Lanark Mart: RING 1 in full swing.
An important part of the farming calendar is making sure you have the right number of tups (rams) and that they are fit and healthy for the tupping season (which starts in November).
Inevitably you may need to replace some of the older ones and it is always good to introduce some new blood to the flock, perhaps some improved breed characteristics too. So, to this end, this week we went to buy some new tups at the Blackface tup sales held annually at Lanark Market.
This is an all day event. Before the sale starts, everyone wanders around the Penning Areas - looking at what is on offer. Alot of time and effort goes into ensuring the stock look their best for the sale. Every animal has been shampooed, preened, brushed and shined, made to look its best. Dyed wools, neatly clipped, oiled horns, clean feet and legs, horns branded with their unique number, any blemishes carefully concealed. These guys have never looked so good.
Each pen of tups has the name of the farm on it - with all the mystique of a vineyard. Names well known in the Blackface Sheep Breeders world - Allanfauld, Dyke, Troloss, Midlock to name but a few. Reputations formed over years and generations.
To the uninitiated like me I am ashamed to say - a tup is a tup is a tup. I am not sure I can tell a prize winner from a loser but those in the know, will know - and can hazard a guess at who might sell a tup for the highest price.
There are 2 sale rings. To sell your tups through ring 1, you have to have reached a certain average price in ring 2 at previous sales. This is enough of a hint for us to know that we will stick in ring 2 for our selection.
Early on in the day there were not so many buyers around, but during the course of the day the market filled up, like a huge party slow to get going. By mid afternoon the whole place was buzzing - both rings busy, and great chatter in the bars and restaurant - deals being done, acquaintances being renewed, hands shaken, laughter shared and a great kindred atmosphere. Buyers come from all over Scotland and northern England - we weren't the only folk from the Isle of Mull there, and I heard the auctioneer calling out names from the Isle of Skye too.
So we spent most of the day in ring 2, except for recreational visits to ring 1 to see if any exciting prices were being reached (£17,000 was one we heard!). By mid afternoon we had bid considerably less for 6 average but healthy looking tups -including one from Chirmorrie - no. 533, whose 'pedigree' you can see here.
At the end of the day, the tups were loaded into a lorry bound for Mull and we made our own separate way home.
We got home to brilliant sunshine and clear skies - wonderful October holidays weather.
One or two neighbours have been over to look at the turbine already. We do enjoy showing people round the turbine, the woodchip boiler and where the conversations lead; and we are happy to show our holiday cottage guests round if they are interested. Here she is, looking towards Calgary beach.