The countdown has begun to NEMSA, the North of England Mule Sheep Association’s much anticipated high profile annual show and sale season this autumn.

NEMSA members – close on 1000 of them across core breeding heartlands from the English/Scottish border down to Derbyshire, will be busy preparing their Mule ewe lambs and shearling gimmers for the 2018 highlights, staged at auction marts across the north of England throughout September and October each year.

Last year, total sales figures hit 246,000 head, the highest for some time, and while numbers are not expected to be quite as high this year – a direct result of an extremely harsh winter and wet Spring, producing unforgiving lambing conditions for all – well over 200,000 ewe lambs are confidently expected to come to market.

The Mule not only remains Britain’s most prolific sheep breed in terms of numbers, but also the country’smost popular commercial sheep.

Many dyed-in-the-wool North of England Mule aficionados from the length and breadth of the country continue to flock to the annual NEMSA showcases year on year, among them long distance travellers from the south-west, predominantly Devon and Cornwall, as well as East Anglia, the Midlands, Wales and beyond.

As NEMSA chairman Kevin Wilson, who farms at Blubberhouses, Harrogate in North Yorkshire, explains: “Only sheep bearing the NEMSA tag can be sold through our official sales, giving buyers confidence in the quality and reputation of the stock they are purchasing. We look forward to welcoming both regular and potential new buyers again this year.

“They are primarily seeking to source North of England Mules for breeding purposes. They thrive and do well in all types of conditions, are easy to manage and farm, good to handle and are superb breeders, easy lambing and produce plenty of milk.

“The Mule is also widely regarded as the ideal commercial crossing ewe. Many breeders cross Mules with recognised commercial rams, with their progeny increasingly finding their way into retail butchers and hospitality sector outlets.”

Main 2018 NEMSA sales dates are: Friday, 7th Sept Hexham, Tuesday, 11th Sept Skipton, Friday, 14th Sept Kirkby Stephen, Saturday, 15th Sept Kendal, Monday and Tuesday, 17th  & 18thSept Hawes, Wednesday, 19th Sept Middleton in Teesdale, Thursday, 20th Sept Barnard Castle, Friday, 21st Sept Hexham, Friday, 21st Sept Leyburn, Tuesday, 25th Sept Skipton, Thursday, 27th Sept Tow Law , Friday, 28th Sept St John’s Chapel, Wednesday, 3rd Oct Lazonby.

Further sales are also held at Bentham, Carlisle, Cockermouth, Wigton, Penrith, Lancaster and Longtown.

For further information, contact NEMSA secretary Marion Hope on 013873 71777, email nemsa@btinternet.com