Icelandic sheep were auctioned in the UK’s first-ever online auction, Bændablaðið reports. The auction was handled by the Scottish “livestock marketing company” Harrison & Hetherington.
Twenty-six animals were auctioned in the two-day auction in early September. The highest-earning sheep was the only ewe on offer, Alfifa, who, according to the auction catalog, “had a single ram in 2020 and twin ewe lambs in 2021.” Alfifa fetched ISK 56,000 [£317; $438; €371].
Also for sale was Bijarni, a Shearling Ram who “[w]as commended by Tim Tyne [author of The Sheep Book for Smallholders, known as ‘the bible for sheepkeepers’] in last years [sic] show despite not being entered in ram class.” Bijarni was commended as being “Gentle natured [with] well spaced horns” and noted to “stand on his feet well.” A gimmer, or female sheep that has been weaned but not sheared, named Not Splodge was also sold, as were whether lambs, and a number of ram and ewe lambs.
The average price for ewes was ISK 53,875 [£305; $422; €357]. Rams fetched a lower average price, or ISK39,000 [£134; $185; €156]. The whethers fared a little better, with an average price of ISK 33,000 [£185; $256; €216].
Interest in Icelandic sheep has ‘completely spiralled’
The first Icelandic sheep were imported to the UK in 1979. The Icelandic Sheep Breeders of the British Isles (ISBOBI) was founded nine years later, in 1988. Per Cumberland’s News&Star, in recent years, British breeders have cross-bred Icelandic sheep with “…Blackface and Shetlands with much success; others have had particularly good results crossing with the larger continentals.”
“Icelandic rams have come into their own,” the article continues, “producing cross breeds which are considered by members of the breed society to be lighter on the ground than some heavy breeds and producing better quality meat than some smaller breeds.”
There are currently around 300 Pedigree Icelandic Sheep in the UK, and the Scottish Farmer reports that they are increasingly in demand, hence auctioneers’ decision to sell them via the more accessible, online platform. “In the past our Icelandic Sheep sales have been held as part of our wider rare breeds sales, and in holding an online sale, the aim is to open the breed up to a broader UK wide audience,” remarked Harrison & Hetherington auctioneer Grant Anderson.
“In recent years there has been so much interest in Icelandic Sheep, it has completely spiralled,” added Ruth Stanton, assistant secretary of ISBOBI. “The aim of this auction is to help provide us with a measure as to what is happening as well as a benchmark for the breed.”