LIKE MANY, I suppose, I have sometimes pondered over the prices we get for our sheep and cattle and wondered if they give their buyers value for money.

Prices have, over my lifetime risen steadily, but have usually lagged behind general inflation. This is demonstrated by showing how many we have to sell to buy anything, whether food, medicines or services, compared to how many fewer we needed to sell in times past.

Some things puzzle me. Why does a top Blackie ram make 10 times the price of a top Cheviot ram, when Blackie lambs make less? I thought I knew the answer, but now I am not so sure.

Why does the top-priced Texel lamb make 30 times the price of a top Texel shearling? Are their offspring commercially better, or is it just the result of a self-perpetuating system?

When I started working for my father in the 1960s, the Blackie lambs we sold, which weighed 16kg deadweight, made around a fiver and the Cheviots which we sold store at Hawick Mart made rather more. Blackie draft ewes were around £6 – although the price was volatile.

Twice in my career the price halved from one year to the next and then recovered the year after. By 1980, after we had entered the European Common Market, the same spec' Blackie lambs made £22. Prices have continued to rise to where they are today.

My earliest recollection of sheep prices date back to the mid-1950s. I was about eight years old and was staying with my grandparents at Blackhaugh, near Galashiels.

My uncle Tom returned from St Boswells' draft ewe sale. When my granny asked him how he got on, Tom replied ruefully that when his regular drafts made a couple of quid he was a bit disappointed, but when his broken-mouth ewes made five bob he was downright ashamed.

Turning to me, he added with a laugh: “Mind you, that was better than your uncle Joe,” [His elder brother who farmed Eribol, in Sutherland]. “He sold some lambs at Lairg for a shilling.”

Many years later, when I had started work, I was at St Boswells' draft ewe sale. Before the sale started, I wandered down the alley looking at the pens of North Country Cheviot ewes.

They were broadly similar in appearance and of the kind popular in the Borders, until I came to the last lot from Geordie Jameson, of Belses Moor.

They were of the Lairg-type but not well bred. I asked Geordie, a tall rather solemn man who spoke with a stutter, if he knew which farm they came from. “Ah c-c-cannae mind,” he replied, “but ah think it was B-B-Balnakeil.”

When I returned to our pen, I told my dad who looked after Balnakeil. He almost had an apoplexy. When I related this to my uncle Tom, he told me that when, as a young man, he took over the farm of Newhall, he needed to stock up.

He went to St Boswells draft ewe sale where he was advised not buy some very strong ewes from an East Lothian farm. They came off good land and often topped the sale, but had seldom done well for their buyers.

Tom, in his own words 'being a smart Alec' bought them. As he needed more sheep and hadn’t much money left, the only ones he could afford were Geordie’s.

As predicted, the highly priced ewes didn’t do well and Geordie's twinned and milked for evermore. Prices and value had been turned on their head.

As for the personalities involved, Tom went on to play rugby for Scotland and the British Lions. The death last month of Welsh rugby hero, Ray Prosser, reminded me of a Sunday afternoon watching 'Rugby Special' at Tom’s house.

Pontypool, famous for their all-international front row, were playing. After the game, their coach, Ray Prosser, himself a former international prop forward and somewhat appropriately, a bulldozer driver, was interviewed.

“Did you ever prop against him uncle Tom?,” I asked. When he said he had, I asked how he found him. “Oh, pretty naïve,” Tom replied.

As Prosser was at that time the most celebrated coach in the country, I must have raised an eyebrow. “Ray Prosser got his first cap against Scotland and I was an experienced international by then. The first scrum he kicked me on the leg.”

“What then uncle Tom?”

“Oh, in the next scrum I removed his kneecap.”

Geordie, too, achieved fame but in a different way, by bringing the legal process in the Borders to a standstill. He was stopped by the police for having a defective tail light on his car and, to his great annoyance, was summoned to Jedburgh Court.

The dialogue between the procurator fiscal and Geordie went as follows:

“When you left home was your tail light working Mr Jameson?”

“Ah d-d-dinnae ken.”

“Was it working when you got to Ancrum?”

“Ah c-c-couldnae tell ee”

“Was it working when you reached your destination?”

“Ah was d-d-driving the b-b-bloody car no p-p-pushing it.”

Proceedings entered meltdown and it took the magistrate some time to regain equilibrium. Geordie was admonished and left the court not only a free man, but a local legend.

If prices are easily tracked, defining values presents a challenge beyond me, so I defer to John Ruskin.

“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.

"The common law of business prohibits paying a little and getting a lot. It can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is as well to add something for the risk you run and, if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better.”