SPRING lambs numbers topped the 2,000 mark for the first time this season at Skipton Auction Mart on Monday - and by some margin, with the 2,310 head penned for sale almost 600 up on the previous week.

Despite the significantly increased turnout, trade remained excellent, producing an across-the-board selling average of 234.1p/kg, or £96.80 per head. It also represented total clearance to a wide range of end users, comprising retail butchers, farm shops, catering butchers, family wholesalers, large processors, supermarkets, exporters and ethnic processors.

Overall, trade was very similar on the week, the best lambs making 260p/kg-plus, the next grade from 230p/kg into the 250p’s and commercial lambs 215-230p/kg. Weight is also paying well at the moment, with the 46-52kg range averaging 242.8p/kg and the main body of lambs forward in the 36-45kg range levelling at 233.5p/kg.

Ten lots of Continental-bred lambs sold for above £130 per head, peaking at £134 on three occasions from RKR Wood in Stokesley, Tim and Liz Clayton from Boston Spa and, right on the doorstep, John Turner in Draughton. All fell to regular retail buyers – respectively Knavesmire Butchers in York, Robertshaws Farm Shop in Thornton, and Kendalls Farm Butchers in Pateley Bridge and Harrogate.

Robertshaws also purchased three further pens at £133 per head from Whalley father and son, Richard and Mark Ireland, Ellis Bros on Addingham Moorside, and John Nutter, from Hurst Green.

Regular wholesale buyers Hartshead Meat Co in Mossley, Greater Manchester, again secured quality lambs with £133 per head buys from Silsden’s R Emmott, the Hartley family in Beamsley, and another pen at £132 from Tim Robinson, of Longridge. Kendalls completed their purchases with further lambs at £132 from Elslack’s Michael and James Spensley.

Per kilo, five Continental pens made £3 or more, topping at 315p/kg, or £123 per head, for a pen of seven from Ellis Bros that again fell to Hartshead Meat Co, the same combination also responsible for a further 300p/kg pen.

Knavesmire Butchers purchased further lambs at 314p/kg from DJ Grassam of Stockeld Park, and at 313p/kg from the Irelands, while Annabelle Sugden, from Laycock, made 305p/kg with lambs selling to Vivers Scotlamb in Dornocktown.

Heavy 46-52kg lowland lambs averaged £114.01 per head, while several lots of nicely fleshed North of England Mule wether lambs now coming forward are finding a ready market with plenty of buyers ringside. Sample prices included 38kg £85 (Snowhill), 34kg £75 (Church End Farm), 40kg £85 (Mill House) 41kg £91 (Cragg House) 41kg £89 (Berwick Intake).

Prime hogg numbers continue to fall, the 37 head comprising 15 hoggs, which sold to £93 (av £65.11), and 22 mature sheep to £90 (av £64.41)

The total turnout of 2,792 prime sheep also included 445 cast entries, most cull ewes and these comprising 100 horned ewes and 72 North of England Mules. All met another very good trade.

Continentals traded very similarly on the week, with the best bred, good weighted ewes selling to £132.50 from RW&B Chapman, of Skyreholme, others repeatedly making over £120. Mules topped at £76.60 from W&M Bland, of Kirkby Malham, while heavy Suffolks again looked well sold, with prices generally £100-£110 to a top of £113.50 from the Draughton-based Turners.

Cull ewes averaged £71.27. The mart says more are required to meet the continuing requirements of a very competitive ringside of buyers who are able to take large quantities of sheep. Cast rams averaged £114.33.

This coming Monday is the July prize sale of prime lambs, with prizes awarded for the highest priced pens.

In the prime cattle ring, another very good trade was seen for the 15 under 30-month clean entries, again all from regular vendors and once more in keen demand by familiar faces from the regional butchery sector.

Alan Beecroft, of Countrystyle Meats Farm Shop in Lancaster, secured a three-strong tally, including the top gross price heifer and per kilo steer, both Limousin-cross, the former a 590kg entry from the Kitching brothers at Grisedale Farm, Threshfield, for £1,478, or 250.5p/kg, the 560kg latter from RT&J Critchley & Sons, of Hutton, at 260.5p/kg, or £1,459.

Again among the high prices was George Cropper Jnr, of Sandersons Butchers in Baxenden, who bought a couple, including the handy weighted 510kg top price, a Limousin-cross heifer at 263.5p/kg, or £1,344, again from the Critchleys.

The highest gross priced steer, another Limousin weighing 585kg, also came from the Kitching pen, and fell Simon Barker, of the mart-based Barkers Yorkshire Butchers, for £1,459, or 249.5p/kg. Ellison’s Butchers in Cullingworth bought three cattle, a further two claimed on behalf of Skipton-based Keelham Farm Shop.

Cast cow trade showed no signs of let up, with the small turnout of 16 head clearly indicating the availability of plenty of grass on feeders’ farms. A few worn types pulled the overall average back to 121.43p/kg, or £733.14 per head, though this actually represented an improvement on the previous week.

Any dairies carrying meat were 128p/kg and upwards, black and whites selling to a by-weight top of 131.5p/kg from Chris Harrison, of Elslack, with a per head high of £1,002 from Robert Metcalfe in Brearton.

This coming Monday is the July primestock show, with prizes for top p/kg, top gross, top-priced and heaviest cast cows.

Skipton’s weekly rearing calf sale again attracted plenty of younger weeks-old rather than months-old entries among the 48 on offer, which yet again achieved solid trade.

British Blue-cross bull calves averaged £411, with a top of £450 from the Hartleys in Beamsley for one under four weeks of age, another from the same home making £445.

A total of 13 bull calves aged 29 days and under, mainly Blues and Charolais, sold for £400-plus, while bull calves above four weeks traded to a sale high £475, this for a Limousin-cross bull from D Breaks, of Clitheroe, who hit £410 with another.

Heifers were also hot on price and many of these were again young calves, which sold to joint highs of £330 for a British Blue-cross from James Wellock in Eshton and a Simmental-cross from Chris Harrison. More heifers aged under four weeks and up-to 8 weeks are needed on a weekly basis to fulfil buyers’ requirements.

Native entries sold to £315 for an Aberdeen-Angus bull calf from KT Wood, of Bury, while black and white bull calves sold to £175 for a 12-week-old.