ANOTHER solid entry of 3,285 prime sheep at CCM Skipton’s latest weekly Monday sale saw the 2,626 Spring lambs among them dispel any potential concerns about easing prices in the middle of last week when they actually took a 2p/kg rise on the week, levelling at 268.2p/kg (SQQ 270.6p/kg), or £120.47 per head.

This was said to represent a nice trade across the board, despite there being a shortage of premium types and more commercial types, heavies and hill lambs forward. Handyweights and lightweights were in particular demand, with well presented North of England Mule wethers with weight notably good to sell.

Overweight well-fed 54kg-plus lambs produced a similar average on the week at 257p/kg, £143, J&M Blakey, Bolton-by-Bowland, selling 58kg Texel to £170 top, with multiple pens making £140-£158. Likewise, heavies full of meat were again good to sell, Ali Jenkinson, Langbar, leading the way on price at £164 with 51kg Beltex, 42 pens making £140 or more, the section averaging 266p/kg, £128.

Medium/standard 36-45kg lambs looked well sold, up on the week when averaging 271p/kg, £114, smart types away at 320-350p, topping at the day’s 372p by-weight high for 36kg Beltex from John and Judy Garnett, Draughton, while George Sunderland, Cragg Vale, Hebden Bridge, was best per head at £158 for 43kg Beltex. Of the lightweights, which averaged 250p/kg, 35kg Texel from David Asquith, Otley, made £110.

The Mule, horned and hill sheep saw excellent demand for nice wethers. Mules averaged a robust 248.5p/kg, £108.85, with a by-weight high of 248p/kg from Kevin Wilson, Blubberhouses, and per head top of £132 for the Faceby Hutchinsons.

The 659 head in the cast section saw cull ewes just as strong, a competitive ringside keen for numbers, producing an overall average of £87.10 for ewes, peaking at £237.50 for a brace of Texel from E&KM Marshall, Harrogate, and £140.73 for rams, another Texel from Mike and Carol McKenzie, Arncliffe, doing best at £224.50. Mule ewes were on fire again, averaging £84 and topping at £111.50 from Geoff and Margaret Booth, Lothersdale, with meat ewes generally £84-£100.

In the prime cattle arena, with prices just easing over the last couple of weeks nationally, eight cull cows sold better than expected, averaging 131.73p/kg, £932.35. Top prices both per head and by-weight, £1,261 and 151.5p/kg, fell to black and whites from the same vendors, P&RM Sutcliffe, Queensbury.

An anticipated light turnout of 14 rearing calves ahead of next Tuesday’s Christmas show and sale sold to £435 for a British Blue-x bull from James Wellock, Eshton, Blue-x heifers peaking at £315 from the Airton Bollands. Natives topped at £245 for an Aberdeen-Angus bull calf from Johnny Peel, Newsholme.

Meanwhile, an across-the-board increase in trade on the year - at times heady, at others fluctuating - though boosted significantly as the season progressed, is reported by North of England Mule Sheep Association (NEMSA) following the keynote 2023 Mule gimmer lamb sales season at northern auction marts this autumn, among them CCM Skipton and Bentham.

The general consensus was that trade improved week-on-week as the season progressed and that was certainly the case at Skipton, where the opening early September sale produced a £6.72 rise on the year, the second sale up a solid £10.35, the third a massive £30 per head increase. Bentham’s opening September sale was similar, with the average £6.34 up on the year and trade also maintained at the second sale a fortnight later.

However, overall sale entries were 5-10% down on the year and this, according to NEMSA, could be attributed to several factors, among them poor scans following on from last year’s drought, coupled with the fact that many northern farmers suffered a great deal of bad weather during lambing time, which would also reduce numbers.

But one thing remained constant, with auctions reporting that lambs were slightly smaller than in normal years, the drought again stunting growth. For many vendors, though, it was running lambs that proved the dearest, while NEMSA said it was also reassuring to hear reports of new buyers coming forward from across the country.

“Southern buyers maybe chose not the stock to their usual levels last year due to the drought, which went well into September, but happily they were back again in force this year, flocking north to plug the deficit by building up numbers once more,” noted NEMSA secretary Linda Allan.