Bala 1 Coast and Country Auctions


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Bala 1

Series looking at Britain's traditional markets. Bala in Snowdonia, north Wales, is home to one of the UK's most important sheepdog auctions - the Bala Autumn Sale.


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We may live in a digital age...

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..but a surprising amount of British trade is still done the

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old-fashioned way...

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INDISTINCT BIDDING

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..at traditional auctions.

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Now's your time to get a bargain.

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These sales may feel like throwbacks to a bygone age...

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..but for the buyers and sellers who flock to them,

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they're still the best way to conduct business.

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1,600, blow your nose, and bid again.

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We'll be visiting the UK's most dynamic traditional markets.

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..selling everything from pigs to cattle,

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sheep dogs to ponies...

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..fish to veg,

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and discovering how they are the heartbeat of rural life.

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There'll be bargains to be had today.

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-450.

-That's part of being at an auction.

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Today, we're in Wales, at Britain's oldest sheepdog auction,

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where tomorrow's champions will sell for serious money.

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At 5,000 guineas.

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We'll be meeting the auctioneers...

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2004, look at the dog here now.

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You can't put a price on a really good dog.

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..and following the fortunes of three buyers and sellers...

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Bidding's very easy. You have to make eye contact before you start.

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Yeah, they won't miss you after that.

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..through the mud and pouring rain...

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The weather's so, so bad.

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..as they experience all the excitement...

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There is an electric atmosphere, here, especially when you go

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£2,000, £3,000, £4,000, £5,000.

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..and tension...

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-Hey! Hey!

-Very nervous, now. Very nervous at the moment.

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..as the hammer falls.

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We're in Snowdonia, Wales' first National Park.

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2,000 square kilometres of spectacular mountains and lakes.

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The heart of the rural economy is farming.

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And this region of around a million sheep is also home to a very special

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twice-yearly auction.

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It happens in this field.

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On the edge of Bala, a tiny medieval market town,

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it's the UK's longest-running sheepdog sale.

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The excitement of it all gets a bit to you, to me,

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and probably gets to the dog as well.

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We just come, hope for the best, and see what happens.

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See what pops up.

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Let's hope that some people will come today to buy my dog.

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It's very important for the area.

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Very important for people who sell because there are professional dog

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handlers there as well who do the

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dogs just for the Bala sheepdog sale,

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and they use it as an extra income for their businesses.

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Auctioneers Glyn Owens and his colleague Elfor Morris run

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a thrice-weekly livestock sale not far from Bala.

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And twice a year, they host the region's big event...

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..the sheepdog auction.

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A good sheepdog these days is worth anywhere between £5,000 and £6,000

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and £7,000.

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And if you have got a very good trial dog,

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it's in excess of £10,000.

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Bala auction has been running for over 40 years.

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It often attracts crowds of 600 or 700.

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But as the buyers and sellers gather today,

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it's clear one thing is against them...

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..the weather.

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This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the worst weather we have

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experienced here.

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Today is absolutely terrible.

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But there we are. It's one of those things.

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We can't do anything about the weather.

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But luckily, the farmers here are hardy.

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Even the weather doesn't put us off. You know, we've seen this before.

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Keep going, plod on.

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The event attracts buyers from all over the UK and

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phone bidders from Europe and even the USA.

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Glyn's been selling here for over 30 years.

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I enjoy it because I love sheepdogs.

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I've got sheepdogs myself and the enjoyment is satisfaction of getting

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a good trade for people as well.

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They put their financial business into our hands,

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so when you do a good job for them, that is great satisfaction.

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It's always an auction that fellow auctioneer, Elfor, looks forward to.

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You sort of pride yourself on achieving the best price possible,

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and so the buzz, if you like,

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of having a good price for someone is where the enjoyment comes.

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Conditions are harsh for the sellers and their dogs, but the terrible

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weather isn't going to stop the sale.

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Well, ladies and gentlemen, we are now ready to start the sale.

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Over 70 sheepdogs will converge on this field over the course of the day.

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HE WHISTLES

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There's a lot of preparation.

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Every handler will have spent six months at least training each dog.

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1,000 Guineas.

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Lucky man there on the fence.

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The handler takes the dog into the arena, which is a field

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of about four, five acres. The sheep at the end of the field.

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He'll work the dog on the field for three minutes.

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But during that three minutes, we then start to sell the sheepdog.

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1,000 bid right here.

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People can see exactly what they are buying as they run on the field and

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the buyers then will be bidding accordingly.

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Worth every penny and more.

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And hopefully everything goes well and the dog will have a premium and

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sell well for the handler. There are dogs on that catalogue that I know

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that will sell well.

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With those dogs, there is an electric atmosphere there and it

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goes quiet and it's brilliant, especially when you go £2,000,

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£3,000, £4,000, £5,000.

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1,000. 50. 11. 50. 12.

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Both the trainer and the dog are under the spotlight,

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so tensions are high.

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It's a great pressure.

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Some of these dogs have not seen people.

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It's another pressure for the handler how the dog is going to work.

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Not only that, how the sheep are going to react.

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And if the sheep are a bit awkward,

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it makes it more awkward for the dog and the handler.

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So, there is pressure right through.

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You may have a good dog at home, but things may go wrong

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and it won't show at its best.

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Potential buyers are looking to see how well the dog handles

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the sheep, as one that works them too hard isn't desirable.

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They'll also look to see how they control the sheep and if they can

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obey basic commands.

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A good dog, he'll set on his sheep with the head in the right position.

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And the head position is very important, the way it's not too high,

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and also the tail is set between the legs of the dog, not in the air.

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On we go, if you will, please, to lot number 13.

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Come on.

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Seller Doug Lambie is a veteran of this auction

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with dogs that often get top prices.

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Doug lives around ten miles from the auction.

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Working the dog is hugely relaxing for me,

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and it does probably more for my

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head than it's doing for the dog's head,

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so there's something special there

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that I can't put into words,

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but it's very important for me to do it.

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Atta boy!

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Doug grew up on a farm in Oban, on the West Coast of Scotland.

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He's been around Collie dogs his entire life.

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I was lucky enough to grow up with Collies.

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When I was young, we played with our Collies,

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we had them pointing rabbits for us and doing all the things that a boy

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should've done when we were ferreting and things.

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Then we just progressed into working them.

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We trained dogs from an early age and didn't really know we were doing it.

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In 1997, Doug and his wife, Ann, moved to Wales and took over her

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family farm when her father retired.

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Shortly afterwards, he started training sheepdogs,

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and over the years, he's noticed a growing demand.

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People buy and train dogs, it's probably a new thing,

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or becoming more and more so.

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Lots of farmers seem to have less time to train their own dogs,

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so there's probably more dogs bought now than there probably has been ever.

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It's not hard to train a dog when you know how to do it,

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but lots of people can't do it.

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So from our point of view,

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dog auctions are becoming probably busier than they've ever been.

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And it's his daughters that benefit from the extra cash the sheepdogs bring in.

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The income from the dogs is quite important.

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We've only got a small farm here.

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The more we can make it home, the less we have to go away to make,

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and the money off the dogs at the moment will go into the girls'

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university pot.

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For the past few months, Doug has been training his two Collies,

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25-month-old, Cap, and his sister, Kate,

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getting them ready for the auction at Bala.

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He's been teaching them to respond to both whistle...

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HE WHISTLES

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..and voice commands.

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Stand. Walk.

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In the week leading up to the sale, Doug wants to make sure both his

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dogs perform to the very best of their ability,

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so he's going over all the basic commands.

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Cap's doing well, I think he's ready for the sale.

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He can't understand why we're doing the same thing over and over,

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so he just wants to go to work.

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I'm quite pleased with him, actually, yeah.

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Today with Cap, I haven't tried to do anything he hasn't done before.

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I've probably insisted once or twice that he's listened to me.

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Away from home, they will always take advantage,

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just like taking the kids to see granny,

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they always push it as far as they can, so he'll do the same tomorrow.

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Stand. Stand.

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I'm probably a bit different today than normally,

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so he'll have picked up on that,

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but it's not a bad thing for him to see me like this and he'll see it

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tomorrow, that's for sure, so he's better seeing it today, yeah.

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Cap's a good dog, quite natural, you don't have to be hard on him.

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He knows exactly what he's doing.

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He would work for anyone without very many commands.

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He's got a brain of his own and he's quite good at using it.

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He's worth 3,000, maybe a little bit more than 3,000.

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So we'll see what happens on the day.

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But what about sister Kate?

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Kate's probably working just a fraction better.

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She's a bit more of a favourite.

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She's been in the house a little bit.

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My wife, Ann, thinks the world of her and she's just a very nice character.

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We've got quite high thoughts of Kate and hopefully

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the price will reflect that.

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Walk.

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Today's training is just a reflection of how she's working.

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She's not perfect, she's two years old, she's still got lots to learn.

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Just trying to keep it low key and just getting her to do what she does

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every other day.

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Try not to put too much pressure on her,

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and obviously she knows there's a change in me,

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so she's acting a bit different, but she's only young,

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so we let her away with that, yeah.

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Doug's confident both dogs are ready,

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and despite being a trainer held in very high regard,

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he still gets anxious.

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The biggest worry I have on the day is being able to whistle.

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My nerves are probably concerning me

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more than what the dogs nerves will be.

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Doug goes very nervous on the day of the auction.

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He just walks around, around in circles.

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When you step out into that field,

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there's a lot of people watching you,

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a lot of people that are very good with dogs,

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and you're just very conscious that you don't let your dog down,

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and it's very easy for you to make a mistake, the same as the dog.

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Come by. I've no idea what the sheep are going to do.

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Live dog, I've no real idea how her mood's going to be.

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It's a completely staged environment,

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being at the dog auction with all these people, so it can affect them,

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some more than others.

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Cap could be more of a handful.

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Kate's quite level-headed,

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and I think she'll take it all in her stride,

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but I'm not sure how Cap can go.

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-What do you think, is she listening?

-Yeah, she will listen tomorrow.

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-It'll have to do, yeah?

-Yeah.

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Look at what you're buying here.

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He's on the market, make no mistake!

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At auction, there's been heavy downpours all morning.

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Unfortunately, a few people won't have come because the forecast was

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so bad. There's no reason why they won't sell,

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as long as the buyers are here, we're OK.

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The relentless rain is making it hard work for everyone,

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as Doug gets ready to show Cap.

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25-month-old from Doug Lambie, regular supporter of the sale.

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Yeah, very nervous at the moment.

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We'll be very nervous going on there with Cap with me, but, yeah,

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he'll keep me right when I get out there. Nerves are there.

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If Doug can't control his nerves,

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then Cap will pick up on it and it could be a disaster.

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But if he can hold it together and Cap performs well,

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then his hard work will have paid off.

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What a good dog he is.

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Everyone has high expectations.

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Doug is a very, very good trainer of sheepdogs.

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He has been in the top prices in Bala for a number of years.

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He has got two good dogs,

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and there has been quite a bit of interest in his dogs.

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When Doug has something to sell, they will be ready for the sale,

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I can assure you of that.

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The bidding will be in guineas.

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A guinea is £1.05 in today's money.

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It's an old-fashioned way of selling dogs.

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The company gets the guinea.

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We get 5p in the pound for every dog we sell,

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which helps towards the financing of running the sale.

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Who's got 2,000, 2,000 bid?

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22. 24.

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As Doug starts to show Cap, there's immediate interest,

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but will he reach the £3,000 he's hoping for?

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2,600? 2,600, 2,800.

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2,800. 3,000.

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With Cap performing well and responding quickly to Doug's instructions,

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the bids are coming in thick and fast.

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32 bid, 3,200.

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3,000 has been reached and passed.

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32 bid. 3,200 - Ollie, three, sir?

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3,200. 3,200. 33? 33, 33?

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Look at the dog here now.

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33. £33, out on the rail.

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33 bid, 33. Are you bidding, sir?

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33, 3,300 all over now? No mistake?

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All done. 3,300 guineas.

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-Done.

-Slowly.

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-Slowly.

-Well, there we are...

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When a seller says, "Slowly," it means bidding is heading in the

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right direction, but the handler wants the auctioneer

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to push the price up if he can.

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I'm going to sell away, all finished.

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Are you out on the gate? At 33, all finished?

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All done and I'm selling him, 3,300 guineas.

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Thank you.

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Cap exceeds Doug's expectations by nearly £500.

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Cap worked well. He hit them hard at the top ones,

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but that's just nerves, that's no big deal. No, he worked well,

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I was delighted with how he did work. He took every command.

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It's a big thing for a dog being away from home, so, no,

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he did everything that I wanted him to.

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Very happy. Price is near enough, so yeah, it's been a good job.

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That just leaves Kate to sell a bit later on.

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Bala has a unique place in the history of the sheepdog.

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The world's very first recorded sheepdog trial happened right here

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nearly 150 years ago.

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Bala had the first world trials on the Rhiwlas Estate,

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just across the road to where we are selling the dogs.

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It was won by a Welshman, Aled Owen from Llangwm.

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That first Bala event started a bit of a craze.

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Soon there were sheepdog sales and trials the length and breadth of the

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country, and abroad as well.

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Today, there are an amazing 400 sheepdog trials each year in the UK.

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And the Bala sheepdog auction is still a very highly-regarded event.

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We have seen up to 600-700 people there.

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Not only that, these days technology has come forward and a lot of people

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can see the dogs working on YouTube and we have got a website,

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the Bala Sheepdogs website,

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and a lot of people from abroad look at that.

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In its early years, the auction

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wasn't quite so polished and professional.

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Often owners would turn up with their dog and a bit of rope tied

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around its neck and hope for the best.

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But that's certainly not the case now.

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These dog handlers have been training these dogs over a number of months,

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really, and it's not only that, either,

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it's the breeding behind the dog that is important.

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The last week, obviously, is putting finishing touches to the job.

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Thank you, sir.

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A man in the market for a new dog is buyer Michael Hogan.

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He needs one urgently.

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It's going to be a great sale, even with this weather.

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His farm is 80 miles down the road from the auction,

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not far from the beautiful Malvern Hills.

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The farm here is a mixed farm.

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Our main enterprise is arable, and then we have sheep, beef, fruit,

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forestry, mistletoe, a small log business,

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a firewood business, and bees.

0:18:030:18:06

And that's about it, but that's quite a lot.

0:18:070:18:09

Michael is retiring his sheepdog Craig, also a Collie,

0:18:100:18:14

as it's now unfair to keep working him,

0:18:140:18:17

but with a flock of over 350,

0:18:170:18:19

he's on the lookout for a replacement.

0:18:190:18:22

Craig is 13 years old,

0:18:220:18:25

which is over 90 in human terms,

0:18:250:18:29

and he's unable to work now,

0:18:290:18:31

so we definitely need to find a replacement.

0:18:310:18:35

At the moment, Michael's friend and nearby farmer, Richard, comes once a

0:18:350:18:39

week with his sheepdog, Sally, to do the work that Craig used to do.

0:18:390:18:43

In this field, we've got a bunch of about 100 ewes.

0:18:440:18:46

What he's doing is he's sending Sally out to gather them.

0:18:460:18:50

She's got to go all the way round the field and gradually bring all

0:18:500:18:54

the ewes back here so that we can pen them up and then move them to

0:18:540:18:59

the orchard behind the farm buildings

0:18:590:19:01

where they've got fresh grass.

0:19:010:19:03

Well done, Richard. That's good.

0:19:030:19:05

And while this set-up is working

0:19:050:19:07

for now, it's not a long-term solution.

0:19:070:19:09

Michael desperately needs a working dog of his own.

0:19:110:19:15

And he's hoping he'll be able to find one at Bala.

0:19:150:19:18

We're looking for a dog which is three quarters trained and which can

0:19:200:19:25

then build a relationship with Jane and me,

0:19:250:19:28

because Jane will be possibly working the dog more than me.

0:19:280:19:32

This will be the first time Michael has been to an auction to buy a dog.

0:19:320:19:36

He's keen to remain level-headed and stick to his plan.

0:19:360:19:40

We've got a budget.

0:19:400:19:41

We can't afford a lot more money and I won't get into a bidding war.

0:19:410:19:45

I may go slightly above my budget if I think the dog is

0:19:450:19:49

really what we want.

0:19:490:19:50

Some sellers produce videos of their dogs and post

0:19:500:19:54

them on the Bala sheepdog website for buyers to look at.

0:19:540:19:57

But Michael is old school and prefers to actually visit the animal

0:19:570:20:01

he's interested in.

0:20:010:20:03

It's quite easy to produce a video where the dog does

0:20:030:20:06

everything perfectly.

0:20:060:20:08

But they may have had 20 tries to try to get the dog to do it right.

0:20:080:20:13

And there's one that's caught his attention.

0:20:130:20:16

It belongs to seller Doug Lambie.

0:20:160:20:20

So ahead of the auction,

0:20:200:20:21

Michael is going to Doug's farm to see his sheepdog, Kate, in action.

0:20:210:20:25

-How are you doing?

-Hello, Doug, good to see you.

0:20:280:20:30

-Pleasure to meet you, thanks for coming.

-Good to see you.

0:20:300:20:32

There's everything to be gained by having a good look.

0:20:320:20:34

Because it's a lot of money,

0:20:340:20:36

I wouldn't dream of buying a dog in a sale without going to have a look.

0:20:360:20:40

I love the countryside up here.

0:20:400:20:42

-Yeah, yeah.

-I mean, what I want to see is exactly what you do with her.

0:20:420:20:46

Yeah. Do you whistle, or are you on voice commands?

0:20:460:20:49

Well, at the moment I'm on voice, but I want to do whistle.

0:20:490:20:52

With our farm, the dog will need to go 400-500 yards,

0:20:520:20:56

and if you're starting to shout at 400-500 yards, it's difficult for

0:20:560:20:59

-the dog to hear.

-Yeah, exactly.

0:20:590:21:01

So what commands do you use with her?

0:21:010:21:04

I've got her on, "come by" and "away".

0:21:040:21:06

-"Stand".

-Stand.

0:21:060:21:08

"Lie down" is a definite stop.

0:21:080:21:11

Stand is more of a steady...

0:21:110:21:13

Lie down and stay there.

0:21:130:21:15

And do you have a "walk on"?

0:21:150:21:17

-Just...

-HE WHISTLES

0:21:170:21:18

The same from stand. Yeah, or walk.

0:21:180:21:22

Walk is what I tell her from either side, yeah?

0:21:220:21:24

She's not hard to learn anything.

0:21:240:21:25

You're giving me a good sales pitch.

0:21:270:21:28

Well, yeah, but I believe what I'm saying,

0:21:280:21:31

so I'm more than halfway there, yeah?

0:21:310:21:33

HE WHISTLES

0:21:330:21:35

That little hoo-hoo is just...

0:21:350:21:37

-Just walk.

-Walk on.

0:21:370:21:38

-Yeah.

-Walk.

0:21:380:21:40

Stand. Lie down.

0:21:400:21:42

Lie down. Lie down.

0:21:450:21:48

I like the way she looks at you for commands.

0:21:480:21:51

That's the nice thing about her, is she's waiting for you to help her.

0:21:510:21:54

You tell me what you want me to do and I'll do it, yeah?

0:21:540:21:56

Come on, Kate.

0:21:560:21:58

Kate's listened to everything Doug's asked her to do.

0:21:580:22:01

But now Michael can test her out for himself.

0:22:010:22:04

Walk on. Walk on.

0:22:040:22:05

Away. Away.

0:22:080:22:10

-A bit confused.

-She's just going to bring them to you,

0:22:100:22:12

I think that's it today, isn't it, yeah.

0:22:120:22:14

Yeah. It's very good, she's done what she's supposed to be doing if

0:22:140:22:17

she ends up bringing them to me.

0:22:170:22:18

It wasn't ideal, but she started to do something, didn't she?

0:22:180:22:21

Yeah. Kate's a lovely dog.

0:22:210:22:23

She's very steady.

0:22:230:22:25

She gets round the sheep well.

0:22:250:22:27

The question will be if I bid for her, whether I can afford what she's

0:22:270:22:31

likely to go for. I think that's my initial reaction.

0:22:310:22:35

-Thanks very much.

-Not at all, thank you.

0:22:350:22:37

-It's been a pleasure.

-Thank you.

0:22:370:22:39

Kate worked well and he picked up on all the things that were important

0:22:390:22:42

to him, so it was a pleasure to have him and the sort of home that you'd

0:22:420:22:46

really hope the dog went to.

0:22:460:22:47

Look at what you're buying here.

0:22:470:22:48

32 bid. 32.

0:22:480:22:50

32 bid.

0:22:500:22:51

32. Have you all done, now?

0:22:510:22:53

3,200.

0:22:530:22:54

The weather is against us, as well.

0:22:540:22:56

Back at the auction, the weather is worse

0:22:560:22:59

and tensions are rising as reputations are at stake.

0:22:590:23:04

If a good handler sells a dog at a premium,

0:23:040:23:08

everybody the following sales will be looking for that breeding and for

0:23:080:23:13

that shepherd or that handler.

0:23:130:23:15

And they do follow, believe me.

0:23:150:23:18

Doug has a serious reputation to uphold.

0:23:180:23:21

And it's time for him to sell his second dog, Kate.

0:23:210:23:24

Buyer Michael is ready.

0:23:250:23:27

It will be an exciting sale, a lot of fun,

0:23:270:23:29

and we're looking forward to it.

0:23:290:23:31

And he doesn't have too long to wait before Kate takes the stage.

0:23:310:23:35

Here we are, lot number 40.

0:23:360:23:38

Doug Lambie with Kate.

0:23:380:23:41

If Doug can keep his nerves in check, then Kate has the potential

0:23:410:23:45

to fetch a good price. Wife Anne watches on anxiously.

0:23:450:23:49

Only 25 months old and speaks for herself, to be fair.

0:23:490:23:53

Have a look at that style.

0:23:530:23:55

3,000 away. Thank you, sir.

0:23:550:23:57

3,000 bid. 3,200 sir.

0:23:570:23:59

Two. 32. 34. 34. 36. 38. 38.

0:23:590:24:05

Doug has complete control and the dog is moving very well,

0:24:050:24:09

holding the sheep well.

0:24:090:24:11

Michael isn't the only one that Kate's impressed.

0:24:110:24:14

3,800. Out to my right, sir.

0:24:150:24:17

Four. 4,000 bid.

0:24:170:24:19

4,000. 42. 42. 4,200.

0:24:190:24:23

Look this way, sir. She speaks for herself.

0:24:230:24:25

At 4,200, 4,200, you've waited for it, 44.

0:24:250:24:29

The momentum is building for Kate and bids are flocking in.

0:24:290:24:33

The bids are fast approaching Michael's upper budget.

0:24:350:24:37

44. 44. 46. 46. 4,600.

0:24:370:24:42

-I'm out. Out.

-Kate is now too expensive, so Michael's out.

0:24:440:24:49

Doug, what do we do?

0:24:490:24:50

"Try it slowly," he says at 4,600.

0:24:530:24:55

But there's still interest from others.

0:24:550:24:57

47. 47. 48. 48.

0:24:590:25:03

Worth every penny and more.

0:25:030:25:04

At 48. 49. 49.

0:25:040:25:08

Back to you sir. At 49.

0:25:080:25:09

Five. Five. 5,000 bid.

0:25:090:25:12

5,000 only.

0:25:120:25:13

Put it on the market, Doug.

0:25:130:25:15

-Slowly.

-"Slowly," he says. Fair play. She's on the market.

0:25:150:25:17

5,000 only.

0:25:170:25:19

5,000 bid.

0:25:190:25:20

One again then, last shout.

0:25:200:25:21

All done here and I'm selling at 5,000 guineas.

0:25:210:25:25

Lucky man there on the fence, thank you, sir.

0:25:250:25:27

Coming forward with his name.

0:25:270:25:30

Well over £5,000 is a terrific price

0:25:300:25:32

and the second-best at Bala today.

0:25:320:25:34

I'm so delighted she's gone to a good home,

0:25:350:25:37

a friend of mine stepped up,

0:25:370:25:39

paid more money than he wanted to,

0:25:390:25:40

but he knows it's money well invested,

0:25:400:25:42

so very happy about where she's gone.

0:25:420:25:45

-Well done, Doug.

-Thank you very much for your effort.

0:25:450:25:47

Sorry to keep you out in the rain, albeit for nothing.

0:25:470:25:49

I'm so pleased that you got such a good price.

0:25:490:25:52

You can go out and have a pint tonight.

0:25:520:25:54

-And we will.

-Congratulations.

0:25:540:25:56

Thank you very much. Nice to have met you both, yeah.

0:25:560:25:58

We'll see you again. Bye-bye. It's a pity Michael didn't get her.

0:25:580:26:02

You know, he would've been a fantastic home as well.

0:26:020:26:04

It'll be quite sad to see her going, but we are delighted that she's

0:26:040:26:08

going to a good home, and to work.

0:26:080:26:11

So that's the most important thing.

0:26:110:26:13

Sadly, she was just too much money for Michael.

0:26:130:26:17

4,200, 4,300 was near the top end of my range.

0:26:170:26:21

I would like to have had Kate.

0:26:210:26:23

That would have been great. But that's not to be today.

0:26:230:26:26

Despite not getting Kate, Michael's not giving up just yet and

0:26:270:26:31

has his eye on more dogs in the sale.

0:26:310:26:34

2,000 bid. All your own bidding.

0:26:340:26:36

There are an extraordinary 10 million or so sheep in Wales.

0:26:420:26:46

Here, they outnumber people by a factor of 3-1,

0:26:460:26:50

so it's no surprise that this is the worldwide home of the sheepdog.

0:26:500:26:54

For the last 150 years,

0:26:550:26:57

the most common breed has been the Border collie.

0:26:570:27:01

The collie has got a tremendous brain.

0:27:010:27:03

They listen well.

0:27:030:27:04

They react to commands

0:27:040:27:06

better than a lot of other dogs.

0:27:060:27:09

There are five basic commands.

0:27:090:27:12

But an intelligent sheepdog can understand around 15.

0:27:120:27:15

You can't put a price really, on a really good dog.

0:27:160:27:19

It'll probably save the shepherd hours and hours of running around

0:27:190:27:23

and driving the quad bike.

0:27:230:27:25

It's just wonderful to work with a dog that is of that high standard,

0:27:250:27:29

type of thing.

0:27:290:27:31

Farming is worth nearly £1.5 billion a year to Wales

0:27:310:27:35

and sheep are by far the biggest part of that.

0:27:350:27:37

So the sheepdog really is at the heart of the rural economy.

0:27:380:27:42

Especially in Snowdonia.

0:27:420:27:44

The climate here is good for sheep.

0:27:450:27:49

It's heavy ground.

0:27:490:27:51

It's good ground.

0:27:510:27:52

But the agricultural economy is tough.

0:27:530:27:56

And it's no easy life for the region's farmers.

0:27:570:28:00

800, start me quickly.

0:28:010:28:03

800 away.

0:28:030:28:04

800, sir.

0:28:050:28:06

Seller Norman Green knows just how

0:28:060:28:09

tough the world of sheep farming can be.

0:28:090:28:12

Come by.

0:28:120:28:13

There was three things that I was

0:28:250:28:27

always told you always took to the hill.

0:28:270:28:29

That was a good dog, a good stick and a good coat.

0:28:290:28:32

By the end of the day, you're going to need all three.

0:28:320:28:35

Norman's smallholding is just under 20 miles down the road from Bala.

0:28:350:28:40

-Come on.

-While our previous seller, Doug, is an old hand,

0:28:400:28:44

57-year-old Norman is a relative beginner.

0:28:440:28:47

The professional shepherd recently lost his job,

0:28:490:28:51

so has moved into training and selling dogs to support his family.

0:28:510:28:55

Being told that you're being made redundant was hard.

0:28:570:29:01

Farm workers jobs come with a tied cottage and we were looking straight

0:29:010:29:07

down the barrels of jobless and homeless.

0:29:070:29:11

A very severe kick in the guts.

0:29:110:29:14

He recently found a smallholding

0:29:140:29:17

in Llangollen, North Wales, with eight acres

0:29:170:29:20

and got himself 20 sheep so he could set up as a sheepdog trainer.

0:29:200:29:24

There's not many people out there that want to employ a 60-year-old

0:29:250:29:29

shepherd when they can pick up a 25-year-old shepherd.

0:29:290:29:33

I thought it's about time I started to look at doing things for myself

0:29:330:29:37

rather than answering to someone else.

0:29:370:29:40

Now you're the master of your own destiny.

0:29:400:29:43

While he has 40 years' experience working with sheepdogs,

0:29:430:29:47

he's at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to training.

0:29:470:29:51

I've dabbled in sheepdogs all my life, selling the odd dog,

0:29:510:29:55

but now circumstances have come to the point where the dogs have got to

0:29:550:30:00

be a major part of my income.

0:30:000:30:03

He has seven adults...

0:30:030:30:05

Come on, in you come.

0:30:050:30:06

..and six pups, all at different stages of training.

0:30:060:30:10

So they're certainly keeping him busy.

0:30:100:30:13

Everything gets exercised twice a day before I go out to do a day's

0:30:130:30:16

work in the morning. Come on, then.

0:30:160:30:18

Back home at night, anything that's not in training goes out for exercise.

0:30:200:30:25

If it's in training, then it goes straight to school.

0:30:250:30:28

The Bala auction will be a big test for Norman.

0:30:280:30:31

He's sold a small number of dogs there over the years.

0:30:310:30:34

But this is the first time he's selling as a full-time trainer.

0:30:340:30:37

Wait. Wait.

0:30:370:30:39

He has two dogs for sale.

0:30:390:30:41

A male, Sam, who is two years old.

0:30:410:30:43

And female Swift, who's just six months.

0:30:430:30:46

At this age, they are very easily distracted.

0:30:470:30:50

And he's got his work cut out with both.

0:30:510:30:53

Sam only arrived when he was 18 months old, so he's only had

0:30:530:30:57

six months of training.

0:30:570:30:58

This is where we come every day for the dog school.

0:30:580:31:01

I like to try and spend half an hour each day with each dog.

0:31:020:31:07

Doesn't always work like that.

0:31:070:31:08

Sometimes it's only ten minutes.

0:31:080:31:11

If he's not very happy, we call the lesson over and we go back and say

0:31:110:31:15

right, start again tomorrow.

0:31:150:31:18

Sam's still very young, still very inexperienced.

0:31:180:31:21

Still only what we would call 80% trained.

0:31:220:31:25

I don't think he'll make the grade to be a top-class trial dog.

0:31:250:31:31

But as a farm dog, got plenty of stamina, plenty of power.

0:31:310:31:35

He needs experience now.

0:31:350:31:37

Stand there. Stand there.

0:31:370:31:38

Stay there. Stand!

0:31:380:31:41

Come here. That'll do.

0:31:410:31:43

That's better. What was that all in aid of?

0:31:430:31:46

No, he should come back straightaway,

0:31:460:31:48

if, when I call him off.

0:31:480:31:49

He started showing off a little bit then.

0:31:490:31:51

He was starting to get a bit wound up. I think he thought he was going

0:31:510:31:54

to do more than he did.

0:31:540:31:56

Sam can go one of two ways.

0:31:570:31:59

If he performs how I know he can, he can be very good.

0:31:590:32:04

Stand. Good boy.

0:32:040:32:07

But if he loses his head, it could be a different story with him.

0:32:070:32:13

Stand. What are you doing?

0:32:130:32:16

He's started showing off.

0:32:160:32:18

I'm valuing him between £600-£1,000.

0:32:180:32:22

But as Norman knows only too well,

0:32:220:32:24

there's lots at stake if he sells a dog too soon, that isn't ready.

0:32:240:32:28

And he's certainly feeling the pressure.

0:32:280:32:30

Good girl, Swift.

0:32:300:32:32

Reputations can be made or broken in Bala.

0:32:320:32:36

But if you've got a good one and you can bring it out,

0:32:360:32:39

it can be a shop window for the future.

0:32:390:32:42

The auction at Bala will be a real test for Norman,

0:32:430:32:46

and will be an indication of how tough the competition is,

0:32:460:32:49

how high the standards are,

0:32:490:32:51

and if the time and effort is worth the financial reward.

0:32:510:32:54

But it's not just about the money.

0:32:560:32:58

It's not all profit and loss at the end of the day.

0:32:580:33:02

There is that pride element.

0:33:020:33:03

Look at what you're buying, here.

0:33:050:33:07

At the auction, not only does Norman have Sam's unpredictability to deal

0:33:090:33:14

with, but he's also got to contend with the wet weather.

0:33:140:33:18

What a day. What a day.

0:33:180:33:20

Whether the buyers are going to be affected by the weather,

0:33:200:33:24

all being well they won't, they'll still be here,

0:33:240:33:26

they'll still be looking for a dog.

0:33:260:33:28

We'll see.

0:33:280:33:29

Norman doesn't have to wait long until his first dog, Sam, is called.

0:33:320:33:37

And although he's been here before, the stakes haven't been as high.

0:33:370:33:41

So he's really feeling the nerves.

0:33:410:33:44

Well, we're getting nearer. Little bit nervous now.

0:33:440:33:47

Five minutes to go. We'll see.

0:33:470:33:49

That feeling when you walk through the gate is pure dread.

0:33:490:33:55

Because you're thinking to yourself, "Now, mate,

0:33:550:33:57

"are you going to get this right or are you going to get this wrong?"

0:33:570:34:00

And you've got that dread until the

0:34:020:34:04

dog has gone out and gathered his sheep

0:34:040:34:07

and started to bring them sheep nicely down the field.

0:34:070:34:10

This is lot number seven.

0:34:100:34:12

Mr Norman Green.

0:34:120:34:14

If it's going well, it's like as if the pressure just eases

0:34:140:34:17

that little bit and you can relax.

0:34:170:34:20

But if it's going wrong and you're battling with the dog,

0:34:200:34:24

because the sheep are awkward or the dog is wound up or whatever,

0:34:240:34:27

you've still got that feeling in your gut until it's all over.

0:34:270:34:30

For Norman, it's make or break time.

0:34:310:34:34

He's hoping for between £600-£1,000 for Sam.

0:34:340:34:38

Who's going with 2,000 away to start me?

0:34:380:34:40

1,500 away. 1,500 away, quickly.

0:34:400:34:43

Who's got 1,000 to start me quickly for a very useful dog?

0:34:430:34:46

-Oh, you clown.

-Who's got 800, start me quickly.

0:34:460:34:49

With Sam not on his best behaviour,

0:34:490:34:51

auctioneer Glyn is struggling for bids.

0:34:510:34:54

Very useful dog there.

0:34:540:34:55

It's not good news for Norman.

0:34:550:34:57

Stand.

0:34:570:34:58

Stand. Stand.

0:34:580:34:59

500 to start me?

0:35:000:35:02

500? 500, 600. You're out with a cap...

0:35:020:35:06

Well, everyone's got a cap on.

0:35:060:35:08

-600 bid.

-With Sam ignoring some of Norman's commands,

0:35:090:35:13

it's tough for Glyn.

0:35:130:35:15

-Stand. Come by.

-So far, only two people have bid

0:35:150:35:18

and Sam has only just reached Norman's minimum of 600.

0:35:180:35:22

600. Give me seven now.

0:35:220:35:24

Look at what you're buying here. Only a young dog.

0:35:240:35:26

600. Give me seven now.

0:35:260:35:28

600 going to be. You're missing a real young one now.

0:35:280:35:31

Stand! Stand!

0:35:310:35:32

WHISTLE BLOWS

0:35:320:35:34

The whistle indicates that his three minutes are up,

0:35:340:35:36

and the demonstration must finish.

0:35:360:35:39

But yet again, Sam proves to be a handful.

0:35:390:35:41

That'll do. That'll do. Hey! Hey!

0:35:430:35:45

600. 600, bargain time.

0:35:450:35:47

600, he's worth every penny.

0:35:470:35:49

All finished. All done.

0:35:490:35:51

At 600, it is.

0:35:510:35:53

Thank you, sir. Thank you.

0:35:530:35:55

That'll do, Sam.

0:35:550:35:56

Sam sells at just over £600.

0:35:560:35:59

It was a battle with him because he got excited and got wound up.

0:35:590:36:04

I was having to work a bit harder than I wanted.

0:36:040:36:06

That's what you get for working with animals.

0:36:070:36:09

But we got there in the end.

0:36:090:36:11

-Oh, you've just bought him?

-Yeah.

0:36:120:36:14

He didn't show himself as good as he can.

0:36:150:36:17

He's got a bit wound up, but if you keep strong on him, he's OK.

0:36:170:36:23

Come on, hup!

0:36:230:36:25

There you go. I'll leave that lead on him and then you've got it for

0:36:250:36:28

-when you get home. Whereabouts are you from?

-Exmoor.

-Oh, Exmoor!

0:36:280:36:31

-He's got a long way to go, then.

-Yeah!

-He's got a long way to go, then.

0:36:310:36:33

I valued him at home between 600-1,000 and he's come in

0:36:350:36:39

at bottom buck.

0:36:390:36:40

He's made what I wanted.

0:36:400:36:41

But Norman still has one more dog to sell.

0:36:520:36:54

Six-month-old Swift.

0:36:540:36:57

As she's so young, she has a different training regime.

0:36:570:37:01

Put youngsters on a long line.

0:37:010:37:03

If I let her go now and then try to get her,

0:37:030:37:06

to catch her to bring her off the sheep,

0:37:060:37:08

because she's so young and full of it,

0:37:080:37:10

I'd have a serious job catching her.

0:37:100:37:13

So, hence, my long rope with a great big knot on the end.

0:37:130:37:19

So when she's shooting off round the field, I can just go quietly,

0:37:190:37:22

put my foot on the rope.

0:37:220:37:24

The knot comes to my foot and she can't go any further.

0:37:240:37:28

Lie down, Roy. Lie down, stay there.

0:37:280:37:31

Yeah, we use an older dog and more experienced dog with a youngster.

0:37:310:37:34

If the sheep start to be a bit stroppy and play up on them,

0:37:340:37:38

the old dog is always there.

0:37:380:37:40

He can sort out the problems.

0:37:400:37:42

Just basically like a schoolteacher.

0:37:420:37:44

Swift has got more potential than Sam had.

0:37:450:37:48

But Swift has got that little bit extra,

0:37:480:37:51

there is that little bit of X factor with her.

0:37:510:37:53

There is a possibility that if the right man sees her potential

0:37:530:37:57

that Swift could end up on the trial field,

0:37:570:38:00

she could end up as a trialling dog.

0:38:000:38:02

I haven't put a value on Swift yet because, erm...

0:38:020:38:05

There is quite a bit of interest, I think, in her.

0:38:060:38:10

I'm going to see how that one runs and pans out on the day.

0:38:100:38:14

AUCTIONEER SHOUTS OUT BIDS

0:38:200:38:23

As the day progresses, the relentless rain continues.

0:38:240:38:28

But Norman won't let it dampen his spirits.

0:38:280:38:30

He's feeling more hopeful that Swift will put on a better show.

0:38:320:38:35

A little bit more confident now, there's a bit of confidence buzzing.

0:38:350:38:39

Let's get her sold and I'll be quite happy.

0:38:390:38:42

I think there is... I've got more faith in her

0:38:420:38:44

than I had in Sam so, yeah, here we go.

0:38:440:38:47

As Swift is so young, she won't be shown in the main field.

0:38:470:38:52

We have 19 dogs which are under 12 months of age.

0:38:520:38:55

They won't be working on the big field,

0:38:550:38:56

they will be just running around five or six sheep in a pen.

0:38:560:39:00

Good dog handlers can see the potential

0:39:000:39:02

of the way they look at the sheep,

0:39:020:39:04

the way they react.

0:39:040:39:06

And it's not long before Swift is called.

0:39:060:39:09

Norman Green is next with Swift.

0:39:090:39:13

-April born.

-April born.

0:39:130:39:14

-Fully vaccinated.

-Fully vaccinated.

0:39:140:39:16

And at home she's out the ring, she's out in the field.

0:39:160:39:21

There we are, who's got seven for this one, surely?

0:39:210:39:24

500 away. 500.

0:39:240:39:26

She's showing nicely there.

0:39:260:39:27

300 bid. Three.

0:39:270:39:28

50, four.

0:39:310:39:32

50, five.

0:39:320:39:34

50, 55, six.

0:39:340:39:37

Six. Anybody bid on 600?

0:39:370:39:40

Despite the filthy conditions, Swift is doing brilliantly.

0:39:400:39:44

650. 700.

0:39:440:39:46

Seven

0:39:460:39:48

750. 800.

0:39:480:39:50

800. All done now?

0:39:500:39:52

800 it is, Norman.

0:39:520:39:54

Very, very sure?

0:39:540:39:56

A granddaughter to Hutchinson's Sweep.

0:39:560:39:59

A granddaughter to Hutchinson's Sweep.

0:39:590:40:01

Swift's descended from English national champion, Sweep -

0:40:010:40:05

a fact that should entice buyers a bit more.

0:40:050:40:08

Eight, 800.

0:40:080:40:09

Are you bidding? I'm going to sell away at eight.

0:40:090:40:12

800. 800. 800.

0:40:120:40:14

Selling. No mistake.

0:40:140:40:15

At 800.

0:40:150:40:17

800.

0:40:170:40:19

That'll do. Come on, Swift.

0:40:190:40:21

Over £800 is a good price for the young, untrained Swift.

0:40:210:40:25

I'm feeling quite happy now.

0:40:250:40:28

It's all over.

0:40:280:40:30

She's made pretty well what I thought she was going to make.

0:40:300:40:33

She's made 800. Job done. I'm going home happy.

0:40:330:40:36

So not too bad.

0:40:360:40:37

2,000 bid. 2,000 only.

0:40:370:40:39

2,000 the bid. She's stylish.

0:40:390:40:41

Buyer Michael hasn't given up just yet,

0:40:410:40:44

and is still keen to go home with a replacement sheepdog

0:40:440:40:47

now that his current one is too old.

0:40:470:40:50

And a younger one has caught his eye.

0:40:500:40:52

HE CHUCKLES

0:40:520:40:54

You need a dog which will go out in all weathers.

0:40:540:40:57

Caddie is a female just under 18 months old.

0:40:580:41:02

But will she impress him enough to bid?

0:41:020:41:04

500 and off. Yeah?

0:41:040:41:07

Michael is quick to show his interest, offering 600 guineas.

0:41:070:41:11

600 bid. Seven?

0:41:110:41:13

Look this way sir. 700.

0:41:130:41:14

800, 800.

0:41:140:41:18

900 bid. 900.

0:41:180:41:20

She's obeying that command,

0:41:200:41:21

she's stopping and standing when she's supposed to.

0:41:210:41:24

1,000. Plenty of room to go here, sir.

0:41:240:41:26

1,000 only.

0:41:260:41:27

11. 1,100 bid.

0:41:270:41:29

Back to you sir. At 11, 12.

0:41:290:41:31

1,200 bid. At 1,200

0:41:310:41:33

13. 1,300 bid. On the fence at 1,300.

0:41:330:41:36

WHISTLE BLOWS

0:41:360:41:39

14, sir?

0:41:390:41:41

1,400. 1,400.

0:41:410:41:43

15. 1,500 bid.

0:41:430:41:44

He knows what he's got, sir.

0:41:440:41:46

At 1,500 bid. 1,500 once again.

0:41:460:41:49

1,500 bid.

0:41:490:41:50

15, 16. 1,600 bid.

0:41:500:41:52

17. 1,700. 1,700 bid.

0:41:520:41:55

18 I'll take now.

0:41:550:41:57

At 1,700 bid, 1,700.

0:41:570:41:59

I'm out.

0:41:590:42:01

Is that your best?

0:42:010:42:03

I'm off, I'm stopping.

0:42:030:42:04

But at 1,600, Michael is out.

0:42:040:42:07

I'm selling her then at 1,700 guineas.

0:42:070:42:11

Despite hours of standing around in the rain,

0:42:120:42:15

Michael's attempts to find a replacement dog at Bala have failed.

0:42:150:42:19

I've been, you know, very, very pleased to come here.

0:42:200:42:23

It's been a great sale.

0:42:230:42:24

A very, very damp one.

0:42:240:42:26

I'm very sorry to be going home without a dog.

0:42:260:42:30

But I've bid what I felt was right for each dog,

0:42:300:42:34

and there will be another occasion when hopefully I'll be successful.

0:42:340:42:37

So I'll keep trying.

0:42:370:42:39

Can I thank you all very much, indeed, for attending the sale.

0:42:390:42:43

We will be back again in May.

0:42:430:42:45

Hopefully the weather will be better, as well.

0:42:460:42:49

Five wet hours and 55 dogs later and the auction is over...

0:42:490:42:54

for another six months, at least.

0:42:540:42:56

It's been a day of mixed emotions for everyone.

0:42:570:43:00

Michael is still using his friend Richard and his sheepdog Sally.

0:43:000:43:04

But his search continues.

0:43:040:43:06

Doug is now focusing on training up Kate's pup, Pip,

0:43:070:43:10

who he hopes to sell at Bala auction next year.

0:43:100:43:13

And Norman's first time exhibiting as a full-time trainer

0:43:150:43:18

hasn't put him off.

0:43:180:43:20

He's busy training up Swift's half-sister Fern

0:43:200:43:22

and is hoping to start training Sally,

0:43:220:43:25

who's been recovering from an injury, in the coming weeks.

0:43:250:43:28

Bala in Snowdonia, north Wales, is home to one of the UK's most important sheepdog auctions - the Bala Autumn Sale. Nearly 80 dogs are sold in a day, and good prices are expected. From prize champions to inexperienced pups with promise, the Bala sale draws in buyers from all over the UK and phone bidders from as far afield as Iceland and the USA. Terrible weather threatens to derail the day, but the auction soldiers on.

Top seller Doug Lambie has high hopes for brother-and-sister collies Cap and Kate. There's much at stake for 57-year-old Norman Green, selling Sam and Swift. The former shepherd was recently made redundant and is hoping that sheepdog breeding will offer him a new future. Buyer Michael Hogan needs a new sheepdog for his farm, as his old dog, Craig, is 13 and needs to retire. But will he find what he needs at a price he can afford?