Hirds hit 780gns high with shearling ram at Skipton Dalesbred highlight A solid top price of 780gns was seen at the Dalesbred Sheep Breeders’ Association’s final seasonal show and sale of rams and females at Skipton Auction Mart. (Tuesday, October 22) It fell to the second prize shearling ram, sired by a home-bred ram from Yorkshire Dales father and son, Stuart and Edward Hird, of Yockenthwaite. Himself a son of a tup bred by John Harrison in Blubberhouses, he has been successfully used for several years.

“He’s done a great job for us,” said Stuart, who has been breeding Dalesbreds all his life and whose family has farmed at Yockenthwaite for five generations. The price leader didn’t have far to travel when finding a new home with John Horner, who farms with his son Jonathan on National Trust-owned land at Redmire Farm, Buckden, running a Dalesbred flock currently around 450-strong.
Now into the fourth generation, they, too, have bred Dalesbreds ever since the Association was first established in the 1920s. John explained: “We look for good, true to type rams to introduce new blood and hopefully maintain and improve the quality and integrity of the flock.”
Taking second top call of 600gns was another breeder from the same neck of the woods, Oughtershaw’s Paul Bowdin, with a shearling ram claimed by father and daughter, Godfrey and Alison Haygarth, of Aigden Farm, Wigglesworth. In fact, they were recapturing some of his old bloodlines..
Breed stalwarts, John and Jean Bradley, of Penny Grange, Giggleswick, also caught the eye with a 480gns sale of a shearling ram by a Close tup to Thomas and Helen Drinkall, of Calderdside Farm, Oakenclough, on the edge of the Forest of Bowland.
In the show arena, there was a championship and reserve championship double for father and son, Richard and Matt Close, of Calf Hall Farm, Starbotton.The title winner was the first prize aged ram, a 3 crop who won his show class at both Kilnsey and Nidderdale last year.
By a tup bred by Horton-in-Ribblesdale’s Neil Jackson, the victor, recipient of the Royston Baxter Trophy, awarded annually by the former Skipton Auction Mart foreman, who lives locally in Steeton, sold for a class-topping 220gns to Tebay’s JW Thwaites. The reserve champion from the same home was the first prize shearling ram, this by a Clapham-based Tom and John Kelsall Summerlands tup. It made 70gns.
The Closes are dyed-in-the wool Dalesbred aficionados, breeding them across four generations for close on 100 years. Richard is the current vice-chairman of the Dalesbred Sheep Breeders’ Association, while his grandfather, Joe, was a founder member. Their flock currently stands at 600-strong, with sheep farmed up to 2,300ft on the summit of Bucken Pike.
The Haygarths, who stood champion at the 2018 show – they are multiple past winners of the Skipton title - were also among the prizes at the latest renewal, finishing third in both show classes with a shearling ram sold at 320gns to Neil and Brian Jackson, of Horton-in-Ribblesdale., and an aged ram at 90gns.
The prize winners all got away well in the ram section, the remaining rosette falling to the runner-up in the aged ram show class from  the Blubberhouse-based Harrisons, this selling at 70gns. Pedigree shearling rams averaged £194 per head, well up on the previous year’s £106.75, and aged rams £112.
A small entry of good quality females was headed up at £123 each by a pen of 3 crop ewes consigned by the Coates family, from Rainscar Farm, Stainforth, claimed by to co-judge Charlie Lancaster, of Leyburn.
Shearling gimmers traded to a high of £116 for a pen from the Hickson family in Austwick, sold to new breeder Kayleigh Toms, of Cotherstone, Barnard Castle. Gimmer lambs peaked at £68 from Leyburn’s GN Clarke, with broken mouthed ewes selling to £34, again from the Coates’s in Starbotton.

The annual highlight attracted a robust turnout of 126 Dalesbred sheep, the hardy hill breed indigenous to the upper reaches of the Dales, and many of the region’s leading producers were again represented.
Association chairman David Wilson, of Beckwithshaw, commented: “It was a satisfying end of season sale, with good rams still selling well, though others were harder to place. Females sold well too.”
Once again, the Association chose young up-and-coming judges to give them valuable experience in the show arena. The other co-judge was Bentham’s Tom Batty, with the show classes sponsored by Dugdale Nutrition and Natural Stockcare.