Kelso ram average lifts again to £999 record

Strong prime lamb prices left sufficient margins for commercial producers to part repeatedly with £1,000 or more for strong terminal sires and set a new all-ram record average at the Border Union Kelso ram sales last week (9 September).

Sires with the capability to put size, length and finish on rams were in strong demand after a summer of tight grass availability and lamb creep costs at £370/t and more.

Numbers sold lifted slightly (2.54%) on the year as breeders sold 90 more rams. A total of 3,626 sires grossed more than £3.62m, another sale record.

See also: Kelso ram average lifts 38% as records tumble


The Ingrams of Logie Durno: £32,000 © Tim Scrivener

Lamb rollercoaster

During the 34 weeks leading up to Kelso in 2022, the national weekly SQQ was only ahead of last year’s prices 15 times. June and July saw lambs make more than 300p/kg, but by August, prices had fallen below 250p/kg.

Despite this summer lamb trade rollercoaster, and everything from silage wrap to raddles costing more, recent rains and government announcements on energy price caps came as a late confidence booster to buyers for flushing ewes, steadying domestic lamb demand.


The Grays of Ettrick: £17,000 © Tim Scrivener

Trade to £52,000

Many of the fireworks came from ring nine, where the Midlock consignment of 12 Texel shearlings from the Wights, Biggar, topped the day’s trade at £52,000 and levelled at £6,662.

Midlock Express, by the 34,000-gns Claybury Dunkirk and out of a Mullan Amigo daughter, sold to the Dunlops at Elmscleugh, Dunbar, and Craig Douglas, Peebles.

Other notable bids in ring nine were £17,000, £10,000, and £9,000 for rams from the Grays of Ettrick, which averaged £4,350.

The ring also saw a £14,000 bid for a shearling from Douglas B Fleming of the Burnhead flock, and the Wights were again in the money at £9,000. Overall, this ring sold 238 shearlings at an average of £1,808.

Auctioneer Brian Ross of Lawrie and Symington said the standard of tups was consistently high this year. “It’s too expensive to feed second-rate tups for sale,” he said.

“Commercial buyers were bidding at the pick of the rams that had power, skins, top, carcass and had to give £1,000-£1,400,” Mr Ross told Farmers Weekly, adding that smaller pedigree breeders were bidding around the £4,000-£7,000-mark.

There were 10% fewer shearlings forward on the year and half as many ram lambs (26 averaged £882) than in 2021, but Mr Ross said more could have been sold on the day.

“People have had a good do with their lambs this year. Prices look steady and it is the heavier lambs that have had the best trade at Lanark this year. Those lambs at 45-50kg have had a premium.”

Meanwhile, ring five saw a £40,000 bid for Douganhill Extra Special from Brian and David MacTaggart. He sold to the Ingram Family, Logie Durno, Pitcaple.


Neil McQuistin of Airyolland: £11,000 © Tim Scrivener

Cross-breds break records

An entry of 515 cross-breds levelled at £809, which was 4.1% dearer for 7.2% more sold on the year.

However, Nick Woodmass of C&D Auction Marts reported a “sticky” trade in ring three, with commercial bidders sticking to a strict budget.

Most commercial rams hit £500-£700 and generally topped at £1,000. Beltex-cross tups were the most numerous and anything with power, shape and good skins were wanted.

“The feeling is that there are fewer sheep around and fewer tups in the country, so I might have expected a slightly sharper trade,” said Mr Woodmass.

Sandy Moore of Lawrie and Symington sold an assortment of breeds and cross-breds in ring 16. An entry of 246 cross-bred shearlings topped at £2,600 and levelled at £685.

“I think people have had a slightly stronger trade than some were expecting,” said Mr Moore. “The decent, strong tups with shape came to £600-£700. Buyers were from further afield, with plenty coming up from northern England.”


G and B Ingram, Logie Durno: £9,000 © Tim Scrivener

Beltex to £11,000

Grant Anderson of Harrison and Hetherington sold Beltex rams in ring two. “Better-quality sheep were attracting strong bidding from a good crowd of people all day,” he said, adding that 70 more were yarded than last year, but a pleasing clearance was achieved.

He said there was a bit of a “stopping point” for some commercial bidders at around the £1,000 mark. “Really nice commercial tups were £800-£1,000 and the better stuff was £1,000 easily, with some making £2,000-£3,000.”

The bottom-end rams were harder to shift, with a lot in this category making £350-£600. 

Some pedigree buyers regularly went to £2,000-£5,000, and regularly above this when bidding in partnership. Neil McQuistin of the Airyolland flock sold a shearling for £11,000, to hit an average of £1,696 for 18.

Mr Grant said the weather was having a major effect on the sheep trade, suggesting some businesses had found scrimping on feed had resulted in false economies.

“Lots of grazing is needed at the moment. I’ve been getting calls for store and wintering ground and for flushing sheep. Rain coming now has helped.”

Bluefaced Leicesters back on year

Some strong flock averages were reported, but overall trade was back for the Bluefaced Leicester breed. A total of 396 rams (-6%) levelled at £1,180. Last year, both traditional and crossing-type rams averaged more than £1,200.

Rams from the Robertsons’ Beeches flock, West Calder, created a stir, drawing the breed’s top bid of the day – £8,200 – and levelling at £2,566. The Hunters, Bellingham, Hexham, saw a top of £4,500 and sold four shearlings to average £2,262.

An entry of 12 rams from Mr Thornborrow, Stobo, Peebles, topped at £8,000 and averaged £1,966, while rams from the Wights’ Midlock flock sold to £6,200 and averaged £1,800.

Suffolks see strong demand

Demand for rams that could breed a maternal cross and produce heavy lambs was in evidence in the Suffolk sale in ring 14.

Close to 450 unregistered, non-accredited Suffolk rams averaged £908 and topped at £5,500. Adam Grieve of Harrison and Hetherington said dark, smooth-haired sheep with good loins, length and skins sold well all afternoon.

“Quite a lot of people buy Suffolk tups to self-replace, and the Suffolk wether is a bit of a by-product really. Having said that, heavy lambs have been needed this summer, so this could be why the Suffolk has seen a rise in popularity.”

The numbers

Average price for 161 registered MV-accredited Suffolk ram lambs – lead pen average was Mrs H Goldie, Harpercroft, at £1,837.50 

Top price for a Border Leicester shearling from J Douglas, Woodhead of Cairness

Price difference for registered Texel shearlings over unregistered, as 621-head levelled at £1,486