Despite three five-figure sales and a further two at 9000gns and above, the Northern Ireland Premier sale of pedigree Suffolk ram lambs at Ballymena, met a slightly disappointing trade with averages down £607 per head on last year's highly successful event.

"We had a good sale when you think not all the best lambs were sold at Ballymena this year, compared to 2021 when there was so much uncertainty about exports and all the top lambs were sold here," said Robin McIlrath, chief executive and secretary of the Suffolk Sheep Society.

"There were a lot of commercial producers looking to buy too when their Suffolk cross lambs have been selling for a lot more money this year," he added pointing out that 152 sheep were sold with a 76% clearance.

Three ram lambs shared the top price of 10,000gns, with the first being the reserve champion, a January-born ET lamb from Robert Barkley's Blackbrae flock from Dunloy, Ballymena, Co Antrim. His pen leader, bred from a flush from a home-bred ewe by Bannview Massey, is sired by Blackbrae Black Label, a son of Cloontagh Chieftain. Third at Balmoral Show, in May, he sold to Susan O'Keefe, buying for her Clyda flock from Annakisha, Mallow, Co Cork.

Reserve champion from Robert Barkley also sold for 10,000gns

Reserve champion from Robert Barkley also sold for 10,000gns

Financing that transaction and more, Clyda's top two lambs realised 10,000gns and 6800gns. Dearest was a late December-born ET bred from a ewe by Kinbally Black Panther, who's twin sister made 3000gns selling to Jimmy Douglas, Cairness at the Black Beauty sale in 2020. The sire, Ballinatone BT Buddy, a Crewelands Lockdown-sired tup, was bought privately last year. The pen's No 1, he was knocked down to Philip Lynch, Co Louth.

Another from the Clyda flock made 6800gns

Another from the Clyda flock made 6800gns

His full ET brother followed making 6800gns to John Molloy, Donegal.

The final 10,000gns bid was given for the pre-sale champion, Mark Priestley's No 3, a January-born ET lamb from Limestone, Seaforde, Downpatrick, purchased by Brian Dickson, Co Down. Another boasting first class genetics, he is the result of a flush from a Summerhill ewe by Strathbogie A Kind of Magic that produced a 6500gns lamb sold at Lanark and a gimmer at 5300gns online. The sire is Howgillfoot Batman.

Mr Priestley's pen leader, a similarly aged ET entry this time bred from the dam of the 48,000gns Marksman, made 5800gns selling to Co Antrim breeder, Steven Lowry. His purchase is by Stockton Sniper's Son and is an ET brother to Rolls Royce which sold privately to Elevage De Nives and a 5600gns ewe lamb purchased by Messrs O’Gormans. The other ET sister was first at Balmoral.

Selling across the Irish Sea to Kelso, John Elliot, Roxburgh Mains, forked out 9500gns for Jack Smyth and Emma McElhill's No 3, from the Bessiebell flock from Newtownstewart, Co Tyrone. This was a January-born ET bred from a ewe by Landale Controversial and sired by the 25,000gns Frongoy Rocket of which a share was bought at Lanark.

William and Stephanie Taits Burnview lamb made 9000gns

William and Stephanie Tait's Burnview lamb made 9000gns

Just behind, on 9000gns, was the second prize ram lamb at Balmoral Show from William and Stephanie Tait's Burnview flock from Eskradooey, Lislap, Co Tyrone. A December-born ET, he is the result of a flush from a home-bred ewe by Strathbogie I'm Invincible, that is a full sister to the 10,000gns Bombay Sapphire. The sire is Birness Warrior, the pick of the Stuart's Birness ram lambs in 2020 which sold privately to Burnview and Mullinavale and last year bred a 13,000gns son. Final bidders on this entry were Co Antrim breeders, DS and D McKay.

Top price for Ian Donald's Donbraid flock from Donbraid, Newtownstewart, Co Tyrone, was 5000gns paid by Brian Doyle, Co Wicklow, for a son of the 13,000gns Strathbogie Joel, bred from a ewe by Birness Babe Magnet.

Shearling rams peaked at 1700gns for Jack and Andrew Moses' sole entry in this section, Blackstown Everest which is a full brother to a 2000gns ram and a 2500gns female, being bred from a home-bred ewe by Rhaeadr Rio and sired by Ballyboe Buster. The lamb, from Grove Cottage Farm, Aldergrove, Crumlin, was knocked down to F Rooney, Co Down.

Adding an international flair to the proceedings, J Dijkhuizen, Netherlands, purchased the lead priced female at 3000gns from RC and JC Watson, Rasharkin, Ballymena. This was a gimmer by the 3000gns Stirling purchase, Middlemuir Commander, bred from a ewe by Bannview Jack.

Ewe lambs were topped at 2000gns by a December-born ET from Sean and Jane McCloskey's Glenroe flock from Claudy. She is bred from a Burnview ewe by Strathbogie Im Invincible and sired by Shannagh Top Gun II. The buyers were E and M Butler, Co Antrim.

Best from Jack Smyth and Emma McElhills Bessibell flock was this lamb which made 9500gns

Best from Jack Smyth and Emma McElhill's Bessibell flock was this lamb which made 9500gns

LEADING awards

Ewe lamb – 1, S and J McCloskey; 2, C and J Campbell; 3, I Donald.

Gimmers – 1, RC and JC Watson; 2, P McVerry; 3, P Kennedy.

Shearling rams – 1, A Moses; 2, M Priestley; 3, N Robinson.

Gigot ram lamb – 1, D Taylor; 2, S and W Tait; 3, P McVerry.

Novice Cup – 1, S O’Keeffe; 2, R Thompson; 3, A Wilson.

Ram lamb – 1, M Priestley; 2, RAS Barclay; 3, I Donald.

Group of three – 1, S and W Tait; 2, RC and JC Watson; 3, M Priestley

Young handlers – 1, Noah Taylor; 2, Isabella Taylor; 3, Caoimhe Dickson. Senior – 1, Joseph Trimble; 2, Beth Cousins; 3, Neale Fleming.

Auctioneers: Ballymena Livestock Auction Mart.

averages: 122 ram lambs, £1458 (-£607 for 21 fewer sold); five shearling rams, £1040; 13 gimmers, £1025; 12 ewe lambs, £849.