Cumbria Crack

Kirkby Stephen sees continuing success

Mark Richardson, Auctioneer and Livestock Manager for Harrison & Hetherington’s Kirkby Stephen and Middleton Auction Marts.

[M]ark Richardson, Auctioneer and Livestock Manager for Harrison & Hetherington’s Kirkby Stephen and Middleton Auction Marts, discusses his views on what has been “a consistently strong year” and looks forward to the upcoming sales.

“Spring and Summer have proved successful, and in recent recent weeks, we have sold up to 5000 sheep, on a Tuesday evening sale at Kirkby Stephen. These evening sales are the ‘bread and butter’, very busy and increasing in terms of numbers year on year, with one recent evening sale seeing 3,200 lambs and 1,800 cast ewes going through the ring,  a dramatic increase on the last few years.

In our first August sale, the Young Handlers Champion was a lamb presented by five-year-old Thomas Brass of Soulby, this sold for £122 to Steadmans Butchers of Kirby Stephen. Topping this same sale, was a 46kg Beltex cross lamb from Messrs Fairburn, Marriforth, Ripon at £126.80, which was bought by Dowding’s Butchers, Appleby. Also in this same sale topping at 292.3p/kg, was a Beltex cross lamb from Messrs Walton, Goodlie Hill Cottage, Great Asby which was bought by Vivers Scotlamb Ltd.

Moving onto the prime hogg season earlier this year, we are delighthed to note that our geographical areas are widening, and both sellers and buyers are travelling from as far as west of Sussex to the North of Scotland. Bidding has been brisk and very competitive and we saw a good trade, with upwards of around 10-14 regular buyers at each sale.

As a livestock trading company, Harrison and Hetherington is renowend for selling quality continental lambs and offering the best market in the area for this type of lamb. Trade really has been tremendous, with top prices achieving anything between £2.50 and £3.00 per kilo, representing between £90 and £110 per head for the best lambs.

Looking forward, the first major sheep sale of the season is on Friday 14th September, the NEMSA Gimmer Lamb Show and Sale, where we are expecting upwards of 12,000 mule lambs, similar numbers to last year. This is a key sale in the calendar and considering the implications of the drought over the last few months and the resulting shortage of feed supply, I am encouraged to see how well the lambs are doing. The NEMSA sale is a renowed sale and attracts upwards of 150 buyers, from the length and breadth of the country.

Friday 28th Septmber, is the “Euro Sale”, seeing betwen 4,000-5,000 mule and continental cross ewes, shearlings and gimmer lambs going under the hammer. Growing in popularity each year, the sale includes Texel and continental tups, as well as other tup breeds. Our  “Euro Sale” always creates a lot of interest and is considered a big day for the continentals, with the quality of sheep and number of consignments growing annually.

Heading into October, we present our two day special sale of registered Swaledale Breeding Sheep. Friday 5th October sees ewes and shearlings, with the gimmer lambs being shown on Saturday 6th October. This sale attracts much attention and, in recent years, has demonstrated that there is a very high demand for the Swaledale breed, and as such we expect this year to be no different.

Saturday 6th October also sees the Prize Show and Sale of Bluefaced Leicester rams and females, some of the the best of consignments of Bluefaced Leicesters in the North of England. Renowned breeder Neil Marsden, of Millstone Moor Fram near Cockermouth, who sold stock last year, described the sale as “a complete and all round success for everyone selling”, and said: “This really was one of the best Leceister shows that I have seen to date; sales were flying, the ringside was packed and trade was truly excellent.”

Based on the calibre of stock being sold, the sale attracts many people and it is a breed sale which we are seeing going from strength to strength each year.

The Swaledale Sheep Breeders Association (SSBA) three-day sale event, this year, takes place from Wednesday 17th October through until Friday 19th October. This sale consists of over 1,000 tups across the three days, with tup lambs on Wednesday and shearlings on the Thursday and Friday. This is another breed sale which has, over the last three years, consistently grown in terms of numbers and buyers, and is fondly known as one of the ‘Leading Swaledale Ram Sales’.

Saturday 27th October sees Kirkby Stephen hosting its the Luke Fair,  which will sell in the region of 6,000 breeding females and rams of all breeds. It is also the second sale of Mule and gimmer lambs.

In terms of cattle, our major cattle sale will be held on Friday 24th September, focusing on the continental cross cattle. We are expecting around 600 to 700 very good store cattle to be on offer, and the sale to attract local and national buyers.

The Luke Fair, on Monday 22nd October, has previously been described as the ‘best show of strong store cattle in the area’. This sale is a fantastic show of older store cattle, with numbers reaching to in the region of 900 head.

As we head to the end of the year, Monday 5th November is a key date, at Kirkby Stephen, and a very important one for farmers’ calendars –  the annual Prize Show and Sale of Suckler Calves. A show of around 600 of the very finest quality calves will be sold to buyers from both local and distant localities.

Across at our Middleton-in-Teesdale mart, Friday 21st September, is the Prize Show and Sale of Swaledale Gimmer Lambs, a real spectacle of a sale. Last year saw, what was most probably, one of the biggest sales of Swaledale Gimmer lambs in the country, with upwards of 6,000 lambs going under the hammer. Without a doubt, there really is a considerable amount of interest for this breed, and I am expecting the same if not a greater amount of interest this year.

Another major highlight in the calendar for Middleton-in-Teesdale Mart is their annual Prize Show and Sale of Suckled Calves, on Tuesday 6th November. A noted national sale, the sale reguarly attracts in the region of 800 plus top quality suckled calves, which understandably, attract a serious amount interest from both local and national buyers.

Despite the challenging circumstances in recent months, overall, our sales at both Middleton and Kirkby have seen a gentle and steady upward turn in terms of prices acheived. However, it really has been a very hard time for farmers and the wider agricultural industry in recent months and the current dry weather. Although the recent difficulties have not  impacted perhaps as much as we would have expected, there is no question, that this might change as we move into the Autumn and Winter.”