Much improved trade at Skipton NEMSA ewe lambs opener as defending champions retain titles The keynote opening North of England Mule gimmer lamb sale at Skipton Auction Mart produced better than anticipated trade when the resounding turnout of 7,045 head successfully sold to an overall average of £104.81 per head, up a solid £14.06 on the year. (Tues, Sept 8)


It remains one of the leading fixtures of its kind and again one of the earliest official sales to be staged in the North of England Mule Sheep Association’s members-only autumn ewe lamb sale season, so providing a realistic barometer to potential trading levels.

The annual highlight featured safe distancing show classes, as usual staged in pens of 10 and 20, to recognise and reward breeders for all their hard work. And it was as you were at the top when both 2019 champions successfully defended their titles, the Dunsop Bridge Walkers again reigning supreme with their10s, with Ashley and Rachael Caton, of Otterburn Lodge, returning to present the champion 20s.

Furthermore, the Walkers - Geoff and Margaret, and sons, John and Rob – had the double delight of claiming the day’s top price of £230 per head with their Brennand Farm ewe lambs, all out of home-bred Swaledale ewes by six different tups.

Four were by Brennand L1, one each by Brennand M10 and Brennand J7, a brace by Toad Hole M1, the remaining duo by Carry House M20 and Midlock H2. They found a new home in Oxfordshire when heading south to Banbury with co-judge Will Allen.

The Catons’ victorious 20s, mostly by home-bred tups, with K12 Otterburn Lodge holding a strong influence, the odd one by a new Asby Hall sire, also topped the class on price when selling locally for £210 per head to Hellifield’s Ed Thornalley, who moved north from Norfolk to pastures new a while back. The Catons were also responsible for the fourth prize 20s, which made £170, further chipping in with the fourth prize 10s, sold for £195.

Back with the 10s, second top call of £210 fell to the fifth prize pen from immediate past NEMSA national chairman Kevin Wilson, who farms with his wife Daphne and son, James, at Hewness House Farm, Blubberhouses. They were chiefly by home-bred tups, all sons of the family’s renowned F1 Bighead. The Wilsons, reserve champions at the 2019 NEMSA opener, also doubled up this year with fifth place in the 20s show class, their charges making £170.

Standing runner-up with his tens was John Fawcett, of Barden, which sold for £190 each, bettered at £195 by the third prize winners from the Kitching family at Grisedale Farm, Threshfield, who also doubled up with the third prize 20s, which made £150. In addition, they consigned a second 10s pen at £195. Frank Kitching remains chairman of NEMSA’s Skipton branch. 

The Booth family, from Feizor, north of Settle, was again among the prizes, standing sixth with its tens, which made £190, and runners-up in the 20s, which sold away at £160, as did the sixth prize pen from Weston’s Francis and James Caton, who also sold a pen of 10s at £205.

Top end pens sold better than anticipated, with five pens at £200 or more, including one at £205 from Chris and Christine Ryder in Blubberhouses, another eight pens selling in the £190s, among them two at £195 and £190 from John and Claire Mason in Embsay, another at £190 from Stephen and Tracey Fawcett in Drebley. Draughton’s Joe and Nancy Throup had a £175 pen.

As usual, CCM awarded prizes for the highest flock averages. Doing best with 100 or more lambs were the title-winning Walkers with 107 to average £125.22, followed by the Otterburn Catons with 227 at £124.02 and the Booths with 120 at £123.67. The best average for under 100 lambs was £143.27 for 34 from the Drebley Fawcetts, followed at £120.33 for 54 from Janet and James Huck in Austwick and £116.25 for 40 from Saddle End Farms, Chipping.

The other 10s co-judge was David Buck, of Barnard Castle, the 20s judged by Dan Branson, of Northampton, and Geoff Rogerson, from Dunstan. Judging the best runs were Messrs Edmondson, of Keswick, and Weston’s Francis Caton. The prize show was again sponsored by Carrs Billington and Armstrong Watson Accountants & Financial Advisors.

CCM sales manager Ted Ogden commented: “Throughout the sale lambs with skin quality, bone and good carcass were keenly contested, as buyers sought to secure the basic components of a good commercial breeding ewe, with premium prices for the smart-headed types and well put together lighter-headed sorts also finding good prices to go straight into flocks. 

“Running lambs were in good demand, as volume buyers looked to fulfill early season orders and these were mainly £90 plus, although the smallest end of lambs could be bought at £85/£88.”

This year, the mart also gave Mule customers the option to bid live online for the first time and while a small number of pens were successfully sold via the internet,most fell to the100 or so registered buyers gathered in the main sale ring, which again operated on a socially distanced nature.

“It soon became evident that potential buyers had clearly come to secure the type of quality lambs on offer for which Skipton is quickly gaining a reputation and prices were probably sharper than most had hoped for,”added Mr Ogden.

Attention now turns to the second official NEMSA gimmer lamb sale a fortnight later on Tuesday, September 22, when another strong catalogue is anticipated. The online bidding option will again be available.