WITH A top well short of last year's record-breaking female top of 14,000gns, Blackface sheep breeders would still be more than pleased with a decent clearance and an average that topped last year's by £20 at their annual breeding female show and sale at Lanark last weekend.

There's no doubt, though, that a council decision by the Blackface Sheep Breeders' Association to make it easier for sheep breeders from Ireland to get their stock home from this sale had a positive impact.

The breed president, David Shedden, said that in previous years, complying with Northern Ireland's maedi-visna rules meant that some sheep didn't even make it to their new homes before lambing. "We made the decision to have everything tested 30-days prior to this sale to make it more practical for Irish buyers to get their purchases home," he said.

It was a plan, though, that was almost derailed by the fact that the intended boat back to Larne on the Saturday evening had been cancelled, though the society, the mart and vets worked a system that would allow the sheep to get to their destination early next morning, with the BSBA footing the transport costs to the other side of the water.

It paid off, with many of the high-priced lots heading in that direction, including the sale leader at 8000gns from John and Charlie Harkin, who farm at Loughash, near Strabane, but also have holdings in Scotland to keep sheep.

Their unshown sale star was a one-crop ewe by a £3500 Auldhouseburn and scanned twins to the £26,000 Auldhouseburn bought at Dalmally last October. Her dam is by the Dalwyne sheep, The Buffalo. Final bidders were Patrick and Veronica Fullerton, from Draperstown, who have been regular bidders for Loughash sheep in building up a quality flock.

The same home also had another one-crop ewe at 2600gns selling to Charlie Gallagher, Cappry, Ballybofey, Co Donegal. She is by a £20,000 Loughash and out of a dam by a £24,000 Elmscleugh, selling with a pair to the £45,000 Loughash.

On the debit side, the Harkins went to 3400gns for a one-crop ewe from Euan MacMillan, Lurg, Fintry. This got them a ewe by a a home-bred son of a £15,000 Midlock out of a dam by an £800 Lurg (now at Soroba) with twin lambs inside her by the £80,000 Auldhouseburn.

Also heading home on the same trailer was a gimmer the Harkins paid 2600gns to Robbie and Paul Coulson, High Staward, Langley, for. This one is by the £36,000 Auldhouseburn and out of a showy dam – called Flight Risk – by a home-bred son of their £25,000 Auldhouseburn. She sold scanned a single to a £22,000 Elmscleugh.

Second best price on the day was 4000gns paid early on for a two-crop ewe by a £16,000 Nunnerie from John Murray, Crossflatt, Muirkirk. Out of a dam by McCoy, she is carrying a single to a £12,000 Dalwyne and was judged overall champion at the Muirkirk stockjudging at the end of 2018. David Morrison, Dalwyne, at Barr, will be looking forward to lambing her to his own breeding.

Our of the same pen, but by Tornado and out of a dam by a £32,000 Allanfauld, with twins inside her to a £32,000 Dalchirla, was a gimmer which made 3200gns to Ewan Fraser, Balgowan, Laggan. One of the selling points here was that her dam has already bred tups to £12,000 and £9000.

The second-prize gimmer from Robert Cockburn, Hill of Errol, Perth, was third in the price stakes when selling at 3800gns to Robert Loughrey, Limavady. Scanned twins to a £5500 Nunnerie, she is a daughter of a £2400 Lurg and out of a dam by the £30,000 Aitkenhead.

Mr Cockburn's first prize ewe was also highly sought after, making 2500gns to Neil and Stuart Barclay, Harestone, Banchory, whose shepherd, Robert Marshall, was the show judge. She's by a £13,000 Troloss, out of a dam by a £60,000 Nunnerie, with twins inside her to a £2800 Midlock.

Perth types were led by a pair of crackers from David Baillie, Calla, Carnwath, which kicked off the sale to a great start. First in was a three-crop ewe by a home-bred son of the £6500 Woolfords and out of a much shown dam by the £6500 Woolfords, which bred the ram lamb which was champion at Perth last summer. She made 3400gns to Tom Daly, Castlederg, Northern Ireland.

Her flock mate, a gimmer by the £8000 McEvoy ram, out of a dam which bred the £18,000 Calla, was sold to Billy Grant, Cloughfin, Clonmany, Co Donegal, for 2600gns. She's scanned twins to a home-bred son of the £3500 Haughton.

Also hitting 3400gns was a one-crop ewe from Mary McCall Smith, Connachan, Crieff, which was brought out by shepherd Scott McAulay, while she was travelling on holiday. Aberuchill Estate, Comrie, 'herded by Craig Paterson, put the final bid on this daughter of Da Vinci bred out of a flush of eggs from a 3000gns Arnicle ewe, by a £20,000 Auldhouseburn, which had been bought at this sale some years back. She's carrying twins to a home-bred grandson of a £4000 Gass.

Another Connachan one-cropper also made 2000gns, this time to Arnold Mitchell, Crookstown, Co Tyrone. For that he got a daughter of a £24,000 Connachan out of a dam by an £18,000 Midlock and carrying a pair to the £8000 Auchloy.

The last sheep into the ring, a gimmer from Hugh and Alan Blackwood, Auldhouseburn, Muirkirk, was taken to 2800gns by Ewan Fraser. She's by an £85,000 Elmscleugh and out of a dam by Bolt, with a single inside her by the £160,000 Elmscleugh.

One lot earlier, her flock mate, a one-crop ewe by a £50,000 Crossflatt and out of a £25,000 Auldhouseburn, attracted a bid of 23300gns from James McCurdy, Broughshane, Co Antrim. He can expect a single to a £22,000 Elmscleugh.

Eoin and Kirstin Blackwood, Dalblair, Ayr, had a steady trade, getting a top of 2200gns for a gimmer by a £52,000 Crossflatt, from Danny Harrison, Annalong, Co Down. Out of a dam by a £6500 Auldhouseburn, she due twins to the £28,000 Auldhouseburn.

Heading to Mull with a 2000gns price tag was a two-crop ewe from Euan McMillan, which went home with Rhoda Munro. Scanned a pair to the £80k Auldhouseburn, she's a daughter of the £50,000 Pole and out of a dam by a £900 Lurg.

Averages: 65 averaged £1530.25 (+£19.67 for one more sold); 23 ewes, £2189.02 (-£319.93); 42 gimmers, £1169.50 (+£80.53).

Auctioneers: Lawrie and Symington