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Wednesday 25 April 2018

How one Suffolk breeder bred success in his flock over the years

PJ Howard, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare with his February-born ram reserve male champion and reserve overall champion and highest price ram at the sale at €3,100
PJ Howard, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare with his February-born ram reserve male champion and reserve overall champion and highest price ram at the sale at €3,100

Martin Ryan

A Suffolk sheep breeder from the Banner County is the breed price topper for this country for 2016 after his home-bred ram became the fancy of a Northern Ireland breeder who outbid breeders from the Republic at auction.

P J Howard, who keeps a small Suffolk flock in the Burren, received  €3,100 for his February-born ram out of Kells' Liam Og and by the sire Garryhinch Impact from Coleraine sheep breeder Denis Taylor at the Society Premier Show and Sale at Roscrea Mart this year.

The Ballyvaughan sheep breeder was "pleased" with the sale price topper, which set the record for 2016, given the "tougher seasonal trade" which all breeders of pedigree stock experienced during the year.

However, the price paled against the €7,200 which he was paid for a ram from the same flock a couple of years ago. 

The highest price paid for an Irish-bred Suffolk in 2016 was achieved by Donegal breeder, Andrew Wilson at the Scottish Sale at Stirling where his ram lamb sold for €13,000.

The Carlisle Flock had swept the boards in the awards at the Premier Show and Sale winning the supreme championship with a January-born ram out of Rookery Classic by the sire Birness Murray.

The overall champion, judged the male champion of show, was also awarded the Suffolk Sheep Society Cup for the best Suffolk ram bred in southern Ireland, the Bocock cup for the best exhibitor bred ram, and the Arthur O'Keeffe cup for the open ram class.

However in the sales ring on the day, auctioneer Michael Taaffe's hammer fell on the champion at €1,500, a disappointing price for a brother to a ram, Castleisle Knockout, which sold £14,000  from the same flock in 2015.

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Andrew and his brother, Richard keep a flock of 80 of the best breeding ewes in the country in their Shannagh and Castleisle Suffolk flocks at Raphoe where Suffolks have grazed for more than half a century going back to their father, William's time.

"I grew up with Suffolks. I never knew this farm without suffolk sheep on it. There was always Suffolks here as far back as I can remember" says Andrew.

He was only 15 years old when he decided to pursue a career as a sheep breeder and set his heart on becoming a pedigree Suffolk breeder.  

During his final year in secondary school he was already laying a sound foundation before he went on to agricultural college to study for his Higher National Diploma in agriculture.

"As part of that course I had to do placement for a year. I contacted three or four of the most successful Suffolk breeders in the UK,  to see if I could do placement with them. I was very fortunate that one of the farms I got the opportunity to work on had one of the most best flocks of the 1990's in the UK", he recalled remembering  how these flocks had been fundamental to establishment of his own quality flock.

The success speaks for itself.

Over the last 12 years at the Elite Suffolk Show and Sale at Roscrea the Shannagh and Castleisle Suffolks have secured the highest or second highest average price on nine occasions and exhibited five overall Champions, four Reserve Champions, and four first prize Groups. 

However, the success over the past decade was nothing compared with the honours won in 2015  "our best year ever" which culminated in the winning of the Supreme Championship at the Scottish Stirling sale being only the second breeder from Southern Ireland ever to win the award and the sale of the aformentioned show champion for £14,000gns, while the flock achieved the second highest average at £5,390.

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