THE Upper Nidderdale Ewbanks - husband and wife, Mark and Fee, Intake Farm, Middlesmoor – clinched a memorable supreme and reserve championship double with a brace of ten-month-old halter-led British Blue-x youngsters at Wednesday's CCM Skipton Auction Mart’s annual Craven Champions 2023-born store cattle with show potential highlight.

The couple, ably assisted by sons Mark, 13, Callum, 11, and ten-year-old daughter Jessie, have excelled in recent years at the early season showcase, though it was their first-ever double top coup.

Their overall victor was the first prize British Blue-sired heifer and female champion, known at home as ‘Panda’ and named by their children because of her distinctive black and white spotted body. The three-quarters Blue, one quarter Limousin was tapped out as title winner by Derbyshire Peak District show judge Michael Wynne, Matlock, then claimed by him for the day’s top call of £4,400. Like past Skipton-bought Craven Champions principals the victor will be paraded at local shows this summer, then likely on to Bakewell Fatstock Show in December.

An all-black Ewbank bullock, another red rosette winner known as ‘Bulletproof,’ went on to stand male champion, then overall reserve supreme, selling for £2,800 to Nick Dalby, Hartwith, with the same home also claiming male reserve with their third entry, the first prize un-haltered bullock, another ten-month-old Blue-x dubbed ‘Bang On,’ this making £1,850 and heading down to Bedfordshire with KW Ludgate, Leighton Buzzard.

While their runaway success broke the stronghold on the fixture long held by the Dunsop Bridge Walkers – they have won no less than ten Craven Champions crowns this century – the well-known Hodder Valley family nevertheless had a major influence on the outcome as the sire of all three Ewbank frontrunners was none other than their own Brennand Jimmy, successfully used over many years at Intake Farm and also responsible for the couple’s first-ever Craven Champions supreme champion in 2020, as well as past reserve champions, including last year.

At the 2024 renewal, it again fell to Geoff Walker to hand over the supreme champion’s Jack Walker Trophy, first presented in 2014 in memory of his late father, to the victorious Ewbanks, while the Walkers - Geoff farms with wife Margaret and sons, John and Rob, at Brennand Farm - were again well represented, their quality eight-strong team all picking up rosettes.

All were out of out of home-bred cows, chief among them the first prize haltered Limousin-sired heifer and reserve female champion, a 12-month-old AI first calf of Hunters Hall Odyssey, which headed their consignment at £3,100 second top call when heading to Lincolnshire with Chris Wright and Sarah Harryman, Boston.

The prolific Walkers also stood runners-up in the same show class with a same way bred heifer sold for £1,900 to Howard Barker, Menwith, with all other prize winners Blue-x youngsters by the Welsh sire, Maes Owain, whose first crop of youngsters included last year’s supreme champion.

A brace of Walker heifers finished first and second in the un-haltered class, making £2,300 and £2,000 to, respectively, the Brass family, Kirkby Stephen, and John and Jean Bradley, Giggleswick, with three further runners-up in the un-haltered bullock and haltered Blue-sired bullock and heifer classes, away at £1,650, £1,550 and £1,800, plus a third place with another haltered heifer also making £1,650.

Three further prize winners got in on the act, all with Limousin-x entries. The third prize un-haltered bullock from Calderdale brothers Robert and Richard Holroyd, Wadsworth, made £1,840, the first prize halter-led bullock from CF Farming, Paythorne, £1,350, the third prize un-haltered heifer from Joe and Nancy Throup, Draughton, £1,120.

Craven Champions, which was supported by 11 sponsors, again formed part of the fortnightly midweek Wednesday sale of over 600 head of cattle, among them 178 young feeding bulls, those under 13 months averaging £1,375, 13-30 months £1,440.

They included some quality runs of early Spring, 2024-born bulls, top of £2,000 going to a March-born Limousin from Stephen and Tracey Fawcett, Barden, with plenty of stylish bulls in the age group at £1,800-£1,930. May-born bulls of similar quality were also in strong demand, the best £1,800-plus up to £1,860 from another Barden Fawcett, John, Dale Head.

Over 12-month entries peaked at £1,930 for an 18-month-old Limousin from Craven Champions prize winners the Holroyds, who had an excellent day, also stepping up with the £1,880 top price beef feeding cow, another fleshy Limousin, then further catching the eye among the stores when selling yearling Limousin crosses again to £1,880.

The 35 feeding cows averaged £1,257, while of the 356 store bullocks and heifers premium suckler- bred cattle continued in high demand regardless of age, producing solid averages. Continental-x bullocks levelled at £1,526, natives £1,274, Charollais-x £1,572, with respective heifer averages of £1,380, £1,234 and £1,473.

Of the 22 beef breeding cattle, top call of £3,350 fell to a two-year-old Limousin stock bull from another Calderdale vendor, AJ Atkins, Illingworth, with 2018 to 2020-born in-calf Limousin cows nicely away at £2,650 twice and £2,600.

Prime cattle trade remained strong, a 561kg Blue heifer from E&M Townley, Clapham, topping both the gross and by-weight prices at £1,932, 344.5p/kg, with the Masongill Smiths heading the steers with a brace at £1,926 and 339.5p/kg. All fell to regular buyer Knavesmire Butchers, York.