Suffolk sheep are a black-faced, open-faced breed of domestic sheep raised primarily for meat. They are polled and have black open faces along with black legs and white woolled bodies. Suffolks are considered a large breed of sheep, their large frame and muscular bodies make them an ideal breed for meat production, however; they are also good for wool production as well. These strong and hardy animals are good mothers.
The Suffolk evolved from the mating of Norfolk Horn ewes with Southdown rams in the Bury St Edmunds area of the UK. These sheep were known as Southdown Norfolks, or locally, as “Black faces.” The first recording is in 1797 when in his “General view of agriculture in the county of Suffolk” Arthur Young stated: “These ought to be called the Suffolk breed, the mutton has superior texture, flavour, quantity and colour of gravy.”
Suffolk’s developed around the rotational system of farming in East Anglia, grazing on grass or clover in the summer. After weaning the ewes could be put on salt marshes or stubbles. Swedes, turnips or mangels were grazed in the winter in a very labour intensive system with a fresh area fenced off each day. Lambing was in February or March, outdoors in the fields with a hurdle shelter or in open yards surrounded by hurdles and straw.
The first Suffolk flock was registered in Ireland in 1891 by a west of Ireland man, Henry Strevins from Roscommon. The breeds popularity rapidly spread to every county in Ireland and today there are over 290 registered flocks. Ireland sheep breeders were quick to recognise the superior traits of the Suffolk breed, hardiness, prolifacy, rapid growth rate, meatiness and wool quality. The Suffolk soon became one of the most popular breeds in the country. The West of Ireland Pedigree Suffolk Sheep Breeders club was formed and has played an active part in the promotion of the Suffolk breed to the present- day. Records show that the club has been operating since as far back as 1972.
West of Ireland
The west of Ireland being predominantly a sheep breeding area, was quick to recognise the superior traits of the Suffolk breed, hardiness, prolifacy, rapid growth rate, meatiness and wool quality. The Suffolk soon became the most popular breed in the area. In the early 1970’s the West of Ireland Suffolk Breeders club was formed and has since played an active part in the promotion of the Suffolk breed. To date, the club has a membership of 48 members.
Our catchment area covers eight counties plus three breeders from County Clare. It stretches from Shannonbridge on the Offaly/Roscommon border to the outskirts of Bundoran in County Donegal and from the borders of County Cavan to Belmullet in west Mayo. Ram sales are held annually starting with our premier sale in Roscommon in early August and further sales in Athenry, Tuam, Ballinasloe, Ballinrobe, Mountbellew and Ballina throughout August, September and October. http://www.westofirelandsuffolkbreedersclub.com/
Irish Suffolk Sheep Society (Munster Suffolk Sheep Breeders Club) Secretary: Brid Coakley 022 24168, 087 305159. Cleanor, Doneralie, Co. Cork. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The Suffolk Sheep is renown as a terminal sire breed and remains Number One for growth rate as proven by numerous independent scientific studies. This ability to grow and finish quickly is essential in today's market and Suffolk lambs can also be taken to heavier carcase weights, if required. Increasing numbers of commercial producers now include Suffolk genetics in their ewe flocks as the breed has high milk output, hard hooves and wide pelvic dimensions for easy lambing. https://www.suffolksheep.org/society