Land agents’ and auctioneers’ 8 funniest tales

Farming often involves all sorts of hazardous, funny, strange and embarrassing events and is full of interesting characters.

Land agents and auctioneers get to witness more of these events – and often play a part in them – than most as they travel between farms and auctions and deal with clients and customers.

Farmers Weekly asked agents and auctioneers to share their stories – who would have thought they would involve broken feet, straw sandwiches and burning cars?

See also: Opinion: Reindeer could be a Christmas ‘gift’ to farmers


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1. Peas and straw sandwiches win the bid

Two cattle buyers were having their usual banter at Melton Mowbray Market when a group of cattle came into the ring that they both wanted. While the one buyer was bidding (with my father acting as the auctioneer) the other dropped some dried peas into the chap’s wellingtons and nudged him.

The guy cringed in agony, bent down to see what the problem was, and while he did the other buyer drew the last bid, much to the amusement of himself.

A week later, the same two men were around the auction ring trying to buy the best cattle again.

The buyer who had suffered the dried peas in his boots did not want to be outdone this time. He noticed the other’s sandwiches behind him and, grabbing some straw from the floor, quickly shoved a small amount into a sandwich.

My father, who was auctioneering at the time, noticed this and found it almost impossible to continue selling when the straw sandwich was later consumed in its entirety.

Ben Shouler, partner, Shouler & Son

Fire extinguishers

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2. Great balls of fire

While visiting a new client on his Sussex farm I was handed his new mule in order to inspect the boundaries on a wet day. Within five minutes a glitch with the electrics saw the vehicle start to billow smoke.

Luckily the client, his wife and I escaped before the whole thing went up in flames. I still recall him running down the field from the house armed with two fire extinguishers.

Matthew Sudlow, partner, Strutt & Parker

Sheep being sold at a livestock market

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3. Tune in to the local lingo

A man called Phillip Cooper sold some sheep at Bakewell Market. He told us his brother had brought them in early in the day and booked them in with the clerk.

Mr P Cooper arrived at the market pay office to collect his cheque, but we could find no record of his name. He was told he would have to wait until everything else had been claimed to see what was left.

At the close of business there was nothing left for anyone called Cooper and the only unclaimed cheque was for a Mr R Phillips.

The mystery was solved when we recalled that his brother had booked them in. The clerk had obviously asked him: “Whose sheep are these?” To which he had replied: “Our Phillip’s.”

Alastair Sneddon, senior partner, Bagshaws Auctioneers at Bakewell Livestock Market


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4. Don’t forget your, er, teeth

As an auctioneer I have to assist farmers to reverse their Land Rovers and trailers prior to unloading stock. Sitting in the driving seat of a farmer’s vehicle, a cornucopia of objects presents itself – half-empty bottles of vaccines, castrating pliers and rubber rings, eartags and heavy-duty shotgun cartridges.

But the worst thing I have encountered was a set of false teeth with a smattering of breakfast still on them. They were clearly only installed for the act of chewing food and left on the dashboard to rest between meals.

Alastair Sneddon, senior partner, Bagshaws Auctioneers at Bakewell Livestock Market


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5. Be prepared to explain delicate matters

Explaining to her ladyship why the shared drains of a big mansion house and let flats were blocked without mentioning the word “condom” was a memorable occasion. As was the ribbing from workers on another estate about inadvertently letting an estate property as a “house of ill repute”. They also wanted to know if I’d negotiated a staff discount yet.



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6. Left hopping at valuation

It was a rather untidy smallholding and a pleasant summer’s day so I stood with the three clients in their farmyard to discuss values. While presenting my views one of the owners leaned on a gate, dislodging the steel pipe bender keeping it open. It toppled over landing squarely on my foot.

Hopping, I finished the valuation, but a later X-ray showed I had broken my foot in four places – six weeks on crutches ensued. I was hopping again a few months later when the owner informed me he had done a private deal.

Andrew Tuffin, head of farm agency, Symonds & Sampson

Locked door

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7. Locking the tenant in secures the deal

I was showing a potential tenant around a derelict building on a large site. Just before 5pm we let ourselves in and left the padlock on the outside door.

After 30 minutes of detailed discussion we went to leave, only to find the workmen on site had locked us in and knocked off for the day.

To compound matters it was now 5.35pm, the office phone was on switchboard. I eventually managed to contact a colleague using the tenant’s mobile to come and release us.

The extra time in the barn must have endeared the tenants to the building as 12 months later the NFU moved in and are very pleased with the property.

The NFU agent enjoys recalling his viewing experience, particularly when we are in the company of other property professionals.

Andrew Tuffin, head of farm agency, Symonds & Sampson

Mobile phone

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8. Beware the mobile phone trick

I was at an livestock auction in Wales with two cattle buyers who are great friends, and still are – we shall call them Rodeo and Mach.

They were both buying a few cattle but soon through the ring came some exceptional cattle that they both wanted. However, only Mach knew they both wanted them.

Mach had a cunning plan. He rang Rodeo’s mobile, knowing that he was expecting a call about something else more important.

Rodeo began hunting for the phone and trying to bid at the same time – but this he could not manage, so he stopped bidding briefly and got his phone out and answered. “Hello? Hello, anyone there?”

During this time Mach took the next bid. Rodeo hung the phone up just at the same time as the hammer went down and Mach was called out by the auctioneer.

Rodeo looked at Mach who was in stitches holding up his phone to him. I was the poor bloke between them.

Ben Shouler, partner, Shouler & Son

If you have any stories to tell in your farming life, please send them to

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