Ease and accessibility of online timed sheepdog sales have seen dog prices soar in recent weeks, as auction marts embrace digital technology in response to Covid-19 restrictions.
In June, David Evans’ 19-month-old bitch, Elan Valley Sally, sold for £18,525, amounting to £19,451 with buyer’s premium, at an online timed auction held by Farmers Marts (R.G. Jones), Dolgellau.
Skipton Auction Mart (CMM) also saw new world-record prices for working dogs at their first virtual sale on July 15 and 16, reaching £12,000 for a dog under one year old (Tynygraig Jet from Dewi Jenkins) and £2,350 for an unbroken five-month-old pup (Jim from Donal Mullaney).
Top price in the entire sale was Kevin Evans’ Eve, selling at £12,550, and a total of 37 dogs were sold with six part-trained dogs under 12 months averaging £1,416 (excluding Dewi Jenkins’ record price), 12 dogs aged 12-24 months averaging £4,220 and 18 dogs older than 24 months averaging £3,000.
Reflecting on the move to virtual sheepdog sales, CCM general manager Jeremy Eaton said: “At CCM, we came up with a reasonably robust system for selling dogs online to avoid misrepresentation.
“It proved the right move as we have seen lots of international clients, with the online timed sales placing everyone on the same playing field, with access to equal amounts of information, creating an appetite for bidding as values improve and increase.
“Mindful that dog sales are popular social meeting places, we also introduced pre-sale conferences where buyers can engage with vendors and ask questions about the dogs, building up those relationships.”
Mr Eaton added while the overheads of running virtual sales were not as high as live sales, online timed sales involved more time-consuming admin.
Ed Thornalley, a sheep farmer in Suffolk who recently purchased a bitch at the Dolgellau virtual sale, said: “Covid-19 has made all aspects of sales tricky, so online timed sales seemed a practical solution to a problem and a sign of agriculture adapting to technology.
“I found the virtual sale really convenient as I could view the dog at my own time and leisure and there was more thought put into the bidding without the frantic panic you get at live sales.”
But despite the ease and accessibility of virtual sales, the desire for live dog sales to resume in the future is evident from the sheepdog community.
Northumberland shepherdess Emma Gray, who set a world price of £18,900 with her two-and-a-half-year-old bitch Meg at CCM’s opening sale in February, said: “While it is good to have online timed sales and these will have a strong place in the future, live sales are still the best way to view a dog because real-time cannot be edited.
“You can see all of the dog, good and bad, under pressure away from home.”