Numbers and selling averages soar at Skipton store lamb opener Skipton Auction Mart’s opening store lamb sale of the 2020 season began on a real high note, with a major rise in both entry numbers and trading levels. (Wed, July 15) As in past years, the annual highlight offered a wide selection of lambs for short, medium and long-term keep, and the 4,302 head successfully sold represented an increase of over 1,200 sheep on the year, while the overall selling average of £73.54 per head itself showed a solid rise of £8.95 on 2019.

Further take into account that the turnout was more than double that of the traditional 2018 pipe-opener for store lambs, which two years ago averaged £61.52, then the current strength of trade for both sheep and cattle in general at live auction marts such as Skipton comes into true context. In turn, confidence among both vendors and buyers remains high, despite continuing Covid-19 restrictions governing both parties’ attendance at sales.

While prize shows cannot yet be staged, it did not prevent Andrew Haggas, of Grove Farm, Otterburn, winner of last year’s annual pre-sale show for pens of 40 or more lambs, from returning to claim top price of £95 per head with exactly 40 lambs in his annual consignment of Spring-born Dutch Texel/Beltex crosses. They fell to a Cumbrian buyer.

Michael McKenzie, from Arncliffe, took second top call of £90 each with 40 Continentals, followed by Winterburn’s Michael Parker with 50 Suffolks at £87.50.  Other leading prices saw a strong single Texel lamb from Ned Simpson, of Pateley Bridge, achieve the day’s top call of £109 – it fell to a South Yorkshire buyer- while a pen of 10 Beltex from Ian Brown, from Marske, Richmond, sold at £94 each.

George Cropper Jnr, who breeds sheep alongside his retail butcher’s business in Baxenden – he is a regular buyer of both prize-winning prime cattle and lambs at Skipton – sold two Beltex-cross pens, 14 at £92 and 17 at £90, while the Swinbank & Briggs farming partnership in Malham topped their run of Continental lambs at £90.

Overall, 28 pens sold at £80-plus. Most of the nice runs of first-cross lambs for medium keep settled at selling prices mainly in the £70s, while long-keep lambs were in the £60s or early £70s, depending on quality. 

A few pens of hill-bred lambs making their way to the first sale attracted the attention of both feeders and growers who have abundant grass, with larger pens of well-framed North of England Mules generally selling in the mid to late £60s.

Breed averages all showed a rise on the year as follows: Beltex £81.38 (2019 £75.65) Suffolk £76.96 (£64.18), Texel £73.16 (£63.95), Mule £67.87 (£55.16), Charollais £73 (£57.93) Individual packets of both Jacob and Lleyn store lambs among the mix sold to £65 and £63 respectively.

The mart reports that with prime trade holding strong, complemented by the excellent season for grass growth, there is a good demand for store lambs at future fortnightly Wednesday seasonal sales. The next is on Wednesday, July 29.