A VETERAN sheep breeder from the Borders will ring the bell to start Europe's biggest ram sale later this month.

James Jeffrey is set to be honoured for a lifetime’s commitment to the region’s sheep industry next Friday by signalling the start of the Closamectin Border Union Ram Sales in Kelso.

James first attended Kelso Ram Sales in 1942 at the age of 15, when he was responsible for selling the family farm’s Half Bred tups.

His son, John now manages the family business, which operates from Kersknowe near Kelso and includes the oldest registered flock of Border Leicester sheep.

James told us: “I’m hugely honoured to have been asked to ring the bell to start the sale this year.

"The Kelso Ram Sales are a highlight in the farming calendar, both for our family, and for the industry as a whole.

"Despite many changes over the years, they have held their position within the industry and I’m greatly looking forward to playing such an important role at this year’s event.”

Dating back to 1838, Europe’s biggest one-day ram sale has seen 5,458 entries this year be sold across 15 rings by seven different auctioneering companies.

The event, whose main sponsors are Closamectin and Rumenco, is a huge undertaking and includes 10 marquees with over 178,000 sq ft of space to house the sale rings and sheep.

Mags Clark from the Border Union Agricultural Society will be at the helm for the first time this year.

She said: "The official 10am ringing of the bell to mark the start of the Kelso Ram Sales is one of the event’s most important traditions and we felt that this year, the honour of starting proceedings should go to someone who has made a significant contribution to the sheep industry in the region.

"James’ family has been selling sheep at this event since around 1900 and he’s a past President of the Border Leicester Sheep Society with a huge commitment to the industry, so we believe he’s the ideal person for the job this year.”

A total of 18 different breeds will be represented at the 181st Ram Sales.

Mags is hopeful that last year’s record-breaking turnover will be exceeded.

She added: "The sales turnover for the event passed the £3 million mark for the first time last year, with the sale average also breaking the £700 barrier.

"The quality of the animals on sale here is always second to none so we’re greatly looking forward welcoming buyers and sellers from across the UK and Ireland for this significant event in the country’s agricultural calendar.”