Tups, or rams, are male sheep. This is the time of year when a good tup can really earn his keep.
You might have seen two curious sights in Dales fields - a sheep wearing what looks like a harness, and other sheep (ewes - females) with coloured marks on their backsides?
Tups have a raddle filled with dye strapped to their chest so that when they mate, they leave a coloured mark on the ewe's backside. Different colours may be used so the farmer knows which ewe will lamb when, and which tups are being most effective. An experienced tup may sere up 50 ewes. Mating is known as tupping.
Tups are prized for another reason during October & November. When the major tup sales take place in Autumn, the auction marts in places like Hawes and Kirkby Stephen become very busy with farmers seeking to buy and sell tups and improve breeding lines. There's a lot at stake, since this is the culmination of much work and it's when some farmers recoup their costs, hopefully with a decent profit. Every now and then there are record sales such as a few years ago when a Swaledale ram sold at Kirkby Stephen for £101,000 - the highest price ever paid for a sheep in Britain. This sort of remarkable figure is unusual as most will sell at much lower amounts, but competition is fierce to secure top bloodlines.