THE 3,747 prime sheep penned for sale at Skipton Auction Mart’s latest weekly Monday sale comprised 3,274 prime and lightweight hoggs, along with 473 cast ewes and rams.

Numbers showed the anticipated seasonal increase with sheep from root crop feeders now coming on stream and available for sale, especially from vendors from the east of the country, with several wagons arriving from Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, South Yorkshire and the Vale of York, supplemented by regular consignments from Cheshire, Lancashire and northern vendors.

Handy-weighted sheep were good to sell as expected, while quality runs of fed mediums were in high demand. Heavies were also good to sell, although commercial mediums and heavies were probably a shade less on price, while the smart end were not up to the recent extreme high rates seen in previous weeks, with 350p-380p/kg the mark for the best end.

Heavier hill-bred sheep were a shade easier, while handyweight and lightweight hill lambs were still a sharp trade. Nevertheless, the overall selling average for the day of 280p/kg, or £121.53 per head, was described as exceedingly good for the time of year.

The day’s top price Beltex-x lambs from the Capstick family in Bolton-by-Bowland sold away at £159 or 384p/kg, with others at the best end making 350p-380p/kg, the next grade 310-345p and handy-weight commercials 270-310p. Per head, heavy Continentals made £130-£155, depending on weight, and quality mediums £120-£135.

Of the North of England Mules, the best heavy pens sold in the mid to late £120’s, topping at £130, with mediums generally £115-£120, and 40/42kg entries making £106-£115, again depending on quality. Horned lambs were a sharp trade again, especially nice wethers, which were able to command 250-270p, the next grade 230-250p.

Also on a busy agenda was the March prime lambs show, judged by Hartwith’s Nick Dalby. And while D&A Livestock, of Haverah Park, Harrogate, picked up their first-ever monthly prime lambs championship their Beltex-x charges returned home unsold.

The reserve champion pen came from the same neck of the woods when consigned by Felliscliffe’s Henry Atkinson, his five 40kg Beltex-x making £146 each, or 365p/kg, when joining Vivers ScotLamb, with the third prize pen of 43kg Beltex-x from Neil Tattersall, of Ellerton, York, knocked down for £136.50, or 317.4p/kg, to Felliscliffe’s Andrew Atkinson.

A standalone show class for North of England Mules was won by a pen of 55kg lambs from Henry Harvey, all the way from Waxham Hall in Norfolk. They sold at £127.50, or 231p/kg, again to Mr Atkinson, while the first prize pen of horned ewes, 47kg Lonks from Jimmy Greenwood, of Addingham, were claimed by Hellifield’s Paul Watson.

Trade for 473 cull ewes was said to be on fire and while heavy ewes were again in high demand it was lean meat ewes and full meat mediums that were a fair jump dearer on the week. While Swaledales were similar on price, with some large runs sold, Mules were £6-£8 per head dearer.

Most Continental ewes sold above the £100 mark to a top of £159.50 for Texels, with three different vendors achieving this price. The best ewes made £148-plus, smart Beltex ewes £140-£155, full meat mediums £118-£128, those with lean meat £100-£110 and plain ewes £70-£80. Pure heavy Suffolk ewes traded at £135-£149.50, big Suffolk crossed ewes £125-£135 and full meat medium Suffolks £119.50.

Mules averaged £94.20, with the heaviest making £105-£112.50, mediums £90-£95, lean sorts selling in the £80’s and a few plain types in the 40’s. A total of 157 Swaledales averaged £65 per head, those with full meat doing best at £81-£84.50. The overall cull ewe average was £94.06 per head and cast rams £114.07. Goats sold to £86.50.

The weekly breeding sheep sale of 392 head – an excellent turnout for the first week in March - comprised 125 ewes with 212 lambs at foot and 56 store hoggs.

There was a trade to match and the best outfits touched £300 for twins and £210 for singles, both being Texel-x sheep with Texel lambs. Other best outfits on the day made £270-£290 for twins and £180-£200 for singles.

Mule sheep with lambs sold at £270 to £285 for younger flock aged ewes with twins, while broken-mouthed entries with twins peaked at £265 for a pen of seven with 14 lambs, plenty of others selling at £240 to £260.

Several pens of store hoggs found favour with feeders looking to keep sheds full and more are required for weekly sales.