Demand for Blackface rams held up well at the first of the association sales at Ballymena on Monday, where most section averages improved on the year for more or less similar numbers sold.

Buoyed by an increased number of Scottish breeders – minus a small number who missed the plane in the morning! – North-type lambs improved the most, rising almost £250 per head on the year. It was a North lamb that also produced the lead price, when the reserve champion winner from Billy Grant and sons Joseph and Seamus, made 16,000gns.

Producing a personal best for this 150 ewe flock from Killaloo, Co Londonderry, was a son of a 1900gns Loughash bought here last year which in turn was by a 2000gns Billy Grant tup. The dam, is by a home-bred son of an 8000gns Loughash. The Scots were out in force to buy this cracker but the Irish got the better of them, when the lamb being knocked down to Brian Curran who runs the Blackmore flock in Co Derry.

"That's the best tup I've ever seen. He's got a great head and great legs. He's an absolute smasher," said Mr Curran, who shares the tup with Charlie Galagher, Donemana; Paul McEvoy, Kilcoo; Edward Canny, Donegal, with the Grants retaining an equal share.

Local breeders, Tom Adams and sons Joe and Alan, who run 250 ewes alongside their dairy herd at Rathkenny, enjoyed a great day's trading with lambs at 5000gns, 3200gns and 2600gns.

Their pen of seven lambs, which were all sons of the £5000 Achdregnie, bought last year at Stirling after standing reserve champion, averaged £1850, with the dearest being out of a ewe by a 3500gns Alex Knox-bred sire. Buying back some of his own genetics, he sold across the Irish Sea to Stephen Duncan, Achdregnie, Glenlivet.

Alex Knox and Charlie Tinney, Broughshane, bought the 3200gns lamb, which is out of a ewe by a 2900gns Mark Smyth-bred ram.

William and Michael Smyth, who own the Foyleview flock from Limavady, Co Londonderry, were also in the money, with a 3500gns lamb sale to J Hunter, Glenarm, Ballymena. He is by a 2600gns Mark Smyth and bred from a ewe by a 750gns Breslin Bros.

Leading the south-type Blackie trade at 9000gns and 7000gns were two shearling rams from Brendan McAllister, Glenarm, Ballymena, who enjoyed a flying trade. His best, by a shearling son of a 68,000gns Elmscleugh, bought at Ballymena from Damien McSwiggan for 4600gns in 2015, sold to Alan Frame, Dullater and John Finlay, Blackcraig, Corsock, with Mr McAllister retaining a third share.

The 7000gns ram, by the same sire, was knocked down to Glenarm breeder, R Taggart.

Damien McSwiggan also enjoyed a good trade, with sales at 4200gns and 3200gns for his flock from Gortin, Co Tyrone. The first, a son of the £20,000 Harkin bought in 2015 at Lanark, was purchased by Dessie McCollum, Loughgiel, Ballymena, while the second, which is owned by Perry McNicol, former shepherd at Nunnerie, is by a £36,000 Midlock and sold to Michael Ketch, Ballincleatle, Co Waterford.

Two other shearlings made 3200gns including the pen leader from wind farm developer, Karl O Mullan, who has only been breeding Blackface sheep since 2011. His best, got by frozen semen from the £30,000 Elmscleugh owned by Glenrath and Dalchirla, is out of a Midlock ewe by Dalchirla X Factor. The buyer was Joe Dickson, Dunlogan Road, Draperstown.

Jimmy and Jason Mills who run 320 ewes at Kilwaughter, Larne, also took 3200gns for a son of a £2000 Elmscleugh bought at Dalmally as a lamb. Ballycastle breeder, N McQuaid, West Torr, was the final bidder.

Leading the south-type lamb trade at 6000gns were two lambs from James McCurdy and Gordon Crawford, respectively.

First up was the best from James' 250 ewe flock from Broughshane. A son of the £16,000 Nunnerie, he is out of a ewe lamb bought from Crossflat at Lanark, which is by a £26,000 Crossflat. The buyer was M McDermott, Omagh Road, Co Tyrone.

Matching the 6000gns bid was the first lamb from the last lot sold at the sale. That was Gordon Crawford's male champion winner from Limavady and Omagh shows – a son of a £2800 Crossflatt, out of a Crossflat-bred ewe – purchased by Davie and Jock Jackson, with Mr Crawford retaining a share.

Another by the same sire from the 125-ewe flock, made 3200gns selling to T Rooney, Mayobridge, Newry. He was champion at Omagh and reserve at Antrim Show.

Another noted show winner, Seamus Fegan's first prize winner from Balmoral, which won several other local shows for the flock from Drumnaquoile Road, Castlewellan, made 3300gns selling to B Douglas, Castlederg, Co Tyrone. The breeding behind this transaction includes frozen semen from the £50,000 Dalwyne, onto a Crossflat-bred ewe.

Averages: North-type – 63 ram lambs, £1112.50 (+£245.50 for the same number); 35 shearling rams, £338.70 (-£90.56 for 16 fewer sold). South-type – 47 ram lambs, £1012.02 (+£285.21 for three less); 203 shearling rams, £868.34 (+£20.68 for six less).