South Cumbria’s finest young handlers were out in force at Ulverston Auction Mart prepping their carefully reared sheep for the Christmas Show & Sale.

The ‘under-10s’ class had a fantastic turn out with the holding pens a hive of activity by 10am as the children made sure their charges were well turned out.

The show began at 11am with the children and parents taking the sheep on rope halters in to the showing and selling ring to be considered by Auction Mart Judge Michael Lomax.

Assistant market manager Dee Fell said: “We hold the shows for the young farmers annually, both cows and sheep. It is so important to get the next generation interested and involved. The children absolutely love it.”

The day’s youngest handler was 18-month-old Dougie Price, who was on his first ever sheep handling excursion.

Dougie, who is already a keen young farmer, was showing a Zwartble x Texel lamb for his godmother Amber Wilson and her partner Sam Butterfield.

Miss Wilson said: “It’s lovely to have Dougie and my two young cousins Millie and Ethel here to show the sheep. The lambs were born earlier this year and they have all been up to visit and help feed them throughout the year.”

The sheep and lambs shown in the morning by the young handlers were sold at auction in the afternoon with farmers hoping to receive around £130 for each animal.

Some of the most eye-catching sheep in the ring were shown by eight-year-old Charley Cummings and her five-year-old brother Jack Cummings.

Charley, of Smithy Wood Farm, Waberthwaite, already has a season of showing and handling under her belt after competing at shows such as Gosforth, Cockermouth and Westmorland County over the Summer.

Charley said: “I have my own small flock of Beltex sheep but we also have Charolais sheep on the farm. Looking after sheep is hard work but I love it and I love lambing time, it is always a surprise to see what you are going to get. When you have your lambs then you need to check on them all the time to make sure they are eating and drinking enough to survive.

“I really enjoy getting my sheep ready to show, we get up early to wash them and then I comb out their wool with a brush. At the Westmorland Show we won a third prize.

“The best part of raising sheep for me is just spending time with them and cuddling them.

“Today I will be showing my sheep named Jill but at home I have two tups called Harry Potter and Buckbeak.”

The second class of the day for the ‘10-years and over’ category which was won by Oliver Watson, who also came out with the prize for Overall Champion on the day with his Beltex sheep.

Oliver, 15, of Hill Farm, Holmrook, said: “The sheep I was showing today was on the behalf of Malcolm Colton but at home we rear pure Dutch Spotted sheep. Having sheep is an extremely hard thing to do, you have to be looking after them 24/7 but when it’s good it is really good and all worth it.”

Oliver, who also dedicates a lot of time to sheepdog trialling and has just represented England in the World Championships, has already seen some impressive sales in his early career rearing and selling sheep.

He said: “Sheep can go for serious prices, I sold one this year for £4,500 and one a couple of years ago for £5,500, it all depends on the genetics.”

The Ulverston and North Lonsdale Auction Mart has been part of the fabric of the small town since 1877 and holds sales weekly, providing farmers with an integral platform to view livestock and also to network as a community.