SKIPTON Auction Mart’s opening store lamb sale of the 2020 season began on a real high note, with a major rise in both entry numbers and trading levels.

As in past years, the annual highlight offered a wide selection of lambs for short, medium and long-term keep, and the 4,302 head successfully sold represented an increase of over 1,200 sheep on the year, while the overall selling average of £73.54 per head itself showed a solid rise of £8.95 on 2019.

While prize shows cannot yet be staged, it did not prevent Andrew Haggas, of Grove Farm, Otterburn, winner of last year’s annual pre-sale show for pens of 40 or more lambs, from returning to claim top price of £95 per head with 40 lambs in his annual consignment of spring-born Dutch Texel/Beltex crosses. They fell to a Cumbrian buyer.

Michael McKenzie, from Arncliffe, took second top call of £90 each with 40 Continentals, followed by Winterburn’s Michael Parker with 50 Suffolks at £87.50. Other leading prices saw a strong single Texel lamb from Ned Simpson, of Pateley Bridge, achieve the day’s top call of £109 – it fell to a South Yorkshire buyer – while a pen of ten Beltex from Ian Brown, from Marske, Richmond, sold at £94 each.

George Cropper Jnr, who breeds sheep alongside his retail butcher’s business in Baxenden sold two Beltex-cross pens, 14 at £92 and 17 at £90, while the Swinbank & Briggs farming partnership in Malham topped their run of Continental lambs at £90.

Overall, 28 pens sold at £80-plus. Most of the nice runs of first-cross lambs for medium-keep settled at selling prices mainly in the £70s, while long-keep lambs were in the £60s or early £70s, depending on quality.

A few pens of hill-bred lambs making their way to the first sale attracted the attention of both feeders and growers who have abundant grass, with larger pens of well-framed North of England Mules generally selling in the mid to late £60s.

Breed averages all showed a rise on the year as follows: Beltex £81.38 (2019, £75.65); Suffolk £76.96 (£64.18); Texel £73.16 (£63.95); Mule £67.87 (£55.16); Charollais £73 (£57.93). Individual packets of both Jacob and Lleyn store lambs among the mix sold to £65 and £63, respectively.