CALDERDALE sheep farmer John Midgley won the supreme lowland championship for the first time at Skipton Auction Mart’s high profile 2020 Christmas prime lambs show. (Mon, Dec 7)

Mr Midgley, of Dean House Farm, Ludendenfoot, clinched the prestigious title with his first prize Continental trimmed trio of home-bred Beltex-cross lambs, by a pedigree Beltex ram, ‘Muirton Carlisle ET,’ acquired from Aberdeenshire breeder Jimmy Young and used successfully for the past three years on the Upper Calder Valley flock, which comprises some 40 Beltex breeding ewes.

Also running a 75 head commercial dairy herd, bottling milk for local doorstep deliveries, Mr Midgley saw his Christmas prime lamb victors – two gimmer lambs and a wether lamb each weighing 35kg – keenly contested at the ringside before falling for a sale high £360 each, or £10.28 per kilo, to Cropper Family Butchers & Deli in Accrington, where they will on sale for the peak festive trade.

The well-known Red Rose retail butcher was established more than six decades ago in Accrington Market by George Cropper, who still lends a hand in the shop, though the business, which last summer transferred lock, stock and barrel to new premises in Blackburn Road, is now run by his daughter Clare and an experienced team of butchers. Over the years they have bought multiple Skipton festive prime lamb champions and prize winners.

The standard of 41 pens of show lambs was excellent, which made it no easy task for the judge, York area farmer and retail butcher Anthony Swales. He remained in the trimmed lambs show class when nominating the runners-up as his overall reserve supreme champions, who for the second year running were local husband and wife Anthony and Emma Thompson, of Higher Bracken Farm, Foulridge.

And it was the adjudicator himself who went to £180 per head to purchase the 38kg Beltex-cross trio, all by a home-bred tup, and they, too, will be prepared for the Christmas trade at Mr Swales’ family-run Knavesmire Butchers in Albermarle Road, York, just a furlong or two from the city’s famous racecourse.

So, too, will the Continental untrimmed champions, a 42kg trio of home-bred Beltex-cross lambs from Tim Robinson, of Springs Farm, Longridge in Lancashire’s Ribble Valley – he runs a 700-strong flock. By a Skipton-bought tup, the 42kg trio sold to Knavesmire Butchers for a section-topping £165 each.

The Thomsons were also responsible for the a third prize trimmed pen, three well-matched all-black 41kg Beltex-cross lambs which were purchased for £150 each by regular wholesale buyer Hartshead Meat Co in Mossley, Greater Manchester.

Hartshead Meat also snapped up both the second and third prize winners in the untrimmed lambs show class, paying £152 for the runners-up, fully home-bred 44kg Beltex-cross lambs from Trawden’s Hayley Baines, and £158 for the third prize pen from the 2017 Skipton Christmas prime lamb champions, Ribble Valley father and son, Richard and Mark Ireland, of Whalley.

These, too, were 43kg Beltex-cross by a tup bought out of Skipton last September, Penyghent Dunhill, bred in North Craven by John and Jean Bradley and a first prize winner for the Irelands in Beltex classes at this year’s virtual online Great Yorkshire Show.

Prizes in a standalone show class for Down-cross lambs fell to vendors from the Hambleton district. The first prize 48kg trio from Richard Wood, of Stokesley, sold for top price in class of £119 each to regular supporter James Robertshaw, of Robertshaw’s Farm Shop in Thornton, above Bradford.

Both the second and third prize pens were consigned by Andrew and Jen Hutchinson, from Faceby, the 58kg runners-up becoming a further acquisition at £110 by Hartshead Meat Co, bettered at £117 per head for the third prize 54kg pen, bought locally by Skipton-based Swaledale Foods.

Local butchers, farm shops and wholesalers were keen supporters as usual at the annual fixture, when a solid entry of 3,900 prime lambs sold to an overall average of £98.69 per head, or 225.2p/kg, an increase of 3p/kg on the week. For comparison, the SQQ (up to 45.5kg) was 229.3p/kg.

Because Skipton’s renowned annual Christmas Sunday prime stock highlight was unable to be staged this year, the opening festive prime lambs show and sale day was given over exclusively to lowland lambs.

The Christmas show for hill-bred prime lambs will be staged this coming Monday (Dec 14), with five show classes for the usual breeds, from which a champion hill trio will emerge. Also on the agenda is the annual cast sheep Christmas show. The mart-based NFU Mutual is keynote sponsor of this year’s Christmas prime shows.