BORDERWAY Agri Expo, the annual autumn highlight and final show of the season for North of England Mule gimmer lamb aficionados, attracted a record entry of 22 pairs, which went under the expert eye of show judge, Val Brown.

After much deliberation, sheep sector stalwart Val, of Dovecote Barn, near Leyburn, awarded first prize and the NEMSA Perpetual Trophy to Carnforth’s James Robinson and Zac Ward, who were repeating their class-winning success at the 2019 showcase, the last time it was staged.

One of the pair was by Asby Hall M13, from Andrew Brown, near Appleby, this by G1 Smearsett, bred at Feizor in North Craven by the Booth family, the other by a M3 Asby Hall son from David Lawson’s Gragareth flock in Westhouse, Ingleton.

The victors entered five pairs of lambs, picking up a four-strong awards windfall when also standing third, fourth and sixth in show. They purchase their gimmer lambs from recognised breeders at the annual NEMSA autumn sales, put them in lamb and sell them on as shearlings the following year, usually at Bentham. James Robinson also runs his own Kaker Mill pedigree Texel flock.

Back in the show, standing runners-up were John Wilson and Janet Dunning, of Settle, with the Elliot family, from Mungrisdale, finishing fifth, Richard Batty, of Kendal, seventh and eighth, and Penrith’s Stephen Ridley in ninth place.

Val – she and her husband, Martin, have been breeding North of England Mules for many years alongside Beltex crosses as butchers’ lambs - had high praise for the quality of the gimmer lambs on show.

She commented: “When judging this highly contested section I was looking for lambs which are correct, good on their legs, with good skin, plenty of bone and obviously they need to be a natural pairing and good for the breed type. I had high hopes for a high calibre of entries - and I wasn’t disappointed.”

Organised by Harrison & Hetherington, and staged at Borderway in Carlisle, Agri Expo again proved a resounding success as it brought down the curtain of the 2021 show season.

NEMSA’s national chairman, Cumbrian sheep farmer Chris Harrison, said: “Agri Expo remains a leading winter showcase in the UK livestock industry and the sheep sector in particular. It is a key event for us and always creates keen interest. We were delighted to participate once again. Those standing ringside commented on the fantastic quality of lambs on show, which were again a real credit to breeders and exhibitors.

“Finally, many thanks must go to all NEMSA members and buyers who travel from the length and breadth of the country to our high profile autumn sales staged at northern auction marts. Together, they have made it such a memorable season for the all-purpose North of England Mule in so many ways. Roll on 2022!”

The North of England Mule is a cross-bred sheep sired by the Bluefaced Leicester ram with either a Swaledale or Northumberland type Blackface dam - all famed for their hardiness, thriftiness and longevity.