Casterton auction’s $20,000 top dog heads back to Gippsland

Terry Sim, 11/06/2024

Casterton Kelpie Association president, Karen Stephens, left with Beloka Leila, breeder Paul McPhail and buyer Mitch Leek.

MEN’S Australian middleweight boxing champion Mitch Leek handled his first working dog auction at Casterton with aplomb and persistence at the weekend.

And despite a bit of back and forth from opposing bidders, the boxer who is ‘ten for ten’ in his recent fights, came out on top with the top-priced dog, paying $20,000 for the Beloka stud’s Beloka Leila and $9000 for the sale’s most expensive pup, six month-old Beloka Bootz.

“We went back and forth there pretty quick a couple of times, it was all go for a bit, but no, it was good,” Mitch said after the auction.

“It was a bit more fun than a fight could be.

“We went from $10,000 to $20,000 real quick (for Leila).

“It was going bang, bang, bang, sort of thing and I had my old man in my ear, saying don’t miss it, keep bidding.”

Mitch was at the auction to buy the dogs for his father John at Nar Nar Goon, who was looking for his first Kelpies to work the 150 cattle in his Simmental stud and commercial beef operation.

“I use my dogs on the farm, but they are only loyal to me and they won’t listen to anyone else.”

John, 70, has a strong background in race horses and both he and his son train and breed them in Gippsland. Mitch has been helped with his dogs by Beloka principal Paul McPhail and father and son inspected Leila and Bootz working cattle at Beloka’s Welshpool headquarters before the sale on Sunday.

“If Mitchell’s not about I need a hand to get my cattle in and I thought it was time to get myself not only a companion, but something that could give me a hand as well.

“You can’t employ anybody these days, and it’s going to give me a lot of fun and enjoyment just learning the ropes with them.”

Mitch Leek, left, with Beloka Bootz and breeder Paul McPhail.

After breeding good horse and cattle, John said he is also ready to breed some good Kelpies and will be looking for a good stud dog.

”Once I get Leila and Bootz off Paul, they’ll only have eyes for me because I’m not letting them speak to anybody else or let anyone else feed them.

“I love Kelpies because of their intelligence and I went down and watched these work at Paul’s and was pretty sold there and then,” he said.

John said one of the horses he is training Affluential, has won his last five races, and “could win the Grand National this year, I’m not saying he can, but he’ll be in the race,” John said.

“I’ve won the double on Cox Plate Day, I’ve won a couple of Pakenham Cups …. I’ve had quite a lot of success with horses, but I need to be able to now turn this into having some success with these Kelpies.

“I really think Paul wants to see these dogs go forward in a big way, it’s great for his stud, it’s great for someone who is 70 and has never had a working dog in my life,” he said.

“When I was a young fellow I had about 70 greyhounds at one stage, so I’ve just got to translate a few things around (to the Kelpies) and listen to Paul.

“I’m excited about it to a stage you’ve got no idea …. this is what I’m going to do in my retirement if you want to call it ‘retirement’, because I’ll still have 150 cows and a few horses.”

Paul McPhail said with current cattle and lamb prices the conditions for selling dogs were currently tough, but good dogs sold well at the sale, but you still had to have done your stock work with you sale dogs.

“Those dogs stood out and they made good money, not ridiculous money.”

Paul said he had sold a dog intended for Casterton for $25,000 before Sunday’s auction, but Leila was the highest priced dog he had sold at the auction after supporting it for 24 years. He said the sale is the best platform to show off the dog’s instinct, the handler’s stockmanship and there is a big audience.

And on his formula for preparing a sale dog: “I spend a lot of time with them, it’s about early intervention when they are puppies, socialising and training and I’ve lived with those dogs for the last two months.

“We share breakfast together and beers at the end of the day,” he said.

“And you’ve got to have a stop and a sit, and a go … and I make sure that I read my stock and work my dogs properly.”

Mitch said he was very impressed with the working dog auction. The 33 dogs sold in the auction of the 49 offered averaged $6170. The selling was shared by RLA auctioneer James Tierney and LMB Livestock and Land’s Bernie Grant.



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