Adding to the huge range of sheep breeds at the NSA Wales and Border Ram Sale are Ronald and Sue Jones of Gors Goch, near Llanybydder. They'll be taking nearly forty rams and a half dozen females from four different breeds to join more than eight thousand other sheep at what has developed into Europe's biggest ram sale. The event generates a turnover of well over £2 million and is of crucial importance to the Mid Wales economy.
The diversity displayed by Ronald and Sue is the result of a lifetime's work. Ronald has kept Black Welsh Mountain sheep since his school days. He and Sue are proud of the fact that he hasn't had to buy a female for more than forty years.
The Beulah Speckled Face are the main breed at Meini Gwynion-Mawr. The Texels were introduced in the mid Seventies, soon after they came to this country. The North Country Cheviots and the South Country Cheviots were introduced in the late eighties to breed rams to put on the Beulahs as the cross bred ewe qualified for hill subsidies then.
Selling at the Ram Sale is a hugely enjoyable experience for the couple, but it has become a big of a juggling act. The pair need to use all their wit and wisdom, not to mention their friends, to keep track of the selling in 20 marquees especially erected for the occasion. Life becomes even more fraught if, as often happens, they spot a ram they'd like to bid on and take home to join the fifteen hundred sheep at Meini Gwynion-Mawr.
“It's all go from the time we get there on the Sunday for the pre sale shows right through till we, and no doubt some new additions to our flock, get home late on Monday night”, says Sue. “We try and assess what times we will be in the rings by the numbers forward then one of us has to watch one ring and one of us has to be bidding somewhere else!
“People often ask us roughly what time we'll be in the ring if they take a liking to one of our rams. It might be a breed which they would not normally set out to buy because there is such a variety. It's a great place to sell because for example with the Beulahs someone who might not go to a Beulah sale might take a liking to one of our rams and decide to try one - an impulse buy if you like! They often buy from a breed they wouldn't normally go for.”
Ronald and Sue are just as famous in the show ring at local events, as well as the Royal Welsh, the Royal and the Royal Smithfield. Hundreds of rosettes and cups are proudly displayed at their home. One year they had six first prizes at Smithfield, ensuring the Welsh flag flew high! And in 12 years at Smithfield they achieved 36 firsts with their various breeds. Ronald is also a noted judge.
The couple will be among a number of important sheep producers at the NSA Wales and Border Ram Sale on Monday 19 September. The event is a primary driver in the sheep industry, so vital to the Welsh rural economy. This year, as well as the traditional visitors from all over the British Isles Scotland and England, there has been interest from the Netherlands and from Belgium.