AN AUTUMN SALE season full of surprises has put more cash into the pockets of North of England Mule breeders, but left buyers paying far more than they anticipated for running lambs.

Southern and midlands buyers who packed ringsides at North Country Mule sales in recent weeks had hoped to pay £50-£55 a head but ended up having to give at least £65.

“Running lambs have been the surprise of the season,” said Stuart Bell of auctioneer Harrison and Hetherington.

“We sold 16,000 at our Lazonby sale in late September and they averaged £71.59 – that‘s £2 up on the year.”

After last year‘s breeding sheep bonanza, many expected prices to ease.

An abundance of autumn grass and an anticipated demand from ex-dairy farmers with empty acres were thought to be fuelling demand as the sale season progressed – and it did to a degree.

But it looks as though the firm demand for shearlings in the south has driven buyers north.

Agents buying for south country clients believe the upbeat late season demand heralds a swing into sheep that could lay the foundation for another good season next autumn.