Friday 23 September 2011

What is a tup sale?

I noticed recently that someone had used the search keywords "what is a tup sale?" and realised that this blog does probably sometimes remove itself from the basics and as we are heading into the tup sale season then maybe it may help to try and explain this oddity.

A tup or ram is an entire male sheep. Most of the male lambs born find themselves castrated and are known as wethers. Some are left entire and these are known as tups in this neck of the woods.

Those kept as tups are generally intended for breeding later in their lives. Usually pure bred sheep, but not always the case. For an example a blackfaced ewe may have been crossed with a Swaledale tup and the resulting offspring may have been kept to breed from, a good sheep in it's own right but not a pure breed.

There are breed societies which record the breeding lines of sheep which are registered with them, dare say these could be classed as being 'pedigree' sheep, but even those not registered with breed societies in such a way still have their pedigrees, those who bred them will be able to recall how their mothers were bred and the breeding of their fathers also. The breeding lines are important to enable shepherds to prevent in breeding of their stock.

So, back to the original question. What is a tup sale? It is a sale of entire male sheep of whatever breed. Sheep which are destined to be the fathers of the next generation.

Tup sales are generally held at auction marts, or there are collective sales such as Kelso and Builth Wells held outside an auction mart but still run by auctioneers, the sheep still go under the hammer and are bid for by the individuals interested in them.

Tup sales are advertised in advance by the auction marts on behalf of their vendors and breeds available to buy on the day will also be advertised. There are specialist sales which concentrate on one breed only and there are collective sales which will have a variety of breeds available.

The tups are sold individually, unlike sales of breeding/fat/store sheep where there may be many sheep in the ring at one go being sold as a package.

A tup will be in the ring on his own and will be sold singly.

They are penned up at the mart collectively from the farm which they are being sold from. Therefore, Farmer Smith may have 10 tups to sell, these will be penned up as 10tups in a pen all individually numbered so they can be recognised when they enter the ring by their own personal number. Farmer Smith will take his 10 tups towards the ring as a bunch but they will then be pulled out one at a time and released into the ring as a single entity.

Tup sales commence in the autumn, there have already been quite a few tup sales within the region, these being the more in-bye breeds of sheep. The hill tup sales commence later in the season. The reason being that in-bye sheep go to the tup quicker than the hill sheep do, therefore it is necessary to buy the tups you require earlier in the season.

Tup sales are busy days and there are many venues and breeds to choose from which can find farmers and shepherds alike travelling many miles from home in an attempt to purchase the sheep of their fancy. They are busy and very interesting days.