The south of Ireland branch of the Suffolk Sheep Society hosted its premier sale in Blessington Mart on bank holiday Monday, breaking a host of records.

The most significant of these was an all-breed record price for a sheep sold at a sale in Ireland. Auctioneer John Doyle dropped his gavel at €44,000 for a ram lamb from breeder Richard Thompson, Lifford, Co Donegal.

This stylish end-of-December-2020-born ram carries the Ballinatone prefix and there were a number of interested parties, including some who were bidding online.

The ram was sired by the 5,000gns Solwaybank Sapphire 2 and is out of a Ballynacanon ewe by Mountford Mustang.

The successful bidder was eventually announced as Dennis Taylor, who runs the Ballynacannon flock in Co Derry.

Ahead of this sale, the previous record-priced Suffolk sold in Ireland was €31,000, paid for Cloontagh Chieftain in 2015.

The overall top-priced sheep record previously stood at €38,000 for a Texel ram from the Baileys flock, which sold in 2006.

The supreme champion from the Mullinvale flock sold for €34,000. \ Alfie Shaw

This was far from the only highlight on the day, as the male and supreme champion of the show also broke the former Suffolk record, selling for €34,000.

The breeder of this ram also came from Lifford in Co Donegal, this time Darragh McMenamin of the Mullinvale flock.

This son of the 30,000gns Salopian Scuderia is out of a Balquhain-bred ewe that McMenamin purchased privately last year.

Tapped out as the novice and open ram lamb class winner before hitting the championship lineup, judge William Tait backed his decision in the sales ring, purchasing the champion for his Burnview flock in Northern Ireland.

Taking the reserve male and reserve supreme titles was a ram lamb from the Annakisha flock of Arthur O’Keeffe, Mallow, Co Cork.

This son of the 20,000gns Castleisle Kilteskin Prince comes from a long line of national champions on the dam’s side. Carrying five stars on the terminal index, he was knocked down at €4,000 to the Limepark flock of Philip Byrne.

A Limepark ram lamb which sold at €7,500. \ Alfie Shaw

This purchase came after Byrne had already sold his top ram lamb for €7,500.

This December 2002-born ram lamb is a son of Muirton One Direction and a show ewe by Strathisla Speed.

Having met his reserve, the third-prizewinner in the open ram class was knocked down to the Northern Irish-based Crewlands flock.

The reserve supreme champion from the Annakisha flock sold for €4,000. \ Alfie Shaw

Hitting €6,500 was a ram lamb from the Shannagh flock of William and Richard Wilson, Lifford, Co Donegal.

This Shannagh ram hit the market at €6,500. \ Alfie Shaw

This son of last year’s premier sale champion Kells T-Rex is out of a Birness Murray-bred dam, which has bred daughters to €4,200 already. This one was again secured by the Crewlands flock.

The €5,000 price tag was hit on two occasions. First at the money was an ET ram lamb from the Kilmacoo flock of Brian and Gus Doyle.

This Kilmacoo ram sold for €5,000. \ Alfie Shaw

This stylish third-prizewinner in the novice ram class was sired by Errigal Grim Reaper, which is out of Limestone Gold Rush.

Out of a Crewlands Megastar-bred dam, this ram was the highest of the exports to mainland Europe.

This Malinhead ram sold for €5,000. \ Alfie Shaw

Matching the price was a February-born ram from the Malinhead flock of John A Doherty. This son of Limestone Red Rum goes back to former sire of the year Limestone Aston Martin, with Crewlands Export on the dam’s side.

Doherty also sold another Red Rum son earlier in the sale at €4,400. The purchaser was a fellow Donegal breeder.

Hitting a price of €4,600 was a substitute lot from Andrew Wilson’s Castleisle flock. This son of the aforementioned Kells T-Rex is out of a homebred ewe, which is a maternal sister to the £3,500 Castleisle Calvin Klein.

In the female ring, judge William Tait tapped forward James O’Connell’s shearling ewe as overall champion.

The female champion from the Knockogan flock sold for €1,600. \ Alfie Shaw

This Shannagh Synergy daughter is out of a Ballygarvanstud Bullseye-bred dam and met her reserve at €1,600.

Taking the reserve spot in the female championship was Kenneth Bailey with a ewe lamb from his Lismurtagh flock. This Cairness Cobra-sired ewe is out of a Cloontagh Sparkler-bred dam and sold for €1,400.

While these prices topped an exceptional day’s trading, the strong commercial farmer presence kept the sale moving, resulting in an 84% clearance rate, up 26 percentage points on the 2020 sale.

Commercial farmers accounted for 60% of all sales and these animals recorded an average of €697. This commercial buyer average is up €121 on the year.

If we look at a complete sales average, this rises to a massive €1,585. Even if we exclude the two five-figure sums, the average price still stands at a whopping €1,123 for 164 animals sold. Numbers of sheep hitting the four-figure mark rose by over 50% on the 2020 sale. In total, 46 animals sold for €1,000 or more.

While impossible to know exactly why, a lot of this increase is down to hard work at council level to get zootechnical certification passed in time and, in turn, promoting the breed outside of southern Ireland.

This work certainly paid dividends, with 41 lots exported or 25% of all lots sold. Twenty-five of these lots sold to Holland, France, Spain, Portugal and Belgium. It’s worth noting that of these 41, over one-third hit the four-figure mark.