A surge in grass growth in virtually all parts of the country coupled with significantly higher prime lamb and ewe values, have bolstered the first of the store lamb sales with averages up almost £12 per head on the year.

While the Islamic festival of Eid-al Adha earlier this week has helped to support prices over the past month, prices remain well up on the year and on the five-year average. As it is, the GB liveweight new season SQQ for the week ending July 14 stood at 251.21p per kg – up 0.95p on the week with the deadweight trade rising 27.6p to 546.4p per kg.

Add in the surge in grass growth and the record prices paid for old season lambs in the spring and it comes as no surprise that the first of the store lamb sales have opened on a high.

At Skipton Auction Mart’s opening store lamb show and sale, last week, the 4572 head sold to average £85.32 per head, up £11.78 on the year and for 270 more.

Trade was bolstered by a larger ringside of travelled customers seeking sheep to graze grassland countrywide, where keep is in better supply than some previous years.

Top price was £108 paid twice – for a pen of 40 Dutch Texel/Beltex crosses Andrew Haggas, of Grove Farm, Otterburn, and a pen of 10 Beltex crosses from Ian Brown, of Marske, near Richmond.

The prize show for pens of 40 or more was won by Chris and Christine Ryder, of Scaife Hall Farm, with Texel crosses bred from North of England Mules which went on to sell for £99 per head to the Errington and Son Farming Partnership, Penrith. The couple sold 100 lambs to average £91.90 per head.

The second prize pen, Beltex crosses from Chris and Tom Heseltine, Hesketh House, Bolton Abbey, also made £99 per head with the third prize winners, Suffolk crosses from Knaresborough’s Stephen Robinson, selling for £95.50.

Overall, strong short to medium keep lambs found favour among buyers, assisted by a better than usual seasonal prime sheep trade. However, it was the medium to long keep lambs that were in the highest demand, with a large crowd eager to secure consignments, especially large level lots.

Malhamdale’s Richard and Val Brown sold a pen of 130 April and May-born continental cross lambs that made £77 each, with another pen of 127 medium keep Texel crosses from John Schindler, of Thorpe, achieving £87 per head.

By the end of the day Beltex averaged £92.26, Texels at £84.56, Suffolks £87.92, Charollais £80.05 and Mules cashed in at £71.31.

Store lamb values were also up at C and D Auction Marts’ sale at Longtown on Tuesday, where 1818 head averaged £84.14 backed up by top prices of £125 for Texels from Broomhills, Hethersgill, while Cheviots sold to £92 from Oliver Road and Greyfaces to £78 from Whintingstown.

At Carlisle on Monday, Harrison and Hetherington’s opening sale demand exceeded predictions, with lambs cashing in at £86.

Top price was £119, paid for a pen of five Texel crosses from Messrs Mallinson, Rack Beck, and again for a pen of 10 Beltex crosses from Messrs Walton, Goodie Hill.