GROWING demand for white-faced sheep in both prime and breeding sheep rings resulted in a disappointing trade for Suffolk sheep, with shearling ram averages slipping more than £120 on the year, while the overall average for 506 registered rams falling £38.56 and for 16 fewer cashed.

“It can only be said that Kelso this year was a bit of a mixed bag," said Robin McIlrath, chief executive of the Suffolk Sheep Society.

"We are delighted that the Suffolk lamb trade bucked the trend with not only more sheep sold, but also an average price increase of 10% on 2017. The importance of the lamb trade cannot be underestimated for the breed with it accounting for almost 25% of all Suffolks sold at Kelso."

He added that although more Suffolks were sold compared to last couple of years, the shearling trade remained disappointing – a feature that was witnessed across all breeds. Having said that, he pointed out that the sale was not as bad as some breeders had been anticipating.

"The is considerable uncertainty in agriculture. With Kelso taking place in the middle of so much political turmoil, this coupled with a lack of clarity on future support for farming from the Secretary of State for Agriculture, Mr Gove, has to be having a detrimental effect on agri-business in general and, in this case, the Kelso Ram Sales in particular,” said Mr McIlrath.

While an improved show of ram lambs led to the section producing the majority of lead prices, with averages up almost £50 on the year, it was nevertheless a shearling ram from Alex and Russell Gray's 35-ewe Langside flock from Lesmahagow, that topped the sale at £5000.

In all, the father and son team who also run well-known pedigree flocks of Charollais and Texel sheep, saw their pen of 13 produce the lead registered breed average at £1055.38.

More impressive is the fact that all 13 were sons of Muirton Premier, a £2000 ram lamb purchase at Stirling in 2016.

The £5000 shearling, which is bred from a home-bred ewe by Cookstead Class Act, headed down to Wales with D Roberts, Holywell, Clwyd, Wales.

Next best amongst the shearlings was a £3000 sale for Peter and Lynn Gray's No 2 from the Scrogton flock from Cowgrove, Galston, purchased by Northern Ireland producer, R Crawford, Newtownstewart, Co Tyrone. Another with Cookstead Class Act genetics on the dam's side, this big tup is by Brijon Black Magic, the pre-sale champion here in 2016, bought for £2400. Scrogton produced the second top Suffolk average, selling 15 shearlings at £963.33.

It was young Stewart Shaw (21) who enjoyed the day most though as he not only produced the top priced unregistered Suffolk at £3000, he also secured a personal best sale and average with his pen of nine cashing in at £1131.

Stewart, who was gifted his first Suffolk female as a Christmas present in 2007, now runs a pretty-much closed flock of 34 ewes at Smailholm Mains, Kelso, with his sale leader this year being a shearling son of a Soutra tup out of a home-bred ewe with 10% New Zealand genetics. A show winner into the bargain, this big fella was first prize shearling at Peebles and Berwickshire County, and sold down to South Wales, with J Jones, Robleston Hall.

Leading the lamb trade at £4000 was the No 4 from Jimmy Douglas' Cairness flock from Woodhead of Cairness, Fraserburgh, purchased by Trevor Burke, buying back some of his own genetics for the Deburca flock from Eire. This cracker is bred from a Deburca gimmer by Errig Black Viper and sired by Cairness Agent, a 20,000gns ram sold at Stirling, last year.

Next best at £2800, was a ram lamb from Gary Beacom, who recently sold his Lakeview flock from Fivemiletown, Co Tyrone, privately to Stewart Craft, Fife. A son of Lakeview Pink Panther – a £3000 lamb that sold to the Benrafton and Stonebridge flocks at a previous Kelso Sale – out of a home-bred ewe, he headed home with Ashley Bothwell, Smithston, Patna.

Despite being last sold in Ring 10, Mark Evans' Jubilee flock from Tower Gate, Keighley, came up with a £2400 sale to Northern Ireland breeder, Willie Tait, buying for his Burnview ewes from Lislap, Co Tyrone. He is sired by a Sitlow ram bought at Carlisle last year for £1000.

Next best amongst the lambs was an £1800 sale from the Roseden/Lilburn Suffolk flock managed by Micky Walton, of the Lilburn Farming Partnership, Wooler. He is by Stockton Zadoc, out of a ewe by Deveronside Pall Mall and headed home with FT Walton, Flotterton, Morpeth.

Matching that price was the best shearling from Stephen and Louise Buckley's Derbyshire-based Sitlow flock, bought by Alan and Lorna Jackson, Rugley, Alnwick. He is by Midhope Hans Solo, a recorded tup used on loan and out of the mother of £1000 Sitlow ram bought by Jubilee flock at Carlisle.

Second top price amongst the unregistered rings were two shearling rams from Norman and David Douglas, Catslackburn, Yarrow and JN Moor and Son, Nesbit, Wooler, purchased by J Leiper, Black Heddon, Newcastle upon Tyne and Messrs Herdman, Vickers.

Averages: 295 shearling rams, £697.32 (-£121.09 for five more sold); 211 ram lambs, £520.76 (+£47.44 for 21 fewer); 452 unregistered shearling rams, £616.53 (-£50 for 34 more).