Forget the Boxing Day/New Year sales – the Lockdown Ladies Bluefaced Leicester female event at Carlisle on Monday, December 28, will be far more enjoyable.

This new sale organised within the last couple of weeks to enable sheep to be exported to Ireland before the December 31 deadline, is made up of in-lamb ewes and gimmers from five top crossing Blue units and includes the entire adult portion of John Smith-Jackson’s well-known Shafthill flock from Hexham.

The Scottish Farmer: John Smith-Jackson and his wife Mandy are renowned for breeding top quality North of England Mule ewe lambs from their home-bred Shafthill Bluefaced Leicester rams and are pictured here winning at a former Gilsland ShowJohn Smith-Jackson and his wife Mandy are renowned for breeding top quality North of England Mule ewe lambs from their home-bred Shafthill Bluefaced Leicester rams and are pictured here winning at a former Gilsland Show

John and his wife Mandy, who are reducing both sheep and cattle numbers for an easier way of life on their 250-acre farm, are selling 28 breeding females to include nine gimmers from their flock which is not only renowned for its pedigree Blues but also the North of England Mules produced from them.

While Shafthill regularly breeds top award winners at the Bluefaced Leicester Progeny Show at Penrith in the pedigree section, their Mule ewe lambs, often bred from home-bred sires are just as popular and always hit the headlines at Alston Moor, Lazonby, Carlisle and Kirkby Stephen sales.

As it is, John and Mandy hold the unenviable record have having secured one of the top three placings at the Latter Fair show and sale of North of England Mule ewe lambs at Carlisle in 17 of the past 19 years. And, three years ago, in 2017, the couple produced the champion winners at the renowned Alston Moor sale at Lazonby and Carlisle.

More importantly, their lambs always command premium prices, securing the top average at Kirkby Stephen, Carlisle and Lazonby, this year. Furthermore, most of these lambs go back to the home-bred Shafthill 1080/C002 – a tup bred from a Farney Shield V22 female and sired by Neil Marston’s Hundith Z4.

It was this Shafthill C2 tup that not only landed the Penrith Progeny Show championship in 2011, 2012 and 2013, but also bred the champion Mule in 2011 and 2013.

More star performers have been produced by crossing the Shafthill C2 over a Scarrowmanick 14/DO15 female purchased 2012, which in turn led to the F1, F2 and F12 Shafthill all of which have made their mark.

F1 was sold and did well while F2 was retained and crossed very well, being a good follow up to C2 at Shafthill.

It was however F12 that outshone them all, with four daughters and five grand-daughters in the Lockdown sale on Monday, December 28. She is also the dam of the flock’s top priced Blue ram lamb which sold for £18,000 at Carlisle in 2017, and at eight years of age is still going strong being the last lot in the sale. A full sister to the £18,000 lamb is also being sold.

While the entire adult portion of the pedigree flock is being sold off and cattle numbers are being reduced, John and Mandy who have always concentrated more on the crossing potential of the Bluefaced Leicester are continuing to breed North of England Mules, albeit at reduced numbers.

“A good Mule lamb is such a great looking animal and always attracts people round the ring side at shows and sales. Everyone wants to breed those bonnie, dark coloured ewe lambs and they’re such good commercial breeding females,” said John.

The Scottish Farmer: Shafthill K8 sold at Carlisle in 2017 for £18,000Shafthill K8 sold at Carlisle in 2017 for £18,000

Seven of the nine gimmers forward for sale are by the £9000 Blarnavaid L10, a tup bought in 2018 which bred the champion pen of Mule ewe lambs at Hexham and the champion group of ram lambs at the Penrith Progeny show in 2019. Gimmers are in lamb to the E1 Hewgill; an N27 Redgate and the N10 Shafthill.

Ewes have been served to the Blarnavaid tup, and those already mentioned.

In contrast to many of the big named flocks, John has not retained any frozen embryos and has just a few ewe lambs left on farm.

Outwith the entire adult portion from the Shafthill flock, the sale on Monday, December 28, includes entries from Derek Hall’s Firth flock from Penicuik; Allan and Ben Wight, Midlock, Crawford; Jamie Pirie, Blarnavaid, Drymen and Michael James, Duhonw.