World’s biggest sheep dog auction to go online across borders

Sheep Central June 9, 2020

Northumberland shepherdess Emma Gray demonstrating her world record priced dog Megan at Skipton. Image – Moule Media.

THE world’s first live-streamed working sheep dog sale involving multiple countries is being organised by England’s Skipton Auction Mart next month.

The Jerilderie Working Dog Auction in New South Wales has for the past two years live-streamed its demonstrations and the actual sale.

But the proposed Skipton online auction over six days from July 12-17 is believed to be the first virtual sale with real-time demonstration and sale viewing involving sheep dog entries from several countries, including England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Europe.

A final closing date for all Skipton entries has been set for Tuesday, June 16, to be followed by pre-sale video catalogue viewing via the working sheep dog section of the mart’s website from Monday, 29 June.

It is proposed that every evening between 5pm and 7.30pm (British Summer Time) immediately before each online sale day, vendors would be available for live conference viewing with question and answer sessions, and live demonstrations of individual entries.

On each sale day, there would be a 12-hour window between 11am and 11pm for online bidding, again to be streamed live via the mart’s website, with an inbuilt click-on bidding facility for potential purchasers.

The schedule would open with the viewing and sale of Scottish entries on July 12/13, followed by England on July 13/14, Wales July 14/15, All-Ireland July 15/16 and European July 16/17.

The Skipton Auction Mart in North Yorkshire is regarded as the United Kingdom’s leading working sheep dog sale venue. Its normal live working sheep dog sales attract large crowds, but cannot be held while COVID-19 restrictions remain in place.

Following the forced cancellation of the Skipton spring sale in May, Skipton Auction Mart’s general manager Jeremy Eaton wrote to potential entrants said auction organisers had deliberated long and hard about providing a substitute to ensure dogs moved into the right hands to keep sheep farmers farming and to provide succession on the trial field for trialists.

“Mindful of this, we propose to create a virtual sale following the form of conventional timed auctions, but introducing a semi-social element via pre-sale conference viewing the evening before each sale.”

Subject to Department of Health Covid-19 advice, the landmark fixture will feature standalone viewing and sale days for entries from three separate countries – Scotland, England and Wales.

These, it is hoped, will also be supplemented by two further standalone All-Ireland and European viewing and sale days, doubly dependant on both entry levels and access to transport facilities with the hoped-for resumption of freight crossings. “This really would give the sale a true international flavour,” said Mr Eaton.

In the interim, all entrants will be responsible for producing and submitting videos no later than Tuesday, June 23, showing individual dogs being put through their paces. This should not pose a problem for many handlers, who for some time have been recording their own videos and posting them on YouTube to effectively showcase the skills and attributes of their charges ahead of live working sheep dog sales.

“It is important that videos are submitted in the correct format, with some simple minimum requirements to prove an entry’s authenticity against the dog shown working. We don’t want to have to reject entries if the videos are not in the required format,” Mr Eaton stressed.

“To this end, we are offering advice and guidance in video production to any entrants who feel they may require it.

“Within the working sheep dog section of our website we will have a video of best practice for the pre-sale video,” he said.

“We are also working with a provider who can do this for a vendor for a fee and is also able to film drone footage of both hill and top trial dogs.”

Mr Eaton said the virtual sale will build on the usual pre-sale YouTube video channel, which has already added a depth to previous sales and will continue, but with the videos now watched in lot order in the online catalogue viewed directly from our website.

“We also hope that the timings may help potential international buyers and visitors to participate.

“Of course, the replacement of a regulated auction with a real time or timed auction based on just a vendor’s video does not provide a potential buyer with the opportunity to see the dog run on neutral ground with the chance to question the vendor,” he said.

“Any replacement must honestly reflect the ability and potential of the entry and, above all, we must try to protect the integrity of the sale.”

Each sale will include a section for unbroken entries under 12 months, an unbroken section for dogs 12-15 months and a fully broken section. All entries will be fully scrutinised and limited a maximum of three entries per vendor, with priority given to fully broken dogs. No pups will be allowed.

Potential buyers must pre-register their interest to receive an invitation via email to attend the conference, speak to the vendor and watch the live trial. Successful buyers must also organise their own transport through an official carrier.

The auction mart has reiterated that all arrangements remain subject to Department of Health COVID-19 advice and that there may be some variations dependent on the number and geographical locations of entries received.

“This is clearly new territory for us all, but we are available to help and advise on any and all aspects of the sale, which we hope will not only prove informative, but also, who knows, probably a bit of fun as well,” Mr Eaton said.

In a normal year, Skipton Auction Mart stages four seasonal working sheep dogs sales, which regularly attract more than 100 entries from reputable breeders, handlers and trialists from all parts of the UK mainland and, in particular, Ireland, with some also from Northern Europe.

In turn, buyers from all these areas attend in person, while online phone bidders are also regularly in evidence, primarily from the United States, and often pay world record prices.

At the last Skipton sale in February this year, the world record price for a working sheep dog at an official sale was annihilated when Northumberland shepherdess Emma Gray hit 18,000gns (£18,900) with her black and white bitch, Megan. The bitch went to a telephone bidder from Oklahoma in the United States, cattle farmer and businessman, Brian D. Stamps.

Source: Moule Media.


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