Steady trade for quality Blackface females in Hilltown

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Castlewellan Blackface Sheep Breeders held their 36th annual sale of Lanark type Blackface sheep in Hilltown on Wedesday, September 16th with an entry of 1,700 quality females.

In a depressing year for sheep farmers when lower prices are the order of the day in the commercial sheep market and the possible effects of Brexit on the Northern Ireland sheep industry are uppermost in every sheep farmer’s mind, there was even more than the usual air of uncertainty in the lead up to the sale but this soon disappeared as the first of the female stock entered the sale ring with a 90% plus clearance of stock. The prices achieved again reinforced the ever increasing demand for quality Blackface breeding stock, which remains the backbone of the whole sheep industry.

The entry of 350 quality mule ewe lambs met with good trade resulting in a complete clearance with a top price of £138 per head for McConville Brothers followed by O and F McKenny first pen at £118 and McConville Brothers first pen at £112 with others at £110, £105, £100 (2 lots), £98 (2 lots), £95, £92 and £90 (5 Lots) giving an average of £92 back slightly on last year for 50 more Mules sold. Blackface shearling ewes met with an excellent trade to a top of £300 for S and J Fegan’s first pen followed by Stephen Maginn’s first pen at £235 and D and E Branagan’s first pen at £190 with lots at £182, £160, £155 (2 lots), £150, £138 (2 lots), £128, £122, £120, £114, £112 (3 lots) and £110 (3 lots) with the 350 shearling ewes sold giving an average of £123 again slightly back on last year average. A large entry of ewe lambs also sold well with a top price of £138 per head going to the first pen presented by S and J Fegan closely followed by D and E Branagan’s first pen at £128 with lots at £120 (2 lots), £110, £100, £95, £94, £88, £86 and £80 (2 lots) with the 270 plus ewe lambs sold averaging £81 an increase of £1 on last year average. Aged ewes were the one class where demand was much slower with less interest throughout with a top price of £88 going to Danny Harrison closely followed by Aidan McCullough at £82 and James Murray at £78 with other lots at £70 (7 lots), £67, £66 and £65 (2 lots) with the 300 plus aged ewes sold averaging £63 showing a reduction of £18 on last year. This year’s sale again had a class for broken mouthed ewes and again the trade was brisk with a top price of £53 per head for ewes from Seamus Maginn followed closely by lots at £48, £47, £46, £44, £43 (2 lots), £41 (4 lots) and £40 with the 125 plus ewes averaging £44 per head back £7 on last year’s average.

The sale of breeding females was again very encouraging, reflecting both the excellent quality of the stock and the key role these original and best of all easycare sheep have in farming throughout the country. Castlewellan Blackface Sheep Breeders would like to thank all the buyers together with our sponsors for the event Clanrye Veterinary Clinic and Joseph Walls. A special word of thanks is also due to Brannigan Brothers who judged the stock on show, the auctioneer Richard Beattie and to the staff at Hilltown Saleyard for their continuing help and support in this event.

Show results: Mules: 1st McConville Brothers. 3rd McConville Brothers.

Shearling ewes: 1st S and J Fegan. 2nd S and J Fegan. 3rd Aidan McCullough. Ewe lambs: 1st D and E Branagan. 2nd S and J Fegan, 3rd Terry Rooney.

Best Blackface pen in show: S and J Fegan shearling ewes.