The “young ladies” of the sheep world had their day at Skipton Auction Mart when a much increased entry on the year of 5,599 gimmer shearlings were turned out for the big opening annual show and sale, one of the largest fixtures of its kind in the North of England and the traditional pipeopener to the mart’s 2016 breeding sheep season.
Mule sheep in particular, which are keynote to the annual highlight, were unaffected in terms of selling price by the far larger turnout in general and met a good trade throughout the sale, notably the quality end with show entries selling for around the £180-£220 mark.
Other good runs of strong Mules made £150-£180, nice sorts £130-£145 and commercial types £120-125. An overall selling average of £135-57 for Mule shearlings, though £2-91 down on 2016, was still deemed a very good return on the year.
Most of the increase in the entry came from Continental and Suffolk gimmer shearlings and here again the stronger end found a decent following at the ringside, though a fair proportion of these were commercial types and the overall selling average of £123 per head reflected the quality on offer.
As a result, the sale average for all breeds was down £11-08 on the year to stand at £130-11, though pertinent is the fact that an extra 1,663 head were sold on the year, a 42% rise in numbers.
The annual highlight featured three show classes for pens of 10, with the winner’s red rosette in the Mule section falling to the Ribble Valley’s James Towler, of Steelands Farm, Grindleton, with gimmer lambs he bought the previous year at Skipton.
“I buy in 150 to 200 gimmers each year to lamb, then return them to the sales ring as shearlings, also retaining around 60 head as replacements in our own flock. Hoggs go to our Beltex tup and older sheep to our Texel,” explained second generation sheep farmer Mr Towler.
The flock was established by his parents, William and Valerie Towler, and currently runs to 700 head, with a 50:50 split between Mules and Texel-cross-Beltex. It was the first time Mr Towler had won the Mule show class at the fixture and his victorious pen received the Edgar Boothman Memorial Trophy, again presented by his nephew Thomas Boothman, of Linton. They went on to sell for £200 per head, with the family selling further pens at £190 and £180.
In the Mule show class, the second prize pen came from 2016 winners John and Beth Greenhalgh, and their daughter Anne, from Rugglesmere Farm, Bashall Eaves, Clitheroe, selling away at £200 each. They sold further pens at £190 and £182 three times.
Individual breed averages were: Mule £135.57 (-£2.91 on year), Masham £137.56 (+£11.09), Texel £123.88 (-£31.56), Suffolk £114.47 (-£23.64), Cheviot £114.80 (-£23.14), Beltex £118.21 (-£24.29), Charollais £131.06, Zwartable £120.