Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset Sheep Breeder's Association

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May Sheep Fair 2013 - Report


The annual Dorset May Fair in Exeter Livestock Centre on Wednesday (May 8) on behalf of the Dorset Horn and Poll Dorset Sheep Breeders’ Association provided a positive early barometer for the year’s sheep trade with six rams making 2,000gns and more to a top of 4,800gns, and averages well above the sale two years ago.

The sale conducted by Kivells and Husseys is one of the largest in the UK for commercial early lambing ewes and it also combines pedigree rams and ewes.

While sheep producers have endured their worst 12 months for some time because of adverse weather conditions, confidence among both commercial and pedigree breeders was high. Averages for the 106 ram lambs sold was down by £80 on 2012 but up by £125 on 2011 figures.

Society chairman Rob Hole, attending at least the 40th May Fair for the family, said: “The trade shows the resilience of the breed. Anticipating a possible lack of confidence, we reduced the number of entries by one per breeder, and I think we have got it right.

“Producers have had the worst 12 months on record with difficulties with the weather and problems with Schmallenberg disease to contend with and the sale is a credit to our breeders with the standard of stock exhibited at the sale,” added Rob, whose grandfather Bunny Lenthall was the first importer of Polled Dorsets from Australia to the UK in 1956.

“There were a lot of commercial buyers prepared to pay from 450gns to 600gns for rams while a lot of the top end rams were sold to pedigree breeders who are prepared to invest in the future,” added Rob, who runs the Sherborne flock with his father Richard at Hill Street Farm, Holwell, Sherborne, Dorset.

Auctioneer Simon Alford, in opening the sale of rams said the national ewe flock is currently between 12 and 13 million, the last time prices were as low as we saw them through the winter was when numbers ran at 20 million ewes.

“The long term future is bright for the sheep trade - sheep numbers internationally are not as strong as they were. There are not enough sheep about,” he said.

Northern Irish breeders for the second year running took the pedigree sale’s top price.  Richard Currie peaked at  4,800gns for his eight month poll ram lamb which sold to Ross and Emma Sizmur, of Thorndon Cross, Okehampton, Devon.

He beat his good friend and neighbour in Whitesides Road, Ballymena, County Antrim, William Carson’s top price of 4,200gns at the 2012 event with Hilltop Tarantino, making the best price yet by 2,600gns for the flock founded in 1984 and now numbering 24 ewes.

“I have been showing sheep at the May Fair for 18 years and in 2003 I won the championship and had my then top price of 1,900gns for a pen-mate of the champion,” said Richard, who runs his flock alongside his father John’s pedigree Tullygarley Charolais herd.

The Sizmurs run their Rossiz pedigree flock of 100 females alongside 600 North of England Mules put to home-bred Dorset rams on 200 rented acres, alongside a contracting business. While Emma mainly takes care of the sheep, Ross also manages his father’s 120 cow suckler herd.

While not the couple’s top price paid for a ram, Ross was determined to buy the ram. “I choose rams by eye and he was very correct, had length and good conformation - as well as presence,” said Ross, who with Emma shows home-bred progeny at county shows.

The top priced ram is the first sold from the Hilltop flock and is by Oliver Tree Navigator which Richard owns with Gary Henderson who runs the Sandelford flock at Bushmills and it was bought for 650gns at Ballymena.

Richard bought two of his neighbours’ females for his four year old twin daughters, Katie and Mollie who were at home with their two year old sister, Charlotte. He paid 550gns for a Maine Valley ewe lamb from William’s six year old son Cameron’s flock and the top price for a female at the sale of 950gns for Downkillybegs Trudy, which carries two copies of the Myomax muscling gene.

Next highest price was 4,500gns for father and son Jim and Joe Dufosee who run just under 300 pedigree ewes in their Blackhill flock on Salisbury Plain at Farnicombe Farm, Upton Scudamore, Warminster, Wiltshire.

The eight month old Blackhill Trident was the breed’s highest indexing ram recorded by EBLEX this year and its sire, Blackdown Surprise bred by Graham Langford is in the top 1% of the breed.

It was the recording figures which attracted buyer Edwin Pocock to the ram. “Our flock is Signet recorded at 325 and to buy a ram with a figure any less than that would downgrade the flock - and this Blackhill ram has both good figures and conformation. We also wanted to complement our previous stock ram which has the Myomax gene,” he said.

The Hall Lane flock was started a decade ago following the decline of the pick your own fruit business at Hall Lane Farm.

“We wanted to do the job properly and recorded all the ewes. It as paid off because when we set off the flock only scored at 140 and is now 325,” said Edwin.

“The Blackdown ram is by Huish Nonchalence and the line has brought to the flock in particular, increased figures for maternal ability and scan weight,” said Jim.

The Dufosees’ Blackhill flock fits in well with the organic system being able to graze behind the herd of 150 pedigree North Devon cattle after the ewes lamb in September and November and be wintered on root crops which complement the arable crop rotation at Farnicombe Farm.

Also keen to purchase rams with good figures, Brian Muncaster and Cathryn Pritt matched their bid of 3,000gns last year for the the second prize poll ram lamb for their Thornbank flock based at Gosforth in Cumbria.

Riverview Torque was bred by Northern Irish breeders T and S Knox, of Altarichard Road, Armoy, Ballymoney, Co Antrim. The ram lamb by Balmoral Show 2011 champion Riverview Legend, is exceptionally muscled and tested to be carrying the Myomax gene.

They also paid 500gns for Bamburgh Conan recorded with a terminal sire index of 362, bred by Alistair Johnson, of Fowberry Farm, Bamburgh, Northumberland.

After discovering the attributes of the breed when running commercial Dorsets alongside other crossbred ewes, the pedigree Dorset flock was founded in 2004 and now numbers 220 ewes.

Ewes lamb in September-October and January and March and their flexibility fits in with the grass-based system they use for the farm’s herd of 150 commercial Friesian cattle.

Also making over 2,000gns was Huish Top Flight from David Rossiter, of Burton, Galmpton, Kingsbridge, Devon.

By Huish Nugget, the ram lamb has a maternal index of 320 and maternal ability of 1.9 and it was purchased by Richard and Gill Trace for their Gortleigh flock at Gortleigh, Black Torrington, Beaworthy, Devon. They also paid 1,700gns for Myomax gene carrier Ballytaggart Thunder from Thomas Wright, Kilraughts Road, Ballytaggart, County Antrim.

David Rossiter purchased last year’s top priced ram from William Carson who managed to peak at 2,300gns for Downkillybegs Tokyo Star a son of Oliver Tree Nik Nak which sold to Messrs Dalyn, of Broomhill, Wimborne Minster, Dorset.

Fellow Northern Ireland breeder Ben Lamb, who had the overall champion last year with a horned ram, this year had the champion male polled ram lamb. Selling early in the catalogue, Richhill Titan made 820gns to Tom Clarke, of Devon.

Frank Palk, of Stanton Barton, Marldon, Paington, Devon, paid the same price for Richhill Trendy Boy.

Mr Palk, aged 86, spent the sale in the rostrum, having broke a hip in February. The ram was for his 20-year-old granddaughter, Amy, who is keen on showing sheep.

Richhill Traction, also by Downkillybegs Pegasus, and one of the male champion polled pairs, made 2,100gns to the Dufosees. Pegasus was bought at 10 weeks old and is well muscled carrying the Myomax gene.

It is the first time Ben has exhibited polled sheep at the May Fair and only the second year of selling polled rams from his flock which comprises 20 Dorset Horn ewes and 45 Poll Dorsets.

Averages: Ewe lambs to £997.50, average £203.76; ewe hoggs to £270.00, average £158.00; rams to £5,040, average £819.99.

Leading ram prices:  4,800gns  for Hilltop Tarantino from Richard Currie, Whiteside Road, Ballymena, Co Antrim selling to Ross and Emma Sizmur, of Thorndon Cross, Okehampton, Devon.

4,500gns for Blackhill Trident from Jim Dufosee, Farnicombe Farm, Upper Scudamore, Warminster, Wiltshire, selling to Edwin Pocock, of Totley Hall Farm, Totley, Sheffield.

3,000gns for Riverview Torque from T and S Knox, Altarichard Road, Armoy, Ballymoney, Co Antrim, selling to Thornbank Farm, Gosforth, Seascale, Cumbria.

2,300gns Huiosh Top Flight from D Rossiter, Burton Farm, Galmpton, Kingsbridge, Devon to Trace and Son, Gortleigh, Black Torrington, Beaworthy, Devon.

2,300gns for Downkillybegs Tokyo Star from W and K Carson, Whitesides Road, Downkillybegs, Ballymena, Co Antrim, selling to

2,100gns for Richhill Traction from Ben Lamb, Lime Tree Farm, Richhill, Co Armagh, selling to J Dufosee.

1,700gns for Ballytaggart Thunder from TG Wright, Kilraughts Road, Ballytaggart, Ballymoney, Co Antrim, selling to Trace and Son.

Exeter Sheep Auctioneer Russell Steer, who sold all 2500 pedigree and commercial ewes, said “we always knew trade could not match last year’s flyer however the majority of pedigree females and the better quality commercial ewes were only slightly back and exceeded expectations in many instances”.