£250 per head top price at Skipton NEMSA opener Caton family clinch championship double Former Skipton branch chairman Kevin Wilson, of Blubberhouses, stole the show on price at the North of England Mule Sheep Association’s opening annual ewe lamb show and sale at Skipton Auction Mart. Late in the day, Mr Wilson stepped into the ring with his fourth prize pen of 10s to see them snapped up for the leading per head call of £250 by Cumbrian buyer Brian Ridsdale, who trades as M Ridsdale & Son at Yew Tree Farm, Penrith.



The gimmer lambs in the top price pen were by a mix of home-bred rams and others acquired from the Busby family, based at Harland House, Marrick in Swaledale country.

Mr Ridsdale will add his Skipton acquisitions to his flock of 500 Mule ewes and will put them to his Dutch Texel stock rams, prior to selling some with lambs at foot, others as shearlings.

Also a dairy farmer, Mr Ridsdale, a regular sheep buyer at Skipton, was accompanied by his 90-year-old mother Marion, who still helps out on the farm at lambing time. “In fact, she picked out the top price pen on the morning of the sale,” he said.

The opening NEMSA highlight remains one of the leading fixtures of its kind in the North of England and the first major Mule lamb sale of the year. The 2015 renewal saw a total of 7,979 (7,810 in 2014) gimmer lambs sold through the ring at an overall average of £90.49 per head, compared to £99.88 the previous year.

Current Skipton branch chairman Neil Heseltine, of Malham, said afterwards: “I think both buyers and sellers came away happy. Prices were not down by as much as sellers were anticipating and buyers have been able to acquire lambs at a price that is acceptable to them.”

Craven Cattle Marts’ livestock sales manager and auctioneer Ted Ogden noted: “With the weather for once being kind in the run up to this year’s sale, lambs were shown in fine bloom and were a credit to all concerned.”

In the show arena, Ashley and Rachael Caton, of Otterburn Lodge Farm, Otterburn, secured a notable championship double with their 10 and 20 pens. They are multiple past title winners at the high profile fixture, though it was in 2013 that they secured their last success, before bouncing back in great style at the 2015 opener.

Their champion pen of 10s contained three lambs by a home-bred ram lamb, himself a son of Middleton Hall D2, bred by the Watson family in the Lune Valley, out of a ewe acquired from the Highberries flock of Cumbrian breeder Neil Marston.

One was also by the Catons’ new Midlock sire, bred in Abington, Scotland, by the Wight family and purchased for £1,300 when champion at Castle Douglas last year. The remainder were by home-bred rams.

The victorious Caton 10s sold for £200 per head, while their champion pen of 20s also sold well at £195 each, top price in class. The majority here were by home-bred sons of Middleton Hall D2, though the pen also featured two gimmer lambs by the new Midlock sire.

Both title-winning pens fell the same buyer, fourth generation farmer Gareth Daniels, from Little Barningham in Norfolk, who was co-judge in the 10s show class. They will take their place on his own flock at Wolterton Park, near Aylsham.

“We will put them to Charollais tups in the first year and Suffolk rams the year after, and their ewe lambs will join our early flock,” explained Mr Daniels, who also runs Green Farm Lamb in Little Barningham, which supplies prime lambs to retail butchers, pubs and restaurants across the region, as well as the local abattoir.

The Catons were breaking a stranglehold on the opening highlight by the Smearsett flock of North Craven’s WA&A Booth, of Old Hall Farm, Feizor, who presented the champion pens of 10s and 20s in both 2013 and 2014.

However, they were not far behind at the latest renewal when sending out both reserve champions pens in the hands of Robin Booth. Their 10s sold for £165 per head and their 20s pen for £155 each. They were also awarded the NEMSA Skipton branch shield for the best run of 40 or more lambs.

Reigning CCM Farmers of the Year, husband and wife Stephen and Tracey Fawcett, and their daughter Samantha, who farm in the Yorkshire Dales at Fold House, Drebley, also achieved a noteworthy double when finishing third in both show classes. Their 10s sold for £168 per head and their 20s pen for £136.

JC Walker & Son, of Dunsop Bridge, sold their fifth prize pen of 10s for £155, while the sixth prize pen from John and Claire Mason in Embsay made £140. Back with the 20s, the fourth prize pen from James and Janet Huck in Austwick made £142, the fifth prize pen from Weston’s Francis Caton £123 and the sixth prize winners from Ellis Bros, of Addingham Moorside, £113.

Title winners in both show classes received Ciba Geigy perpetual trophies, with the champion pen of tens, judged by Mr Daniels and Philip Elliott, of Mungrisedale, Penrith, also awarded the Chester Kneller Memorial Trophy. Co-judges in the 20s class were Geoff Booth, of Lothersdale, and Julie Brough, of Lambrigg, Wigton.

CCM Auctions again presented cash prizes for the day’s leading flock averages. Of the vendors consigning 100 or more lambs, WP&B Walker & Son, of Appletreewick, led the field at £114.18 per head with their 102-strong batch, followed by the Booths at £112.23 with 140 lambs and the Fawcetts at £108.67 with 110 lambs.

Silsden Moor’s Jeff Throup led the flock averages for under 100 lambs, with their 86 charges levelling at £101.48 per head, followed by the Walker family at £99.80 for their 75 lambs, and £97.81 for the 43 lambs consigned by Francis Caton,

Show classes – full results and prices are at - were sponsored by Pearson Farm Supplies, Armstrong Watson Accountants & Financial Advisers, and Barclays Bank. The spotlight now turns to Skipton’s second annual NEMSA gimmer lamb show and sale on Tuesday, September 22.