renowned trials dog, Cap, while the dam, Beverton Belle, is a granddaughter of Ricky Hutchinson’s famous Sweep. It was no great surprise to see Beverley at the ringside to claim Bonny for herself.
Irish pup pen regular Pat Byrne, of Knockcroghery in County Roscommon, made 1,000gns with a six-month-old black and white bitch which fell to another local buyer, Skipton’s David Wood. The Byrne family was again well represented in the unbroken pen, selling ten youngsters to average £682.50, including two more at 950gns, one to Dewi Jenkins, the other to the Isle on Man’s Richard Crowe.
A very good clearance rate of the 141 dogs forward saw 58 field-run entries and 39 in the unbroken pen successfully sold. Broken registered dogs sold to 7,600gns, averaging £2,910, thought to be a new centre record for the section. Broken registered bitches sold to 6,500gns, producing another solid average of £2,798. A single unregistered dog made 1,150gns. In the unbroken pen, registered dogs sold to 2,450gns (av £707), registered bitches to 1,050gns (av £623)
Working sheep dog sales resume at Skipton next February.