Last year I was going, come hail or high water nothing would stop me, I was going - end of story! Until that is the 'phone call arrived, desperate farmer desperately seeking assistance and no where to fit him in other than the couple of days I had allowed myself to sneak off into Scotland, my resolve broke, I gave in and spent the time fighting with sheep instead of doing what I had hoped to be doing.
Now a friend took note of this and vowed she would ensure I got to attend this year. She succeeded. Even though I came up with excuses of pressures of work etc., none of it washed and dragged away I was. There is much to be said for friends. Life is too short, we need to live for today, don't put off for tomorrow. A difficult line to follow when you never wish to let people down who need your assistance but I guess sometimes we need to be selfish and do things we would like to do. Dalmally was one of those instances. I am very grateful to my friend for her persistence and for organising the B&B and for doing the driving, I am so pleased I got up there to the tup sale.
So why Dalmally?
There were actually a specific run of tups I wished to see, off a farm called Dalchirla. I had heard much about these sheep, many by homebred sires, often known to fetch what I could only describe as ridiculous prices
There were some more than useful tups on show on the day from a number of farms, Shep was quietly impressed with what she was seeing that's for sure.
The ring was a strange shape, it was actually an oblong, seating was limited also. On first getting a seat in the ring I found myself in a position where you could rarely see the sheep, they were entering the ring to my right and trying to exit in the same place, very few came into the centre of the ring to be viewed with the result that the next time I hunted for somewhere to sit I took up this position in the hope I may see more and not just hear the auctioneer.
As for the photographs? They all seem to have a strange hue about them. Once again I had forgotten my camera and commandeered my friends which for some reason took the photos with a pinky/purply cast to them - apologies!
Anyhow, back to the tup sale.
There were tups of all ages present for sale on the day, Shearlings, aged tups and tup lambs. The catalogue stated that tup lambs would be sold in number two ring, Shep struggled to find number two ring and finally wandered away down the pens until she could move no further for people. Number two ring had actually been converted from the penning areas, it wasn't a ring as I was accustomed to, but at least I found it. The next problem was finding somewhere to view the proceedings.
I got my eye on a photographer I know who was perched up behind the auctioneer, I gave him a tug on the trouser leg and asked if I could climb up beside him and balance on the pen rails just behind him, he raised his arms to take photographs and I snook shots from below his armpits, just as well he didn't suffer from B. O. !
This chap realised £90,000 . He is a lamb, born this spring, approxiamtely 6 months old. His twin was next into the ring and made £60,000. That is £150,000 off one ewe.
It was for this that I had always wanted to head up to Dalmally, to see for myself, take in the buzz. There was a round of applause when the sale of the lamb concluded, a new lamb record for the centre, a price which matched the centre record for a shearling, which had also been sold off Dalchirla a few years previous. Probably a new record for a pair of twins reared off one ewe............ All very impressive. There is much to be said for a farmer to be able to sell 34 shearlings which averaged over £2,000 each and five lambs which averaged over £35,000 each. A farmer who is consistently at the top, think of Dalmally and you think of Dalchirla.
I'm pleased my friend ensured I got up to Dalmally, I take my hat off to a man who is consistently at the top of the tree but I can't help but question these silly prices. The lamb was bought by a consortium of farmers, they share the price between them, they are seeking to breed what they deem the perfect blackfaced sheep, they want the bloodlines and genetics of this particular specimen but what do the headlines tell the housewife on the street? Sheep trade has dropped quite dramatically this back end, fat and store lambs are well back on the trade of last year.
Those rearing sheep on a commercial basis are finding their incomes are less than last year, the weather has been down rightly atrocious this year and at a cost. A cost to the housewife and the farmer. Food will be dearer, both on the supermarket shelves and the feed sheds on the farms. How can the sheep sector justify the headlines in the press which boast record prices for tups? What does the normal person on the street think of it all? How can we expect any sympathy for the difficulties which face our livestock sectors, our sheep farmers who all so often seem to be battling against the odds?
These huge figures for breeding sheep go around in the same circles, those buying this lamb will hopefully see a return by selling sheep in the future at silly prices themselves, basically it gives a false impression of our sheep farming in general but unfortunately it is an impression which makes headlines, headlines which confuse the general public and leave them with little sympathy for the plight of farmers.