Even with the strong pre-sale interest, auctioneer Shaun Irvine could not believe the crowd of bidders and spectators at the first sale of Valais Blacknose sheep in Ireland, at Ballymena Auction Mart.

Potential buyers travelled from as far as Cork to view the entry of breeding stock presented for sale by husband and wife team Richard and Selina Beattie, Omagh.

Prices peaked at 2000gns for a stock ewe purchased by Ross Montgomery, Tipperary.

Strong demand for breeding females to establish foundation stock for new flocks, saw Siobhan O Neill, Westmeath fork out 1450gns for a three-crop ewe and Martin Clinton, Letterkenny went to 1200gns to secure the only ewe and lamb outfit.

The selection of April-born ewe lambs hit a top of 1000gns paid on two occasions. First to go, D McCrystal, Guladuff Hill, went to this price and later went to 850gns for a comrade ewe lamb.

Also parting with 1000gns to establish a new flock was Lisa Rothwell, Co Carlow.

Ewe lambs averaged £840 for 15 with ram lambs selling to 400gns to level at £340 for 20.

Auctioneers: JA McClelland and Son, Ballymena