Friday 7 October 2011

Longtown Mart. Annual Border Ewe Sale 2011

Longtown Mart comes up in conversation often when Shep is working around the countryside. There are many I work for send their sheep across to Longtown to be sold claiming it is the place for horned sheep, especially store or fat lambs.

T'was whilst talking to one such person I admitted that I had never been to Longtown Mart, this remark was met with sheer disbelief quickly followed with the offer of a ride across for the ewe sale. I didn't refuse the offer, especially as there was a decent entry of South Country Cheviots on the day, my curiosity over these little blighters never fails to get the better of me!

The Annual Border Ewe Sale is a sale of hill sheep, catagorised as North Country Cheviots, Border Cheviots (southies) and horned sheep. A good variety of sheep to view and breeding sheep at that. It is always very interesting to see what sort of sheep come off farms you have heard of but not dealt with. A breeding sale gives you the opportunity to view the stock off these farms you're unfamiliar with.

There were a variety of ages of sheep forward on the day. Some stock sheep being sold due to dispersals, these were sold in regular ages (from ewe lambs right through to the older ewes). It was a bit disconscerting that the sheep being dispersed of totaled 1,100 out of the total catalogue entry of 8,772.

Anyhow, Shep was quite excited and trotted off with on Wednesday 28th September with a couple of farmers over into Cumbria to visit Longtown Mart for the very first time.

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Looking down the pens at Longtown Mart with a pen of South Country Cheviots from Cowburn in the foreground, these 5 year old ewes made £84.

As the photo shows it was a roasting hot day - quite unbelievable for the time of the year, summer had arrived but for a very short spell.

I have to admit to being a tad taken aback when wandering around the pens of sheep outside. There were many which had been well turned out for the job, which is what I am accustomed to, however there were equally as many which weren't. By turned out for the job I mean a bit of pride taken in them - dressed, tidied up, mebbes even coloured, which is usual for anyone selling breeding sheep, they want them to look their best for the occasion. There were some which looked like they'd just been dragged in out of a field or off the hill without a second thought which seemed strange when it was the annual sale of breeding hill ewes.

Everyone to their own though, there isn't the staff around that there used to be and there are many older farmers around so maybe it just isn't practical to spend time trying to make your sheep look their best. As it happened the trade was very strong and it seemed to make little difference as to the quality of the animals you were selling.

I was told by a neighbouring farmer whom I bumped into that often the poorer end or second draws of ewes may be found at Longtown, whether this is the case or not they sold well, very well. The same man also told me he had grave concerns about me, apparently every time he sees me I'm looking at Cheviots rather than Blackies! Umm.......

On that note I would disagree that the South Country Cheviots were represented by the poorer end, there were some high quality sheep on offer and the prices reflected this

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These South Country Ewe lambs from Castle Crawford sold for £90 with ewes off the same place realising £180

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The ring at Longtown is able to hold a fair number of sheep as shown in this photo of the Glengeith ewe lambs with a hundred or more lambs being sold to cut (bid then say how many you require, the number you require is counted out of the ring with the remainder being put up for sale again). However I have to say the ring does not show off breeding sheep to the extent the ring at Hexham Mart does, but then the Hexham ring was purpose built for the job of selling breeding sheep and it does a very good job of it.

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I couldn't help but take a photo of these Swaledale sheep, they were well turned out for the job, a pleasure to see come into the ring and I thought I ought to show that there was more than just cheviots present on the day. I foolishly did not record where they were off or how much they made but Swaledales were in demand on the day and draft ewes were up to £126 per head.

All in all it was an enjoyable day out, in good company and very interesting. I can at least now say that I have been to Longtown Mart!

Longtown Mart has a very good website, which also includes videos of some of the sales and a good selection of photographs, so anyone wishing to see how sheep or cattle are sold at an auction could take a peek at