Averages improved by £15.76 per head at Craven Auction Mart's opening gimmer sale at Skipton where 3040 head of Mule, Continental and Suffolk-cross sheep went under the hammer.

They sold to an average for all breeds of £139.84 per head, with trade bolstered by the better availability of grazing and a good prime trade for the time of year.

The best of the North of England Mule gimmers sold from £170 to £220, with plenty of others selling from £140 to £160, while commercial lots realised £120 to £135.

Top price was paid for the champion pen of 10 from Ribble Valley’s John and Bett Greenhagh, and their daughter, Anne, from Rugglesmere, Bashall Eaves. Bought as ewe lambs at Skipton and Hawes, they sold to Geoff Booth – one of the pre-sale judges – Lothersdale.

The Hall family, from Darnbrook, and Fox Farms in Clitheroe, sold the second and third prize pen of Mule gimmers at £198 and £180 respectively. North of England Mule averages levelled at £137.33, up £15.85 on the year.

Continental sheep met a strong demand, peaking at £210 for the first prize pen, three quarter-bred Texels consigned by Lambert and Joy Coverdale and son, also Lambert, from Crimple Meadow Farm, Beckwithshaw. They sold to Owen Chapman, of Skyreholme. The Coverdales also won the award for the third prize pen, which made £160, while the second prize pen from Goosnargh’s Tim Jackson made £185.

Suffolk Mule prices ranged from £130 to £148 for a pen from Cheshire vendor Tom Burke, with an overall section average of £142, up £28.69.

Beltex gimmers averaged £156.67 (+ £42.17), Texel gimmers cashed in at £158.45 (+£23.44) and Cheviot Mules levelled at £149.57 (+£19.57).