Sadly, my two years as chairman has come to an end. Along the way, I have met with some great people, and some larger than life personalities. The lengths that you go to prepare and promote our North of England Mule are truly commendable. This amount of effort deserves great success into the future for our association.

2017 left us with a lot of lambs on the ground, with lambing figures up on the whole. Prime lamb trade started steadily but soon rose to a level we haven’t seen for some time, resulting in a lot of lambs sold fat at lighter weights and in greater numbers.

Sadly the weather wasn’t kind leaving some with little crop for winter and in a few extreme cases, no crop at all.

However, despite the late harvest and the fact that shearlings appeared sticky to sell, I think it is fair to say our lamb trade was better than we were expecting. Looking ahead, continued positive marketing is essential whilst at the same time not becoming complacent in the breeding of our sheep, keeping in check the fundamental assets required to produce a correct animal.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank those involved in the season’s promotions – this is what we are all about – showcasing what our commercial ewe can do. In particular, I would like to mention Peter and Geoff for their selfless efforts at the Highland Show.

Not forgetting our sponsors, some of which support the sales and shows, and our main two sponsors Shearwell and Animax who, over the years, we have built up a good relationship with.

Thanks must also go to our regional livestock auctions for their continued support. As an association, we are all about collective marketing and promotion of our breed, and we thank them for their help and understanding on this front.

I’d like to thank Randal, our president, for supporting me in my role, and last but not least, our secretary Marion who has in my time as chairman streamlined a lot of what we do, and helped put the association on to a healthier financial footing. As is often the case, there is a lot of unseen work needed to be done, and Marion works efficiently for the association.

James S Raine