CCM SKIPTON NEMSA EWE LAMBS OPENER PRODUCES SOLID TRADE UP OVER £25 PER HEAD ON YEAR Dunsop Bridge Walkers claim memorable championship hat-trick The high profile opening North of England Mule gimmer lamb sale at Skipton Auction Mart, one of the earliest official fixtures to be staged on behalf of members of the North of England Mule Sheep Association’s (NEMSA) annual calendar, so providing a realistic barometer to potential future trading levels, did not disappoint, with 5,567 head selling at an overall average of £130.35, an increase of £25.54 on the year.

The all-conquering Walker family notched up a memorable hat-trick when consigning the champion pen of 10s for the third year running, adding the reserve championship pen for good measure in a two-way split between their two neighbouring Whitendale and Brennand Farms high above Dunsop Bridge in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland.

The Walkers - Geoff and Margaret and their two sons, John and Rob - who farm 6,000 acres of mainly fells at the head of the Dunsop Valley, claimed the top two prizes with gimmer lambs predominantly by home-bred Bluefaced Leicester tups, all out of home-bred Swaledale ewes.

Long-standing NEMSA members, they have been breeding North of England Mules for some four decades.Their title-winning tens, which also included a brace of lambs by Ayrton and Ridley tups, sold for a sale-topping £270 per head when claimed by co-judge Ian Manning.

The reserve champion tens, which contained five lambs by Brennand L1, responsible for many of the family’s former Skipton champions, plus others by Lord and Ridley rams – one in the pen also stood breed champion at the previous week’s Klnsey Show – were the first into the sale ring and they commanded second top call of £260 each when falling to travelling Oxfordshire buyer Will Allan.

The champion 20s came from regular prize winners and past champions, the Booth family, from Old Hall Farm Feizor, north of Settle. The majority were again by their top-performing Smearsett G11 tup, fondly known at home as Ted, with three others by a Harkerside tup acquired last year, the remainder by a Joe Throup ram. They sold for £190 per head, again top price in section, to New York Farms on Silsden Moor.

Back with the tens, immediate past NEMSA national chairman Kevin Wilson, who farms with his wife Daphne and son, James, at Hewness House Farm, Blubberhouses, stood third, their charges away at £190, the fourth prizes 20s also coming from the same home and making £160.

Finishing fourth were the Kitching family, from Grisedale Farm, Threshfield -10s champions for the first time at last year’s second NEMSA sale – their lambs also selling at £190, the fifth prize 20s from the same pastures making £150. Frank Kitching remains chairman of NEMSA’s Skipton branch.

John Fawcett, of Dale Head Barden, sold his fifth prize tens for £165, the Walker family from Appletreewick seeing their sixth prize winners away at an eye-catching £205.

Wharfedale father and son, Francis and James Caton, of Weston Hall Farm, Weston, who sent out the champion pen of 20s at last year’s second sale, also did well at this year’s opener when consigning both the second and fifth prize 20s pens, sold at £175 and £145 respectively.

Ashley and Rachael Caton, of Otterburn Lodge, 20s champions at the opening sale the previous two years, stood third in class at the latest renewal, their charges making £160.

As usual, CCM Auctions awarded prizes for the highest flock averages. Topping the trade with 100 or more lambs were the Wharfedale Catons with 220 to average £145.41, followed by the Appletreewick Walkers with 205 at £140.32, then John and Claire Mason, of Oddacres, Embsay, with 209 at £140.28. The Walkers were also awarded a special prize for the best run of lambs, judged pre-sale by Nick Bowker and Sam Bradley, of Skipton NFU

The top average for under 100 lambs was claimed for the second year running by the Fawcett family in Drebley with 20 averaging £161.50, followed by the Dunsop Bridge Wallkers with 52 at £157.33, then the North Craven Booths with 95 at £145.82. Winner of a competition to predict the overall selling average was Ben Stancliffe,

The best end of bonny headed lambs, which were typically £5 to £10 per head more on the year than their darker headed headed counterparts, saw more just sneaking top side of £200, while £150-£190 was a common price range for many appealing first pens. Darker headed lambs were in high demand throughout, with prices ranging mainly from £125-£135 for strong runners, while tuppers were more, though with very few pens under £120.

Lighter headed lambs suitable to tup found favour with several customers ringside, with selling prices from the £130s into the £140s available for strong lots, but here again if skins were good a runner was in the teens and early 20s. Only eight pens sold under £110 all day and these ranged from £100-£108.

CCM’s sales manager Ted Ogden commented: “It made a refreshing change to have dry weather for the opening sale day and as a direct result lambs appeared in good fettle, providing an excellent selection for both regular and new buyers.

“While It was widely anticipated that trade would be stronger on the year, given trade for prime and cast sheep, and recent sales of Mule gimmer shearlings, although the overall average of £130.35 was higher than most predicted, it was probably also in part a reflection of the quality of lambs now on offer in this district.”

Tens were judged by Simon Bennett, Silsden Moor, and Ian Manning, Wrexham, 20s by Ian Lancaster, Wiswell, and Edward Albutt, Winchcombe. Show sponsors were NFU Mutual. Carr’s Billington and WBW Surveyors, all based at the auction mart.

Attention now turns to the second official NEMSA gimmer lamb sale a fortnight later on Tuesday, September 21, when another strong catalogue is expected