Despite a fairly dreich start to the proceedings, a top price of 43,000gns coupled with another five selling at 20,000gns or more, ensured overall averages improved by more than £100 per head at the Scottish National Suffolk show and sale at United Auctions' Stirling centre.

The sale which saw 217 ram lambs forward, resulted in a 64% clearance and in contrast to the sale at Shrewsbury the previous week, attracted buyers from the continent which helped to bolster trade.

"It was a solid sale for the start of the breeding sheep season and up on expectations," said George Purves, managing director at United Auctions.

"We had a wide audience of buyers from throughout the length and breadth of the UK and all over Europe. Being a breeders' sale there were a lot of good strong prices and a number of commercial buyers willing to pay anything from 300-1200gns for a tup, which is much the same as last year."

Backing up these statements, Robin McIlrath, chief executive of the Suffolk Sheep Society said: "The Scottish sale has traditionally always been the better of the two early sales and this one certainly was with buyers forward from Spain, The Netherlands, Portugal and Belgium."

However, he admitted satisfying the needs of breeders and commercial producers was proving increasingly problematic for cash strapped sheep farmers as the Brexit uncertainty continues.

“There is always debate at this time of the year over pedigree sales, both in terms of dates and venues. Our sales calendar hasn’t changed for a number years and it is important that from time to time we take stock of where we are and what we, the society, can do to support our breeders. The majority of our sales are organised by our branches so once we get over this particularly hectic time we will be taking stock and looking at the 2019 diary.”

What was new to this year's sale was the use of numbered yellow cards for potential buyers all of whom had to register with the auctioneers before their bid was accepted – a policy which is being introduced at all UA sales to improve efficiency levels within the market.

In a roll-over from the National sale at Shrewbury the previous week, it was a lamb from the Stuart family's Birness flock from Aberdeenshire, that topped the trade.

Star of the show for George Stuart, son Melvin and his son and daughter, Murray and Gemma, was the Scottish area champion at the pre-sale show, as selected by Iain Barbour of the Solwaybank flock from Annan.

Third in the open, this late December-born entry is by Ballynacannon Noah – a 6500gns purchase here last year that bred the 7200gns and 6000gns lambs at Shrewsbury – out of a home-bred ewe by Cavanagrove Catalyst. He sold in a three-way split to Irish breeders, Dennis Taylor buying back some of his own genetics for the Ballynacannon flock from Macosquin, Coleraine; Mark Priestley, Limestone, Seaforde and Michael McNally who owns the Benedyglen flock based in Dungiven, Co Derry.

Birness also received 10,000gns and 8000gns for their first two lambs. The dearest was the No 2, a son of the 9500gns Limestone Legacy that has bred sons to 30,000gns and 24,000gns, out of a ewe by Limestone Legend. A member of the third prize pen of three, he was knocked down to Stephen Sufferin, who also enjoyed a cracking trade for ram lambs from his Crewelands flock from Maghera, Co Londonderry.

James Bignal, Smaladh, Bridgend, Islay, bought the pen leader at 8000gns. He is by Crewelands Megastar, a tup bought here in 2017, and out of Ballynacannon Commander daughter – one of 160 Suffolk ewes in the Birness flock.

On the other side of the equation, Birness bought a third share of the second top priced lamb at 30,000gns in partnership with Paul Delves, Churchstoke, Powys and Stewart Craft buying for his Lakeview flock from Little Balquhomrie, Glenrothes. This was the second prize novice lamb from Philip Poole and son Russell's 60-ewe Salopian flock from Beaconsfield, Upper Battlefield, Shrewsbury. Securing a personal best for this flock established in 2015 was a son of the 26,000gns Solwaybank Rock Solid, a tup that has bred sons to 4000gns and females to 1800gns, out of a home-bred ewe by Cloontagh Chieftain.

The champion from Mr Sufferin's Crewelands flock realised 26,000gns selling to the judge, Iain Barbour and his sister Judith of the Solwaybank flock from Annan with Portuguese breeder, Suffolk Do Pinheiro, Rua Diogo Bernardes, Amadora, also taking a share. First in the Northern Ireland Championships, this early January-born ET lamb is bred from a gimmer by the 20,000gns Ballynacannon Taylor Made and sired by last year's 30,000gns Birness Playboy.

Mr Sufferin, a pallet manufacturer to trade who established his flock in 2012 also won the award for the first prize group of three which realised 9000gns, 6500gns and 2500gns. Tops here was a full ET brother to the champion purchased by Lilia Hutchinson (12) buying for the Howgillfoot flock from Redgate, Kirkby Stephen, established from Lakeview embryos and females bought last year.

The reserve from Mark Priestley's Limestone flock from Seaforde, followed in the price ratings making 23,000gns to James Browne buying for the Errigal flock from Listillion, Letterkenny, Co Donegal. Home-bred genetics are behind this second prize winner in the open, an ET lamb sired by Mr Priestley's 40,000gns Limestone Aston Martin sold here last year, onto a Gransha ewe bought from Joe Stewart, by the 10,000gns Limestone Brigadier. He is a full brother to the Balmoral Show champion sold privately earlier in the year to Stewart Craft, Lakeview and Stewart Lathangie, Pyeston.

Sons of Aston Martin also proved popular for Southern Ireland breeder, Andrew Wilson, who sold three from his Castleisle flock from Raphoe, Co Donegal, for 21,000gns, 20,000gns and 16,000gns.

Producing a personal best here for this 40-ewe flock was the pen's No 2 and a member of the second prize group of three. A maternal brother to a 13,000gns lamb sold here, this ET lamb is bred from a home-bred ewe by Shannagh Resolve, a tup bred by Mr Wilson's brother, Richard. Final bidders were Chris Holmes and his daughter Sally buying for the 50-ewe Rookery flock from Broadway, Worcester.

The pen leader which stood sixth in his class in the open, was knocked down to Arthur O'Keefe, Annakisha House, Mallow, Co Cork. Another backed by the best of bloodlines, he is out of a home-bred ewe by Cairness See The Stars, with the grand-dam, also being the second dam of a 7000gns gimmer sold at Carlisle, last year.

Birness and Jim Innes buying for the Strathbogie flock from Dunscroft, Huntly, bought the 16,000gns Castleisle lamb, an ET bred from a Shannagh ewe by the 11,000gns Shannagh Resolve.

Minutes later, Gordon and Donald Mackie, Drimmie, Forfar, received 9500gns – their best ever sale – for the seventh prize lamb, from Stephen Cobbald buying for his Lavenham flock from Acton Hall, Sudbury. His purchase is the first son sold by the 24,000gns Strathbogie 24 Carat son, Drimmie Cracker, out of a ewe by Drimmie Glenho, one of 50 ewes in the flock.

Top breeding was behind Alastair Gault's sale leader from the Forkins flock from Newtownabbey, Co Down, at 8500gns. This fifth prize winner is by Mullaghboy Goliath – a son of Rhaeadr Rolex out of a Lakeview ewe bought privately from David Ford – which bred Mr Gault's 20,000gns pen leader here last year. The dam, a Birness Bacardi daughter is a full sister to the 9500gns Limestone Legacy. He headed back across the Irish Sea with Robin McAdoo, buying for his Threeways flock from Cookstown, Co Tyrone.

Just behind, on 8000gns, Stewart Lathangie, Pyeston, Glenrothes, sold his No 2, the reserve Scottish area champion in a two-way split to Limestone and Shaun Turkington buying for the Beechcrest flock from Hillsborough, Lisburn. Fourth in the open and male champion at West Fife Show, this Hogmanay-born lamb is a direct son of Limestone Legacy, out of a Deveronside show ewe bought as a ewe lamb at the flock dispersal by Muirton One Direction.

Females peaked at 900gns on two occasions for gimmers from Patrick Donnelly's Donrho flock from Rathkenny, Ballymena, who sold four, all by Birness Donn, to average £840.


Ram lambs – 7500gns – S and W Tait, Burnview, by Strathbogie Im Invincible, to JP Screene, Windfield, Menlough, Ballinasloe.

6500gns – Crewelands, by Birness Playboy, to RH Goldie, Harpercroft, Kilmarnock and GA Mackie, Drimmie, Forfar

5000gns – R Barkley, Blackbrae, by Drimmie Blackisle, to JJ Tooze, Old Medwyn Mill, Spittal, Carnwath adn GI Richmond, Lodge Cottage, Langley Lane, Goosnargh; R Lawrence, Roundacre, by Birness Bang Tidy, to G Biddulph, Dalehouse, Gainsworth and SJ Buckley, Sittinglow, Buxton.

Averages: 138 ram lambs, £2947.30 (+£106 for two more sold); four gimmers £840,

FLOCK averages

Flock (No) Top (gns) Averages

2019 2018

Claycrop (4) 1600 682.50 –

Redbrae (4) 450 433.13 –

Forkins (4) 8500 2730.00 7140

Sitlow (30) 1700 1242.50 –

Ballynacannon (6) 1100 652.75 2800

Middlemuir (3) 4500 2222.50 665

Pyeston (3) 8000 3815.00 –

Ballyboe (3) 4200 2152.50 –

Solwaybank (4) 4000 1785.00 –

Limestone (4) 23,000 7743.75 17,430

Crewelands (8) 26,000 6647.81 1695

Beechcrest (3) 450 409.50 –

Birness (9) 43,000 8050.00 6563

Salopian (3) 30,000 11,375.00 –

Burnview (8) 7500 1876.88 3465

Cairnton (5) 1100 661.50 –

Balquhain (3) 1200 945.00 2065

Rookery (4) 800 577.50 4856

Pennan (3) 4000 2170.00

Castleisle (6) 21,000 12,232.50 3255

Drimmie (4) 9500 3026.63 814

Cairness (3) 500 455.00 4610

Smithston (4) 1100 630.00 956

Roundacre (3) 5000 2397.50 875

Lakeview (4) 2000 1107.75 987

Auctioneers: United Auctions.