From Alpaca shearer to bid spotter

Bidr Lower South Island territory manager Sam Murphy inspects Angus bulls at a sale in North...
Bidr Lower South Island territory manager Sam Murphy inspects Angus bulls at a sale in North Otago earlier this month. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE
An international alpaca shearer has put down his handpiece to help run a virtual saleyard in the South.

Bidr Lower South Island territory manager Sam Murphy was born and raised on a sheep farm in Waimate. He is the son of shearing contractor Dick Murphy and he grew up working in shearing sheds.

After leaving Waimate High School, he did a year working in shearing sheds and studied history for a year at the University of Canterbury before heading on his OE to press wool in the United States.

On arrival, the contractor asked him if he could shear sheep instead. He accepted and shore sheep in Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming.

Then an experienced alpaca shearer, a New Zealander settled in the US, offered him a job.

Alpaca shearing took Mr Murphy to 46 states in a 12-year period.

"It was awesome. I once travelled 36,000km in two months and would shear every day," he said.

The largest alpaca herd he helped shear was about 1500, but more of the work was for lifestylers.

He used to work in the United States for about five months and spend the rest of the year travelling.

When the work began to give him back pain, he decided to study for a bachelor of arts at the University of Otago, in Dunedin, during the spring and summer. His major was music and he also studied media and communications. He would leave Dunedin in autumn and winter to shear in the US and raise money for his university fees.

Shearing alpacas felt like a lifetime ago, he said.

After graduating, he helped his uncle run his 3500 ewes in Waimate for a year.

He bought a house in Dunedin a week before New Zealand lockdown in 2020 and started working for Bidr in March 2021.

Bidr is a virtual saleyard, offering real-time, live auctions online, for several stock agencies.

His job is to set up the technology at livestock sales and to yell out the virtual bids in auction rooms.

A winning bid he yelled out on behalf of a bull buyer was a $98,000 at Stern Angus in Pleasant Point last year.

"That was a fun one," he recalled.

Livestock sold on Bidr ranged from store lambs to stud stags.

His area covers the South up to Waitaki, but he travelled further north when it was busy including Te Mania Angus bull sale in North Canterbury last week.

More than 100 bull sales were on Bidr this season.

Spending at bull sales had been more conservative than past seasons.

"You can tell it is pretty tough for everybody, there is not as much money going around, that’s for sure," he said.

The number of people using Bidr had risen quickly and he expected that trend to continue.

The job accommodates a transient nature.

"I guess I’m kind of suited to it because I did all that travel for years. Being a bit of a nomad is what I know."But he said his time away from home could make it difficult for him to play bass in bands.

"I’ve had to leave a couple of covers bands because I couldn’t commit."


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