The Breeding Sheep Season got underway as two of the largest breeding sheep sales in Northern Ireland took place in Ballymena Livestock Market.
As a result of lower finished lamb prices the trade over the two sales were less than last year but in general much better than anticipated.
The season started with the Suffolk Cheviot and Continental cross hoggets and ewe lambs held on Saturday 1st August, where 2,500 hoggets sold to an average of £132 per head - a fall of £18 per head from 2014. The 400 ewe lambs averaged £85 per head which was £13 per head down from the previous year.
The quality of sheep on offer was exceptional with some excellent prices.
James Alexander, Randalstown, topped the market with a pen of Suffolk Cheviot hoggets reaching £200 bought by G Dolan, Killeater.
Ewe lambs topped the market at £132 for a pen of Suffolk Cheviot lambs from L Anderson, Kilwaughter, bought by A Ferguson, Cookstown.
Shows took place in the morning for both the Suffolk Cheviot hoggets and the Texel cross hoggets. Judges G Fleck and D McMillan studied each pen with a master eye and places were awarded. The shows were sponsored by the NI Texel Club and Suffolk Sheep Society (NI Branch).
In the Suffolk Cheviot Class first place was awarded to a pen from M Knox, Moneykee, £145; second P Donnelly, Ballymena, £158, and third D Knox, Ederney, £158.
Texel X Hoggets results were 1st from N McGarrigle, Irvinestown which went onto sell to £135, 2nd place was D Henry, £145 and 3rd was D Knox, Ederney £128.
On Saturday, August 8, the second breeding sale of mule, Greyface hoggets and Suffolk Cheviot ewe lambs took place.
Again this sale attracted an impressive 3,600 sheep and with good quality sheep still very much in demand the sale had a 95% clearance.
Overall, 2,979 hoggets sold to a top price of £160 per head for a pen of mules from V Anderson and a pen from P Donnelly.
Hoggets averaged £121.30 a drop of £19 per head, 556 Ewe lambs averaged £99.30, only £5 down from last year with a top of £140 paid for a pen of Jas Alexander, Randalstown.
The show took place with J Crawford, Parkmore, judging the Greyface which was sponsored by the Danske Bank and J Murphy, Shane’s Castle, judging the mules, sponsored by NI Bluefaced Leicester Club.
First place in the mules went to J Grey, Limavady, which then sold to £155, second place went to P Donnelly, Ballymena, £158, and third S Carhill, Ballyclare, £142.
In the Greyface first place was awarded to I McCluggage, Larne, and sold later at £135, second P Scott, Templepatrick, £128, and third I McCluggage, Larne, £130.
Overall hogget prices on average were back £18.50 and ewe lambs back £9 from the previous year. Sellers were encouraged by the trade and hopefully this will set a good standard for the rest of the breeding sale throughout the year.