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Finishers pay top price for lambs in Lairg sale

Mart staff operated a tic-tac system in the Sutherland sunshine.
Mart staff operated a tic-tac system in the Sutherland sunshine.

This season’s buoyant lamb trade was reflected in the soaring prices paid by southern finishers for North Country Cheviots at yesterday’s Lairg sale.

The usual buzz may have been missing inside the wooden hillside mart which is usually tightly packed with spectators and tourists as well as serious buyers, but Sutherland’s farmers and crofters said that was a small price to pay for being able to successfully sell their lambs through the ring during Covid-19 restrictions.

A total of 14,365 lambs were sold, (+1,244 on the year), with 10,528 wethers averaging £59.29 (+£7.22) and 3,837 ewe lambs averaging £73.04 (+£13.53). Ewe lambs from Dunbeath Estates topped the sale at £210, Cheviot hill wethers from Campbell, Millhouse, made a top of £81 and park Cheviots reached £80.50 from Allan Mackay, South Balkeith, Tain. Achentoul manager Murdo MacDonald sold his Texel cross wethers for £83.50.

Only registered buyers from across the UK were permitted inside the mart and United Auctions managing director George Purves led a tic-tac team which took bids from buyers standing in the sunshine outside the ring.

He said: “It has been challenging, but we were very determined to deliver a successful sale for our customers in Lairg. It’s been a bit like the football – the game is on but the crowd’s not there and the fun is out of it – but we’re making the best of it and trade is good.”

Lockerbie finisher Jim Reid, from Bengalhill, bought his usual complement of 800 lambs but had to pay more for them than last year’s consignment which he said made him “a good return”.

“Today I paid £67.50 for lambs that I paid £60 for last year, but sheep numbers are down across the country so I hope scarcity will tell in the spring and keep my job right. Some will go for export and others for the home market, depending on weights and trade,” he said.

Regular Welsh buyer John Roberts went home empty handed as he said the prices being paid were more than he could justify. He said: “These are uncertain times, so I’m holding back. There are a lot of new faces buying, which is good for sellers – but not for me.”

Achentoul Estate sold 1,140 lambs through the ring and saw an increase of £9 on the year, and Armadale farmer Joyce Campbell was delighted with the trade for her 600 lambs which topped at £74 for wethers and £200 for ewe lambs.

“When we went into lockdown I didn’t think we’d be able to have a sale at Lairg like the one we’ve have today,” she said.

“It’s not the same buzz, but we’re here to do business in the current climate and I’m just relieved live auctions like this are going and we can come and represent the work we’ve done all year.”

nnicolson@the courier.co.uk

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