NORMALLY you can’t put a price on friendship, but man’s best friend is bringing in over £6,000 for border collie breeders.
Recently prices have soared for the valuable working dogs, with growing demands from farmers, shepherds and sheep trialists.
Here in the Upper Calder Valley, Robert Fielden has been breeding the dogs for 35 years and last year sold a 22-month-old black and white border collie called Zac for 3,800 guineas (£3,990).
“He was a quite exceptional dog and did sell well. But dogs like that are few and far between,” he said.
“Those dogs that sold for £6,000 recently are the cream and they are certainly not thick on the ground. People seem to be getting carried away with the prices.
“It is very time consuming breeding and training a working dog and there is no guarantee that a well bred pup will become a top of the range sheep dog. The dogs are all individuals and are difficult to breed.
“It would be very nice to get a full litter that makes the grade, but that simply does not happen.”
Mr Fielden, who has grazing rights on Todmorden Moor, described the border collie as the “top of the tree” for working abilities.
“They have a unique working ability and it is only the border which can do the job properly. As long as there is sheep farming on the hills, moorland and steep banks there will have to be sheep dogs, rather than mechanical aids,” he said.
Hebden Bridge butcher and farmer Stephen Maskill, whose family has bred sheep dogs for years, said: “Quad bikes may have come more to the fore in rounding up sheep in recent years but for versatility the sheep dog is unrivalled.”
Mr Maskill said a good young working dog normally costs four figures – a sum he had to pay for his new dog Sam last year.
“With further training and handling their value can appreciate further, although prices in the region of £6,000 are exceptional and above and beyond most farmers,” he said.
He also felt the prices had been accelerated by non-farming people interested in sheep dog trials.
Farmers Fiona and Andrew Gibbon, of Hebden Bridge, have three border collies on their farm and said they are great at protecting livestock.
“Our dogs are not proper working dogs, although they are very good at keeping foxes away from chickens,” said Fiona.
“However, for a farmer needing to gather up sheep from moorland a working border collie is priceless.”