NEMSA – the North of England Mule Sheep Association – says it is again looking forward to participating in the 2018 East of England Winter Stock Festival, which takes place at the East of England Showground in Peterborough, on Friday and Saturday, November 30, and December 1.

This will be the third year that NEMSA breeding ewe lamb competition show classes have been staged at the annual highlight. There are two open classes for all-comers – one for single lambs, the second for pairs of Mule gimmer lambs, which together have attracted a double figure entry.

In addition, a new single lamb show class for local entrants within a 50-mile radius has been introduced for the first time this year. It is purpose designed to encourage interest from the growing number of Mule users across the area. A total of 13 entries have been received.

 “The NEMSA show classes are increasing in popularity year on year. Mule users in this part of the world are on the up and we remain keen to promote the breed at this high profile seasonal showcase,” said East of England Winter Stock Festival senior sheep steward, Duncan Burton.

In fact, it was Mr Burton who first mooted the idea of show classes at the Winter Festival for the all-purpose North of England Mule, not only Britain’s most prolific sheep breed in terms of numbers, but also the country’s most popular commercial sheep.

The Rutland Water sheep farmer himself keeps Mules, heading north annually for many years to buy NEMSA ewe lambs at both St John’s Chapel and Kendal.

In turn, NEMSA’s executive has staunchly supported the Winter Stock Festival. Immediate past chairman James Raine judged the inaugural show, followed last year by his uncle and NEMSA president, Randal Raine. This year, it’s the turn of the current chairman, North Yorkshire farmer Kevin Wilson.

Mr Wilson commented: “Mule users and breeders from across the nation, including a large contingent from the East of England, continueto flock to our big autumn sales at the northern auction marts to buy sheep. We remain extremely grateful for their ongoing support.

“In turn, we are pleased to support The East of England Winter Stock Festival, which is creating keen interest among North of England Mule aficionados. It’s the premier livestock show in the East of the country and we wish it every possible success. We are delighted to see another solid NEMSA entry this year.”

Champions at last year’s Mule breeding ewe lamb competition were North Yorkshire’s John Wilson and Janet Dunning, who farm together at Runley Mill, near Settle, with a gimmer lamb that went on to win the overall breeding ewe  championship.

They couple buy Mules at both Hawes and Lazonby and while they will not be defending their Winter Stock Festival title this year they will, however, be represented in the Beef Shorthorn calf show with a home-bred youngster from their pedigree herd.

One man who will be back again this year is the inaugural 2016 Mule ewe lamb champion and last year’s overall reserve champion, Graeme Jackson, who farms in Bentham, north of Settle in North Yorkshire.

The NEMSA show classes are being co-sponsored by North West Auctions and the Kendal branch of NEMSA, with animal id firm Shearwell Data, a long-time supporter of the Association, also backing the Winter Stock Festival.