Northern Ireland’s Artnagullion flock claims 7,000gns top call at annual Skipton pedigree Beltex Society highlight ... Irish eyes were smiling when the Artnagullion flock of Co. Antrim brother and sister, William and Libby McAllister, scooped 7,000gns top price honours at the Beltex Sheep Society’s annual show and sale of registered rams and females at Skipton Auction Mart.

The siblings, of Kells in Ballymena, headed the selling prices by a wide margin at the North Yorkshire mart’s premier breed highlight, staged on behalf of the Northern Club, with their third prize shearling ram, Artnagullion Feux, a March, 2020, son of Greenall Dennis The Menace, bred north of the border by the Green family and a 3,000gns Skipton purchase two years earlier.

Out of a home-bred ewe by Rathbone Tony, bred locally in North Craven by Eldroth’s Mike Davis and acquired by Artnagullion for 9,000gns – he has since sired shearling rams to 16,000gns – the top price performer found pastures new in Cumbria when falling to James Whiteford, of Tercrosset, Brampton.

The McAllisters are familiar faces at the annual showcase and themselves past supreme champions. Libby said of the sale leader on price: “It’s the best shearling ram we have had this year and we kept it especially for Skipton.”

Another familiar face from Northern Ireland, Matt Burleigh, who runs the Matt’s flock in Shanra, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh – he too stood supreme champion in both 2018 and 2019 – netted second top call of 4,000gns and top price in section with his fifth prize ram lamb, Matt's Goal Keeper, a February-born son of Murrays Expert, out of a Hackney Corker ewe. It made its way to Mellor in Lancashire with the Monk family.

Five more sheep made 3,000gns or more, with Brian and Sabine Hall’s Ainstable flock in the village of the same name near Carlisle repeating past high price achievements when claiming 3,400gns and 3,200gns with a brace of shearling rams.

The first, Ainstable Falsified, a March, 2020, twin by Black Jack Casanova, out of a Hudhey Tenacious ewe, joined R&K Williams, of Huntly in Aberdeenshire, while the second, the April, 2020, Ainstable Ferocious, stood first prize shearling ram and reserve male champion at the pre-sale Friday evening show.

By Kingledores Engleburt, a 3,200gns joint top price purchase from Richard Wood as a ram lamb at Skipton two years earlier, out of a home-bred Woodies Wicked daughter, Ainstable Balderdash, who has herself bred tups to 8,000gns, the reserve male was purchased by John Cowan, of the Brickrow flock in Ayrshire. The Halls also made 2,200gns with another shearling ram son of Engleburt,

From Wigtownshire, Jock McMillan, of the Clary flock in Carse of Clary, Newton Stewart, achieved 3,100gns with his second prize ram lamb, Clary Granite, a February-born son of Borderesk Leap Frog, out of a Hackney Braveheart ewe. It went to Cumbria and the Story family in Longtown.

John Green, of Lillisleaf in the Scottish Borders, whose family bred the sire of the sale-topping shearling ram, himself achieved a 3,000gns shearling ram sale with Greenall Furious, a March, 2020, son of Dean Brow Carlos, out of Beautry Charlene, one of 14 sheep purchased two years ago to expand the flock from Stuart and Gail Currie’s local holding in Rathmell. The ram headed to Derbyshire’s High Peaks with Steve Buckley, of Dove Holes, Buxton.

Represented at a Beltex Society sale for only the second time, Mr Green also picked up a red rosette in the aged ram show class with the family’s March, 2019, Artnagullion Elfie, bred by the McAllisters, out of a Graham’s Ringo dam. The class winner sold for £1,000 to RF Towers, of Wray, Lancaster.

Another Scottish Borders vendor, Grant Maxwell, from the Faughill flock based at Bowden, near Melrose, also made 3,000gns with his shearling ram, Faughill Freddy Kruger, a February, 2020, son of Ryder DIY, out of a Kingledores Alfie ewe. This, too, was claimed by James Whiteford.

Back in the pre-sale show, the supreme championship on what was their first-ever appearance at the Skipton breed highlight fell to Welshman Dafydd Owen and his partner Katy Davies, of the Smart Ass flock at Golyfgfa’r, Dyffryn in Conwy, though Mr Owen was judge in 2018.

They claimed the title with a March, 2020, shearling ewe, Smart Ass Fevertree, first tapped out as winner of its show class, then female and supreme champion by judge Andrew J Wood, who recently dispersed his well-known Withy Tree pedigree Beltex flock in Preston. He praised his chosen victor for “its overall conformation, a true Beltex-looking sheep with exceptional head.”

By the Skiddaw View Busby Babe son, Arkle E Z Rider, purchased as a lamb, out of a solid female line – the home-bred dam, Smart Ass Bonnie is a Dooley Napal daughter - the overall supreme became the top price female when selling for 1,400gns to Calderdale’s Adrian Leach, of Hebden Bridge.

Standing reserve supreme champion was the first prize ram lamb and male champion from Richard Wood, of the Scottish-based Kingledores flock in Tweedsmuir, Biggar, South Lanarkshire.

His February-born Kingledores Galileo is a full brother to the 11,000gns Godzilla, while the dam, the Broxty Boxer daughter, Withy Trees Champagne, also produced the centre record price 9,000gns shearling ram for the flock at last year’s Skipton breed highlight. By Skiddaw View Endurance, a 5,500gns purchase last year from breeder Jimmy Little, the reserve supreme sold for 2,000gns and found a new home in Kent with A Denning, of Tonbridge.

There was a local success for Karen and David Shuttleworth, who run the Heber Park flock at Heber House Home Farm, Gargrave, when their second prize shearling ewe, Heber Park Frannie, was tapped out as reserve female champion. She is a March, 2020, daughter of Jewitt Candyman, who was also responsible for the 2019 Skipton supreme champion shown by Karen’s parents, John and Jean Bradley, of the Penyghent flock in Giggleswick.

Out of the home-bred Buckles Balmoral daughter, Heber Park Chakira, the Shuttleworths, who themselves won the Skipton supreme championship back in 2013, saw their female reserve sell locally for 1,200gns to D Hargreaves, of Airton. They also made 2,400gns with their fourth prize shearling ram, the February, 2020, Heber Park Fabulous, again by Candyman, out of a Cora Wally ewe. The buyers were Wannop’s Farms, of Heaton-with-Oxliffe, near Morecambe.

Taking first and second prizes in the ewe lamb show class were Derbyshire’s T&J Belfield, of the Boothlaw flock at Sheen, Buxton, with a brace of January-born Buckles Eden Valley daughters. The runner-up made 1,050gns when joining Rosie Deakin-Gallimore, of Withington Leigh, Stoke-on-Trent.

The annual Society fixture attracted a catalogue entry of 436 head, with seven other sheep making 2,000gns-plus and a further 48 selling at 1,000gns-1,900gns. Rams of all classes were a very good trade, seeing averages looking well on the year, with shearlings for both commercial and pedigree flocks in high demand to level at £932 (2020 £874) for shearling rams and £861 (2020 £874) for ram lambs. Aged rams averaged £665 (2020 £577).

Females, however, were a very selective trade, with strong quality consignments readily picked up, though anything outside this bracket found the going much harder. Shearling gimmers averaged £459 (2020 £664) and gimmer lambs £464 (2020 £403).

Along with the Beltex Society, other show sponsors were Craven Farm Vets, Craven Sheep Breeding, JG Animal Health, Nutrigrow and Mulberry Farming