The times may have been unprecedented in the history of British agriculture with the continuing Covid-19 pandemic, but the welcome truth of it was that trade, too, turned out to be unprecedented throughout the North of England Mule Sheep Association’s high profile 2020 gimmer lamb sales season.

Some 149,000 NEMSA-tagged ewe lambs, 2,000 up on the previous year, were successfully sold this autumn at official ,annual sales staged by northern auction marts – and in every single instance, averages were not only up across the board, but also well up in most cases.

NEMSA’s national chairman, third-generation Mule breeder Chris Harrison, who farms at Coatlith Hill, Alston, said: "To say we were pleasantly surprised with ewe lamb trade this year is an understatement - it’s fair to say we were, in fact, bowled over and our warmest thanks and continuing appreciation go to all who helped make this outcome possible – breeders, buyers and auction marts one and all.

"It is true testament, in uncertain times, to all the hard graft and unstinting efforts again put in by NEMSA breeders -they richly deserved the recognition and earned their just rewards, which would, of course, not have been possible without the continuing support of our buyers and users, who once again turned out in force to support us at this year’s sales.

"Huge thanks must also go to our auction marts, who pulled out all the stops to ensure the ‘sales must go on’, despite Covid-19 and made a grand job of it too, putting special, often far-reaching measures in place, in order to meet government guidelines."