Big was very much beautiful at the first of the main Blackface ram sales at Newton Stewart, where growing demand for shearling rams with size and scale coupled with an increase in the number of buyers – particularly from the north of England – resulted in averages improving by more than £170 on the year.

In contrast to last year's event which saw a £42,000 lead– the second highest ever sold here; last weekend's sale was a much more modest affair, with trade peaking at £14,000 twice, another at £12,000 backed up by a flying commercial trade for scouthy rams in the £600-£900 mark.

It was the vendor of last year's sale leader that was the first to sell at £14,000 too, when Drannandow Farms, managed by David Ferguson and Jim McEwan sold their best to Jack Kay and his mother Sheila, Hartside, Oxton, Lauder. The tup, brought out with assistance from shepherd Ruari McTaggart, is by a Drannandow son of the £20,000 High Croach Peroni, sold last year for £1500, out of a ewe by the £9000 Dyke.

A different home-bred son of Peroni which made £2500 here last year was behind the second Drannandow shearling which made £4400 selling to Norman Hurcombe, Barnvannoch, New Luce. He is out of a ewe by a home-bred son of the £9000 Dyke.

Add to that an £8000 sale from the 1400-strong ewe flock, and Drannandow also picked up the lead flock average selling 11 shearlings at just shy of £3000. Ben Cluckie's High Croach genetics were behind this big boy too, with the sire being the £12,000 High Croach Miller bought at Dalmally, onto a ewe by a £12,000 Garchew. Gavin Campbell and his daughter Susan, were the final bidders buying for the Larg, Creetown flock.

Local breeder, Colin McClymont, Cuil, Palnure, also received £14,000 for 'Benfield', to equal his top here last year. Notably, it was a son of that £14,000 shearling purchased by Joe and John Dickson, that topped the flock this year when selling in a three-way split to Alan McClymont for his Kirkstead and Dryhope hirsels, from Yarrow, and Dan Walton, Wanwood Hill, Alston. He is bred from a ewe by a £14,000 Allanfauld lamb.

Minutes later, Cuil's No 3, by Markdhu Dolly, a £4500 purchase here, made £5000 selling to last year's father and son buyers Joe and John Dickson, Dunlogan, Draperstown, Northern Ireland. His mother is by an £8000 Dyke shearling.

The Dicksons bought several of the lead priced rams to include the Ramsay family's No 2 shearling from Milnmark, Dalry, at £12,000. Home-bred genetics were again behind the top lots from this pen which averaged £2700 for 15, with the dearest being a son of QC, a Milnmark tup retained for breeding by the £16,000 Dyke. He is bred from a ewe by a £2000 Dyke.

Milnmark's pen leader, by Hop A Long, a different son of the £16,000 Dyke kept for breeding that stood reserve male at the Highland Show in 2017, made £6500 to Andy Paton and son Andy, Craig, Straiton. He is out of a ewe by an £8000 Happrew.

And, at £5000 Milnmark sold a shearling son of the £55,000 Glenrath Sir John, bred from a £3000 Milnmark-sired ewe, to near neighbour, Robert McTurk, Barlaes, Dalry.

On the other side of the equation, Milnmark bought the pen leader from John and Iain Campbell's 1000-strong Grimmet flock, 'herded by Andy Ballantyne, Dalmellington, at £9000. The breeding behind this big fella includes a £20,000 Dyke tup bought in partnership with Gass and Hartside, onto a ewe by an £11,000 Connachan.

Later in the day, Ian McKnight who runs 700 ewes at Dalhabboch, Glenluce, went one better than his £5000 best last year, selling his pen leader for £7000 to Cuil. Placed at local shows, he is by a £400 Dalblair bought at Stirling that was by a £52,000 Crossflatt and bred from a ewe by a Silloans sire.

Ian Bond's Glen, Gatehouse flock also enjoyed a good trade with shearling rams to £6500 and ram lambs to £6000 – the top price in this section. Tops for the flock managed by Robert and Debbie McTaggart, was a shearling son of a £4500 Auldhouseburn lamb purchased by Joe and John Dickson, from Northern Ireland.

Their lead lamb, which stood first in his class at Carsphairn Show and is bred from two generations of show ewes, with the dam being a daughter of a £20,000 Dalchirla, was knocked down to John and Iain Finlay, Blackcraig, Corsock; Davie and Jock Jackson, Pole, Lochgoilhead and Sanny Blackwood, Nether Wellwood, Muirkirk. The sire was a £10,000 Madrissa shared shearling bought at Dalmally last year from Bo Brown.

Back amongst the shearling rams and Dumfriesshire breeders, Hugh and Andy Hamilton, Glenmanna, Thornhill, sold their No 5 for £6000 to Drannandow. This big tup is by a £2000 Milnmark shearling bought here in 2016 and bred from a ewe by a £3200 Cuil.

Several tups sold between £4000 and £4500 with the dearest of those at £4500 from Gerard McGinn, Chirmorrie, Barrhill, selling to the McIlwricks from Balmurrie, New Luce. Their purchase is by a £3200 Knockdon and out of a ewe by a £3000 Blackcraig.

Rob Hannah's Blackloch flock from Gatehouse of Fleet, took £4200 for a son of a £3000 Cuil, bred from a ewe with a Connachan sire from Barlaes.

Two shearlings sold at £4000 to include the best from James Murdoch's Knockdon flock from Straiton, purchased by Robin and Martin Wood, West Bracklinn, Callander. This big tup brought out by shepherd Ian Fergie, is by a £4200 Elmscleugh and bred from a ewe by a £2800 Nunnerie.

Later, Jimmy Wallace, Fingland, Dalry, received the same money for a son of a £3200 Hartside Lammermuir, out of a ewe by a £20,000 Crossflatt, from Graham Statham, Laghead, Gatehouse of Fleet.

While the shearling rams undoubtedly enjoyed the best of the day's trading, top end lambs also sold well, with Jim and Eoin Blackwood, Dalblair, Muirkirk, taking £5500 for their best, a son of the £28,000 shared Auldhouseburn lamb bought last year at Lanark bred from a ewe by an £11,000 Dyke. The buyer was Stuart Robson, High Leam, Hexham.

Dalblair also sold a lamb at £2200 to J Anderson, Penchrise, Hawick.

And, at £4000, Jim and Fiona Burns, Craignell, New Galloway, sold a son of a £26,000 Crossflatt bred from a ewe by a home-bred son of an £8000 Dyke in a two-way split to Archie and John MacGregor, Allanfauld, Kilsyth and John Murray, Crossflatt, Muirkirk.

Averages: 213 shearling rams, £1147.18 (+£170.39 for 15 fewer); 29 ram lambs, £1078.62 (-£153.38 for four more).

Auctioneers: Craig Wilson

FLOCK averages

Flock (No) Top Averages

(£) 2019 2018

Shearling rams

Craigdarroch (6) 1700 808.33 1283

Glenmanna (8) 6000 1092.50 840

Fingland (7) 4000 1142.85 690

Drannandow (11) 14,000 2964.54 5375

Barnvannoch (4) 2800 1207.50 613

Westhills (3) 1050 660.00 1000

Craig, Straiton (10) 1300 528.00 514

Larg, Creetown (4) 1400 712.50 529

Knockdon (5) 4000 1156.00 4240

Balrazzie (4) 1000 550.00 560

Garchew (5) 1100 596.00 862

Knockeen (3) 2100 1293.33 318

Blackloch (6) 4200 1475.00 983

Clanary (6) 2200 966.66 –

Markdhu (8) 3500 1182.50 1243

Carscreugh (6) 1800 995.00 307

Dalhabboch (5) 7000 1750.00 434

Laghead (5) 1000 580.00 648

Grimmet (4) 9000 2605.00 968

Miltonise (4) 1100 555.00 288

Bellimore (3) 320 270.00 –

Glen, Gatehouse (7) 6500 1624.28 552

Milnmark (15) 12,000 2700.00 1318

Dalwyne (3) 1600 726.66 –

Chirmorrie (4) 4500 1925.00 762.50

Cuil, Palnure (15) 14,000 1888.00 1813

Little Larg (7) 3000 1128.57 1356

Barhaskine (3) 500 300.00 517

Drumbreddan (3) 1600 1066.66 1100

Gass (6) 3200 1358.33 1450

Kirkmabreck (8) 2000 1000.00 634

Balmurrie (3) 350.00 250.00 547

Ram lambs

Upper Wellwood (3) 1000 583.33 –

Glen, Gatehouse (3) 6000 2333.33 1233

Craignell (4) 4000 1712.50 250

Craig, Straiton (3) 1200 650.00 –