SKIPTON Auction Mart’s annual Christmas show season began today with the seasonal rearing calf highlight, the 134 dairy-bred youngsters, the highest entry all year, achieving 100 per cent clearance and producing flying trade for all classes.

British Blue-cross calves again dominated both in the show arena and on price, with the first prize Blue-cross bullock consigned by Alan Middleton, who trades under the family partnership of JP&KE Hartley at Lane House Farm, Beamsley, tapped out as overall champion by show judge and regular Skipton calf buyer, Graham Stainthorp, of West Tanfield, Ripon.

The adjudicator then transferred his interest to the ringside when paying top call of £450 for his chosen champion, by the Genus sire, Hero, and the fourth calf of a home-bred Holstein Friesian cow. It was his fourth title-winning acquisition of the year at Skipton’s six seasonal calf shows.

The Hartleys, who run a commercial dairy herd comprising around 100 cows – they are regular buyers of both pedigree and commercial milk cattle at Skipton - were also winning their third calf championship of the year at their local auction mart.

Mr Stainthorp took home five calves in total, also going to £410 for his chosen reserve champion, the second prize Blue-cross bullock from another regular Skipton calf vendor, Joss Lancaster, who runs a 420-strong dairy herd at Paradise Farm, Horton-in-Craven. The overall runner-up was by the Cogent sire, Hitman.

A tremendous run of calves from regular vendors were in solid demand, with 21 active buyers, some new faces among them, from near and far at the ringside, including the north-east, Humberside, Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire.

A total of 41 Blue-cross bull calves sold to an overall average of £323.54 per head, while Blue heifers also produced the best trade seen for quite some time when averaging £242 each. They peaked at £360 for an entry from last year’s Christmas calf show champion, seventh generation commercial dairy farmer Marcus Chadwick, who trades as Chadwick and Leaver at Southfield, near Burnley. It fell to James Hunt, a first-time buyer from Lincolnshire.

The two Limousin show classes were both won by JC&DJ Marshall & Sons, of West End, who also stepped up with the first prize black and white bull calf, which headed the section prices at £135, the overall average being a very respectable £60.76 per head.

Limousin bull calves sold to a top of £365 for an entry from Town Head Farm Products in Grassington, heifers peaking at £335 for the second prize winner from G Pickersgill & Sons, of Guiseley. The overall Continental-cross average was £286.

Native bulls and heifers also sold to a wide audience, averaging £174 overall. Four Aberdeen-Angus bulls sold to joint highs of £290, with heifers peaking at £270 for the first prize winner from Eshton’s James Wellock.

Ahead of this Sunday’s annual Christmas primestock highlight, the weekly Monday prime cattle sale attracted a very good entry of 26 under 30-month cattle from repeat vendors, all lapped up by a willing audience of regular retail buyers seeking the best of the beef to mature for Christmas.

Top gross at £1,467 fell to a 615kg Limousin-cross heifer from Charles and Richard Kitching in Threshfield, bought by Kirkby Malham’s Jeff Burrow, with another 610kg Limousin heifer from the same home selling for £1,430 to Robertshaws Farm Shop in Thornton.

Buyer James Robertshaw also claimed both the leading gross price and per kilo steers, a brace of Limousin-cross from North Craven father and son, Francis and Andrew Smith, of Masongill, at £1,413 and 241.5p/kg respectively. The Smiths also stepped up with the day’s top price per kilo entry, a 540kg Limousin-cross heifer sold for 254.5p/kg, or £1,374, to Keelham Farm Shop in Skipton.

The weekly turnout of 23 cull cows arrived with more meat and met a sharp trade, selling to an overall average of £636.75, or 98.75p/kg. Heavy dairies were up around 100p/kg-plus.

Prime sheep trade took another solid rise, with the overall average for all weights, grades and breeds of the 3,313 lambs on offer, both Farm Assured and non-Farm Assured, up 12p/kg on the week at 199.6p/kg overall, with an SQQ average of 204.9p/kg. The overall per head average was £87.49.

Beltex lambs again saw the pick of the trade, with Jim and Christine Scrivin, of Elslack, hitting top price per kilo of 325.6p and joint top of £127 per head with seven 39kg lambs claimed by Hellifield’s Paul Watson, equalled by 41kg lambs from W&J Parkinson, of Garstang, selling to Vivers Scotlamb.

Of the 407 cull ewes penned for sale, better Continental and Suffolk entries moved up a gear, with £90 to £110selling prices regularly seen for the stronger end, topping at £115.50 per head for Texels from John and Judy Garnett in Draughton. Ewes averaged £61.69 and 15 cast rams £92.33.