2014-08-27   facebooktwitterrss

Lockerbie North Country Cheviot Sale Attracting UK-Wide Interest

Growth in popularity of the hardy North Country Cheviot sheep is attracting major interest for the breed’s main annual sale next month.

In the last few years, the North Country Cheviot sale held each September at Harrison & Hetherington’s Lockerbie Mart has grown from strength to strength. Attracting buyers and sellers from across the UK this is now one of their leading auctions of the year and the biggest annual sheep sale the centre handles.

Lockerbie 2010 Champion North Country Cheviot Park Ram

Lockerbie 2010 Champion North Country Cheviot Park Ram

Being held on Wednesday, September 17, this year’s sale comprises of around 400 North Country Cheviot Park and Hill Rams, plus nearly 5,000 females of both types.

Harrison & Hetherington auctioneer Michael Stewart said: “North Country Cheviots are prevalent across the Borders and the North of Scotland. However in the last few years we have seen an increase in the breed’s popularity in all areas of the UK.”

“The quality of the lambs is second to none and the hardiness of the ewes makes them ideal for hill farms. Our auction at Lockerbie is the only North Country Cheviot Sheep Society sale in the South of Scotland and is a showcase for both the breed and the breeders.”

The breed was first recorded in the 18th Century in Caithness in the Scottish Highlands by agricultural improver Sir John Sinclair, who set up the British Wool Society. He gave them the name Cheviot and used them to bolster his own flocks.

Today, Cheviots have evolved into three distinct types. The Hill or Lairg Type which developed in the hills of Sutherland is similar to the original 18th Century sheep taken to the Highlands by Sir John. The Caithness Type, which were bred on more fertile ground, are bigger and heavier. The Border Type developed in the Borders between the First and Second World Wars.

The breed’s hardy, healthy and long-living nature produces ewes that are kind mothers, and who can produce top-quality lambs in even the most demanding conditions. Their lambs prove particularly popular for both breeding and feeding. Draft ewes are generally sold to lower-ground producers at around five years old and will go on to produce lambs for a further two or three years. This adaptability, plus their high health status with many flocks being EAE accredited, has led to an increase in the pure-bred North Country Cheviot ewe population throughout the British Isles.

Alison Brodie, who has been the North Country Cheviot Sheep Society’s secretary for seven years, gives further background to the breed’s expanding popularity.

She said: “The breed has gone from strength to strength very much on its own merits. We are seeing a geographical growth the length and breadth of the country from all sectors of the market. These sheep are adaptable and so are suitable for different landscapes and farming methods.

“I have had a very positive year on my travels promoting the breed at events this summer and the interest appears to be higher than previous years. When farmers are opting for a breed, they are looking for value for money, an animal that has longevity and is less expensive to keep. As a native breed that has been around for more than 200 years, North Country Cheviots have all these attributes.”

Without a doubt, buyers at the Lockerbie auction in September will have their pick of the UK’s best quality North Country Cheviots.

Michael Stewart said: “It is always difficult to predict a market; however one thing that is very definitely true this year is the quality of sheep coming forward, helped of course by the tremendous growing season and weather.

“For anyone interested in starting or increasing their own flock of North Country Cheviots or improving their existing commercial flock, whatever the breed, the Lockerbie sale shouldn’t be missed.”


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