2015-09-14   facebooktwitterrss

Viking Sheep Join the Line Up at Rare Breed Sale

Harrison and Hetherington’s annual sale of Rare and Minority breeds takes place on Saturday 19th September at Borderway Mart.

Always certain to attract unusual and unique animals, this year’s sale will see a selection of one of the world’s original sheep breeds - The Icelandic sheep.

Icelandic Ewe lambs

Icelandic Ewe Lambs

Said to be one of the world’s oldest breeds, these sheep can trace their ancestry back to the Vikings who took this hardy breed with them when they settled in Iceland. It is likely that these sheep are the forefathers of the many coloured breeds that can be found along the trading routes the Norsemen took, a thousand years ago.

For farmers the interest is likely to remain in the commercial rather than the historic importance of these hardy little sheep. They belong to the Northern Short Tailed group, and are world renowned for their fleece (the source of Lopi wool) and their succulent meat. Actually they are a triple use breed, and they are kept for their fleece, milk and meat. This makes them economically sensible for smallholders, and their fleeces are much in demand. Very easy to care for, they are highly intelligent, calm and very easy to bucket train.

Keith Moffat farms Icelandics, up in the Hebrides, and he is a natural enthusiast: “The sheep is an excellent cross, it’s highly prolific, and gives very easy birthing. It shows rapid weight gain and growth and has an excellent meat to fat ratio. Icelandic meat is still a rarity in Britain and can command good prices.”

Keith represents the Icelandic’s Breeders group and is sending sheep to the Borderway Sale. He adds, “This is the first time that the breeders group has got together to see the sheep sold at a large auction. We have breeders from the Outer Hebrides down to Devon, so this is a central location for us. And Harrison and Hetherington have a very good reputation as one of the largest auctions for minority breeds.”

Keith is convinced the Icelandic Breed has a successful future, as well as an amazing past. “We have decided to get together to promote the breed more extensively. The committee decided the sale was a good way to promote the Icelandic breeds to start with. Hopefully, if it is successful, in the longer term we would like to look at the opportunity of having an exclusively Icelandic Show.”

The sale’s full title is The Annual Show and Sale of Rare & Minority Breeds of Cattle, Sheep, Pigs, Goats, Horses, Poultry & Waterfowl. It features many more rare breeds with their own stories to tell.

The 1st Ever Valais Blacknose Ewe Lamb being sold by Mr Alistair Jackson of Dumfries

The 1st Ever Valais Blacknose Ewe Lamb being sold by Mr Alistair Jackson of Dumfries

Also likely to be attractive to visitors will be the Valais Black-Nosed Sheep, which breed originates from Switzerland. This is a rare breed that thrives in mountainous country, and gives a lot of meat. In its homeland it is down to a few thousand – numbers that are threatened still further by the reintroduction of the wolf. Unlike the longevity of Icelandic, the Valais Blacknose was only accorded breed status in 1962, but they have a toe hold in the UK, and the Show and Sale on the 19th affords opportunities to see and acquire examples.

In total, the event will feature over 600 sheep from 21 rare breeds, 46 goats from 5 breeds, 45 cattle from 9 breeds, 68 pigs from 6 breeds, and 1157 poultry and caged birds. It will be starting at 9.00 am, with show judging at 10. Heather Pritchard of Harrison & Hetherington says, “A rare breed sale is a very colourful and popular occasion, and attract visitors as well as serious buyers who are anxious increase their flocks or herds. To us and the industry as a whole, they represent an important niche in agriculture and satisfy a real need, both for enthusiastic hobby farmers, and small enterprises that specialise in rare breed products. Of course, from an industry perspective the persistence of diversity in the gene pool for livestock is extremely valuable.”


Related Links
link Lockerbie NC Cheviot Sale one of the Largest in the Country
link One Stop Shop for Tups
link Lleyn Ewes in Demand at Ross on Wye
link Solid Trade at Lleyn Sheep Sale

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