A SURPRISINGLY good trade in the current climate was witnessed at Skipton Auction Mart’s second seasonal store lamb sale of the year on Wednesday (July 27) with 2,671 head levelling at an overall selling average of £83.13, which compared favourably with the previous year’s £84.64 per head and was exactly the same average seen at the 2022 opener a fortnight earlier.

Bear in mind, this was taking into account continuing drought conditions in the Midlands, eastern and southern areas of the country – buyers from these regions annually flock north to source their store lambs – coupled with a prime sheep price wobble the day prior to sale.

However, with some northern areas having had towards a week’s worth of rain and several northern feeders keen to secure stock to farm, then trade would be nicely in front of the expectations of vendors, who reported sheep better to sell than they thought, especially for medium keep lambs, with a very good ringside of buyers looking for this class of lamb.

Strong Suffolk stores were represented by several runs competing in the annual show for pens of 50 or more Down-cross lambs, judged by mart regular Steven Dorey, again travelling up from North Lincolnshire, who awarded first prize and with it the Robert Morphet Memorial Trophy to Robert Metcalfe, of Grange Farm, Brearton, north of Knaresborough, stepping up on his second prize placing the previous year.

He was accompanied by 11-year-old farming-mad son, Jack, who had been closely involved in the preparation of the red rosette-winning pen of 50, all by Northumberland-bred tups acquired from both Lilburn Estate in Wooler and the Alnwick-based Watson family, out of North of England Mule ewes, of which the Metcalfes run a 1,000-strong flock, plus 250 Swaledales for breeding. The team at Grange Farm also runs a 250-head Holstein dairy herd, as well as being arable farmers.

The first prize pen went on to sell at £98 per head, eclipsed at a section-topping £106.50 each for the second prize pen from last year’s class victor James Foster, who trades as CA Foster at The Riddings, Bolton Abbey. They headed north to Cumbria with Penrith’s John Errington, the third prize pen from the Lund family in Litton making £84.50.

Smart lambs found a ready market, top call of the day at £114 per head falling to Continental-bred Beltex-cross from Nicola Robson, of Guiseley, these going to Andrew Atkinson in Felliscliffe, the same vendor presenting another pen at £106. Ian Brown, of Marske, Richmond, arrived with his usual nice run of lambs, hitting £112, £111 twice and £110. Beltex crosses averaged £107.31

Other decent framed lambs for medium to short keep were in the £90s, the next grade mid-£80s to £90, with more of the medium to long keep types making either side of £80 being around £2 dearer on the fortnight, as were long keep sorts.

North of England Mule wethers were in ready demand, the Newbould family from Dallowgill in Upper Nidderdale selling a pen of 50 head at £84 each, with the breed average of £76.71 a very encouraging start to the season.

A smaller selection of breeding sheep - the high value of cast sheep is a challenge for people looking to buy flock aged ewes with it driving prices for stock - saw decent ewes selling at £150-plus, with some commercial-run dry Texel and Masham shearlings finding new homes around £140.