Breed stalwarts dominate Skipton Wensleydale Longwool highlight ... Dyed-in-the-wool Wensleydale Longwool sheep aficionados John McHardy and Ernie Sherwin dominated the 130th Association show and sale at Skipton Auction Mart, sharing the spoils when each picking up four of the eight trophies awarded at the annual WLSBA highlight.

After many years of near misses, Scottish breeder Mr McHardy, who runs the Endrigs flock near Kilmany, Cupar in Fife, finally got his hands on the big one when his first prize ewe lamb was first tapped out as female, then supreme champion by judge Joan Ford, of Arranthorne, Bedale, herself a well-known former breeder who back in the day ran the Harmby Moor flock.

Mr McHardy, who started with the breed two decades ago – he has now turned 73 and says he is still going strong – clinched the title with a lamb by Princethorpe Schoolmaster, acquired last year from Warwickshire breeder and Association chairman Dr Lynn Clouder.

Out of a home-bred Endrigs Comet dam, the title winner sold for second top call of 500gns to the Parker & Bird farming partnership in Aylesbury, with a full sister to the champion also standing runner-up in the same show class matching its twin’s price when claimed by the same buyers. The duo were among a consignment of three lambs from Mr McHardy, the third, a ram by Endrigs Knock on Wood, out of a Princethorpe Harry’s Bar dam, making 150gns

Ernie Sherwin, of the Nosterfield flock near Bedale, made a clean sweep of the leading rosettes in the shearling ram show class, with both the winner and the runner-up being twin lamb sons of his well utilised 2014-born stock ram, Nosterfield Survivor, champion ram at Skipton in 2015, who has fathered some top-notch progeny over the years and, in the words of his breeder, is still performing well.

The two principals are out of a Brooklyn dam, a daughter of West End Brooklyn, and while the class victor, also reserve champion male, returned home Ernie had the satisfaction of claiming the day’s top price of 600gns with the runner-up, which also joined Parker & Bird. The third prize shearling ram, an Endriggs Sovereign son, out of a Nidderdale dam, made 300gns to Sabden’s K Taylor.

Mr Sherwin, who established his flock in 1978, was far from finished, with his nine-strong consignment, all bar one home-breds and all but one sold. He was also responsible for the first prize ram lamb, male and reserve supreme champion, again by Survivor, whose own Brimham grand dam was herself a multiple title winner, including standing champion Wensleydale, supreme champion wool on the hoof and overall reserve supreme at the 2013 Great Yorkshire Show. The lamb made a section-topping 350gns when joining a Welsh buyer, M Jones, of Caernarfon.

Turning to the females, Ernie also took first and second prizes in the shearling ewe show class with Survivor daughters. The red rosette winner, also reserve female champion, and one of twins out of a Maes Afon dam, sold for 420gns when claimed by Jack De’ Cova, of Stowupland, Stowmarket, who also took home the home-bred runner-up for 350gns. He was also among the vendors.

Ewes topped at 350gns for a Black Wensleydale from another Fife vendor, Alex Wilson, who runs the Howe flock in Freuchie. His 2019 aged ewe, by Butterlands Bowhouse, out of a Kirrawah dam, sold locally to RL Fitzgerald, of Long Lee, Keighley.

There were just three other prize winners, including past champions. Mark Elliott, who runs the dual Providence and Garth flocks in Ferrensby with his mother Judy, finished third in the shearling ewe show class with a Coe family-bred Wenham daughter of Ilketshall Brexitier, which made 350gns.

Nick Oliver, of the Carperby Pastures flock near Leyburn, who was Skipton champion with a gimmer lamb last year – it sold for a breed society record price for gimmer lambs of 900gns – stood runner-up in the ram lamb show class and made 180ns with a Providence Samson son, out of a home-bred Princethorpe Carlsberg ewe.

Last, but not least was the third prize ewe lamb from Andrew McDonald, who runs the Brooklyn flock in Samlesbury, Preston, with a home-bred daughter of Brooklyn Prospect Park, which made 200gns.

Vendors and purchasers old and new from a wide area supported the annual highlight. Other shearling tups sold around the 200-450gns range, while ewes, generally around 200-300gns, again sold well, with purchasers after numbers and quality. Of the 16 ram lambs, the majority sold at 120-220gns.

Chief prices and averages - all but one of the classes saw an increase on the year - were: Shearling rams to 600gns, av £303 (2020 £178), ram lambs to 350gns, av £169 (2020 £104), aged ewes to 350gns, av £247 (2020 £241), shearling ewes to 420gns, av £328 (2020 £255), ewe lambs to 500gns, av £297 (2020 £344).

WLSBA secretary Anna Pennell said it was great to see yet another year of growth in the averages, alongside a very busy ringside of potential buyers. She commented: “The demand for females in recent years has been incredibly strong as new flocks are being established, as well as growth of older ones. It’s great to see our members being rewarded for years of hard work with good prices and plenty of interest - and no sign of this slowing down.”