AN auction mart is forging ahead with plans to stage what is believed to be the nation's first virtual times sale.

As live working sheep dogs sales, which attract large crowds, cannot be held while Covid-19 restrictions remain in place, Skipton Auction Mart plans to organise and run the online initiative over a six-day period from Sunday to Friday, July 12-17.

Following the cancellation of the Spring sale earlier this month, in a letter to all potential entrants, Skipton Auction Mart’s general manager Jeremy Eaton said: “We deliberated long and hard about providing our regular customers with a substitute to ensure that dogs move 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.”

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.

A final closing date for all 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, June 29.

Every evening between 5pm and 7.30pm immediately before each online sale day, vendors would be available for live conference viewing with Q&A sessions and live demos 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.

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.

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

Potential entrants have already received advance details, instructions, conditions of sale and an entry form. These are also posted online at

At the last 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. She fell to a telephone bidder from Oklahoma in the United States, cattle farmer and businessman, Brian D. Stamps.