Sheep shearing and lambs dosing season in full swing North of England Mule sheep breeders, in common with others across the nation, are busy with their annual summer flock care campaign. The sheep shearing season is now in full swing, while fast-growing new season lambs are being gathered in for treatments that will stand them in good stead for this year’s autumn sales. Many breeders continue to immunise with Heptavac-P, a recognised high health multi-purpose vaccine.


One such farming family on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales is the Lawns, of None-Go-Bye Farm, Skipton, who have recently given the first of the usual two Heptavac-P doses to this year’s batch of some 400 North of England Mule gimmer lambs.

Andy Barrett, of Craven Farm Vets, based at Skipton Auction Mart, explained: “For the uninitiated, Heptavac-P offers protection against multiple diseases that are significant killers of sheep of all ages and an important cause of sudden deaths. By vaccinating with a full course now, sheep farmers are providing confidence to buyers at the autumn sales that their replacements are protected.”

Like others, the Lawns – Geoff and Margaret, and their son, Alistair - say the 2020 lambing season has proved one of the best on record, with extremely favourable weather conditions seeing stacks of fit and healthy lambs on the ground, which augurs well for the high profile autumn sales at all the major northern marts.

Although marts cannot currently stage livestock shows under ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, there appears to be increasing confidence in the industry sector that they may well be given the green light to resume this autumn, albeit under carefully controlled conditions.
They remain the annual highlights for  hundreds of breeders of the North of England Mule, not only Britain’s most prolific sheep breed in terms of numbers, but also the country’s most popular commercial sheep for crossing purposes

While some of this year’s Lawn gimmer lambs will be retained in the flock, as usual nearly all will be sold in their “working clothes” at Skipton Auction’s Mart’s official North of England Mule Sheep Association (NEMSA) ewe lamb sales this September. The family, which has picked up show tickets at its local mart, also sells all its wether lambs at Skipton.

Geoff and Margaret Lawn inherited an existing 300-strong Swaledale flock when they first took over at None-Go-Bye in 1977 and immediately started with North of England Mules the following year. They still breed the vast majority of their own Mules, buying in up to 60 more as supplements as and when required

Today, the Lawns run a flock of some 750 Swaledale ewes which after lambing to their Ellergill pedigree Bluefaced Leicester flock – all their Mule lambs are by home-bred tups - go back out on to Embsay Moor with its heather-clad terrain, ideal ground at around 2,000ft for the hardy Swaledale

They also keep their geld hoggs on the moor, which is shared by other well-known local ‘harvesters of the hills’ - fellow Mule breeders and Skipton Auction Mart regulars, Embsay’s John and Claire Mason, and Ted and Matthew Walker in Barden.

Both Geoff and Alistair Lawn speak highly of the all-purpose North of England Mule. Geoff, who was a founder member of NEMSA’s Skipton branch and also served a stint as national chairman, said:

“The breed has always served us well. Mule ewes are great to lamb, produce plenty of them, are great mothers with lots of milk – and are extremely versatile, adapting to all sorts of conditions and coping with the very worst that the British weather can throw at them.”

The Lawns also run a small flock of pure Suffolk sheep, along with the Crook Rise pedigree Aberdeen-Angus herd, which currently comprises around 100 breeding cows. These, too, are primarily sold through Skipton.

The family, like other Mule breeders across the north, is again looking forward to the annual gimmer lambs sales – in whatever format that might be staged this year

Skipton Auction Mart for one remains confident that they will again take place and is urging vendors to carry on making the usual preparations for the two opening NEMSA highlights, currently scheduled for Tuesdays, September 8 & 22.

While voicing a cautious approach to this year’s big autumn sales due to continuing, albeit easing restrictions governing vendor access to auction marts, CCM’s general manager and auctioneer Jeremy Eaton, was nevertheless upbeat when noting:

“Although vendor access is now actually available and while we are already equipped to enable online bidding for both pedigree and other sales if restrictions continue, our current view is that the priorities are to continue trading and enable the autumn sales with the usual buyer attendance.

“However, as restrictions ease we need to be mindful to heed the advice of a possible resurgence of Covid-19 and implement the sensible policies agreed between the LAA (Livestock Auctioneers Association) and Government to ensure that we don’t jeopardise our ability to hold the autumn sales for our customers.”