THE opening prize show and sale for Mule ewe lambs was held at Hexham Auction Mart on Friday, on behalf of members and non-members of the North of England Mule Sheep Association.

With the district’s agricultural shows cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the sale provided a chance for farmers to showcase their finest stock and earn some silverware.

Buyers from as far as Scotland, Wales, and Devon filled the number four sheep ring, abiding by strict Covid-19 rules, and were reportedly treated to one of the best quality shows of lambs coming forward seen at the mart for many years.

The prize show was sponsored by “Sherriffs”, local John Deere Dealers, at Tyne Green and Robson & Cowan, Scots Gap.

Prior to the sale, the judging was carried out by Jono Charlton of East Newham.

Described as one of the best shows of 10 pens of lambs forward, each pen was given due consideration, before - after much deliberation - Jono awarded the championship to an outstanding, strong pen of 25 to the Browell family of Quarry House.

The pen later sold at £170 to Messrs Foley of Mirlaw House.

The reserve champion pen was awarded to the Ridley Family of Shitlington Hall, and later sold at £165 to E H Pennie and Son of Montgomery, while third prize went to Messrs Hunter at The Steel.

There was more success for the Ridley family too, after they fittingly took home the Stuart Ridley Memorial Trophy for the best run of 100 lambs or more.

The Ridley family had presented the trophy five years ago, in memory of their son Stu.

The lamb trade is well up on the year, and vendors were not disappointed with the ewe lamb trade - the average price was up by £27.60 on last year.

The second class of the day was Texel and other continental ewe lambs, attracting a “super” entry of 530 animals - a figure almost double that of last year.

The section was topped at a massive £198 for a sharp and smart pen of Dutch Texel cross lambs, out of Suffolk cross mothers consigned by Edward Dean of Kirkhouse.

It was followed at £152 by a tremendously correct pair of pure bred Texel lambs from noted local breeder Annabelle Morshead of Nilston Rigg Farms.

At the same price was a Beltex cross from the Downie Farming Company in Aberdeenshire.

The cross bred entry peaked at £150 for a sharp quartet from Alec Bissett, Middle Dukesfield with another two pens changing hands at £140 each from the Browell Brothers, Quarry House.

The third and final class of the breeding lambs sold on the day were the annual entry of North of England type Blackface ewe lambs.

The numbers increased on the year by 235 head to 835 top lambs, presented by noted local consignors to the sale.

Prior to the sale, the show was judged by regular purchasers, Alf and Kevin Robson of Middle White Hill, Kirkwhelpington.

The judges selected ten outstanding pens from the entry and, after working quickly, awarded the Gordon Swan Trophy to the lead pen from Messrs Paxton at Greenleighton.

Second prize went to Messrs Murray at Stell Green, and the top three was closed out by Messrs Yeats at Close A Burn.

Vendors also saw a marked lift in the trade, with the class average selling £10 more n the year, for far more lambs sold.

Prices peaked late in the day at £157 for a big pen of 35 from Wanwood Hill, Alston - who also sold another lot at £156 to average £131 for the 99 sold.

Charlie Halbert of Prospect House followed at £152 with Messrs Murray of Sewingshields next with their lead pen at £145.

Dennis and Patricia Yeats, Close A Burn, topped at £135 and £132 to regular buyers, before averaging a noteworthy £117 for 130 sold - the biggest consignment of the day.