British Lop breeders converged on Melton Mowbray last weekend for their first annual pig of the year show since being excluded from the BPA pig of the year competition.

With thirty pigs present, there was a tremendous potential to spread bloodlines and help invigorate breeding programmes.

The show element was the pinnacle of the summer with the champion pigs from all the major shows coming together to be judged for the British Lop Pig of the Year. The judge, William Gregory, travelled down from North Yorkshire and was presented with seven top gilts from which to select the female champion.

Top spot went to Mark & Emma Edgar from Wareside, Hertfordshire, with their July-born gilt, Bakers Harmony 19. The Edgars won the inaugural Young Pig of the Year championship organised by the British Pig Association in 2005 and followed up a year later with the Female Young Pig of the Year in 2006, after which British Lops were excluded from that competition thus leading to this new championship dedicated exclusively to the Lop breed.

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The reserve female champion was awarded to Brian Upchurch from Royston with Greenway Harmony 117, a January-born gilt.

Then it was the turn of the boars and again seven were forward. The male championship went to Mr Upchurch with Greenway Ben 6 and the Runner-Up was Malcolm Hicks from Coventry with Windmill Charles 4, both born in February this year.The two gilts came back into the ring and Mr Gregory awarded the British Lop Pig of the Year title to Mark & Emma Edgar with Bakers Harmony 19 and the Reserve Supreme to Brian Upchurch with Greenway Harmony 117.

The sale followed soon afterwards, but with few buyers in evidence, there was pessimism that many pigs would not sell. The in-pig gilts were first in the ring and of 11 offered, eight sold at an average of just under 220gns.

The top price of the day of 320gns was achieved for Julian Colling’s Liskeard Pride 120 from Cornwall to Mrs J Squires of Billesdon, Leics, and the same vendor sold another two quality gilts at 300gns each.

Of seven maiden gilts born between 1 Jan and 31 Mar 2007, three sold at an average of 133gns. Of eight boars of similar age, five sold for an average of 196gns.

Among the buyers, three were new breeders fulfilling the quest of the Society to expand the number of keepers of the breed.

One of those means that British Lops will be bred in Scotland for the first time in over a decade as the Dunlossit Estate on the Isle of Islay bought a breeding group of two gilts and a boar, all unrelated, to add to their burgeoning groups of rare breed pigs used in conservation grazing projects on the island.

Supported by the charity, the Middle White Pig Trust, the estate is becoming an important factor in rare pig breed conservation. Their commitment to overcoming the difficulties of keeping pigs in an area not renowned for the species is demonstrated by the fact that they are currently constructing a state-of-the-art abattoir, which will be the only facility on the island and saving the necessity for lengthy trips across the sea to Glasgow and beyond.

British Lops will be well suited to their regime of free ranging on the moors and the Society looks forward to working with the Trust to expand the breed’s popularity.