Dog demand sign of sector’s fiscal situation: agent

Ali Brenssell and $4600 heading dog Fern in Lawrence last Friday. PHOTO: NICK BROOK
Ali Brenssell and $4600 heading dog Fern in Lawrence last Friday. PHOTO: NICK BROOK
Changing owners is like changing jobs for working dogs.

Shrewd eyes watched fresh headers and huntaways interact with mobs of sheep at the PGG Wrightson and Rural Livestock farm dog sale at Lawrence Gymkhana Club rodeo yards last Friday.

"A lot of farmers don’t have the time or staff to train their own dogs, so buying a three-quarter trained dog at a sale like this is a cost-effective option," PGG Wrightson’s Lawrence agent and occasional auctioneer Warwick Howie said.

"We have up to 80 registered buyers with about 50 here at the moment, looking at a catalogue of 35 dogs, 15 months to 2 years old, and $4000 to $6000 is good money this year. It costs $800 to $1000 to keep a dog like this, so for the trainers it’s often more an interest and passion than a business."

About 20 sellers were among a crowd of rural professionals gathered from North Canterbury to Southland, including Ali Brenssell from Oamaru, whose 2-and -a-half-year-old header Fern fetched $4600, the top price by halfway through the sale.

"Two years ago a huntaway of mine sold for $8700," the retired land survey manager said.

"I’ve spent my life working around stock and trained upwards of 100 to 200 dogs I suppose, but it’s just a hobby now. I’ve sold two so far this year and have three to go."

Mr Howie said the Gymkhana Club, which was donating the voluntary gate-fee to the Tuapeka Health Centre, provided an ideal sale facility for the working dogs, who were as serious a business investment as a new vehicle or farm machine.

Barkers who could work yards and "back over", such as Jack Clifford’s Otautau Huntaways, drew particular interest for being good backers and sheep shifters.

"There was good demand for younger heading dogs in the $2500-$4000 range [and] lesser demand for the real top-end, more expensive dogs and hill Huntaways, which I think is a sign of the financial situation in the rural sector."

Otautau’s Jack Clifford had two huntaways of particular interest for being good backers and shifters.

Top dog for the day was Lawrence local John Tweed’s huntaway "Fran", heading to a new home in Maniototo.

"They’re bred and trained to get together with someone who’s going to put them to work," Mr Howie said.

"It’s a bit like changing jobs. They know who’s feeding and caring for them and are settled in in a month or two."