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Friday’s annual Hawarden ewe fair, expected to draw up to 17,000 sheep, continues an annual tradition which goes back more than 100 years, writes Amanda Bowes.

This year’s Hawarden Ewe Fair is shaping up to be a strong sale, with buyers already showing interest.

The annual sale is considered the premium place to buy quality ewes and two-tooths as stock comes from a wide area, as far north as Marlborough.

The sale has been held over two days in recent years due to high numbers of capital stock being offered because of farms sales, re-structuring and drought.

This year, the sale will be held on one day, January 26.

PGG Wrightson livestock representative Mike Steele says around 16,000 to 17,000 ewes are likely to be put forward for the Friday sale.

The smaller number on offer reflects a quieter year for farm sales, and many farmers re-building their breeding flock after the dry years. Good ewe lambs have been retained so there won’t be the same number of two-tooths for sale.

Mr Steele says the smaller than usual number of two-tooths will mainly be from traders who purchased high quality ewe lambs and have grown them out.

“The two-tooths offered will be excellent quality. There has been a lot of hype already for the sale and indications are for a good-sized yarding,” Mr Steele says.

It is likely the usual format will be followed, with the sale starting off with crossbred two-tooths, then fine wool two-tooths, followed by the older ewes.

While other rural towns have lost their ewe fairs – there was once a round of them from Cheviot to Amberley – Hawarden has managed to stay afloat.

The sale has been held annually for more than 100 years, and numbers have averaged 20,000 per sale over that time.

Ewes are no longer transported by train to and from the sale yards, nor driven on foot. Now, stock trucks line up in a procession of unloading and loading.

Seeing such a large number of ewes sold on one day is now a unique event and draws people to visit the saleyards just to be part of what is a very Kiwi experience.