Building the perfect formula for Suffolk breeding success

Eamonn Duffy’s careful selection has earned him Flock of the Year double

Eamon Duffy
Eamon Duffy

Martin Ryan

Thousands of sheep farmers aspire to breed the perfect flock, but few achieve their goal like Suffolk breeder Eamonn Duffy.

Almost four decades of serious commitment have been put into building the ‘Kells’ flock of Suffolks over two generations, which started in 1980 with Eamonn’s father Edward, who bought 10 breeding ewes carefully selected from a top flock in Co Roscommon .

When hundreds of sheep breeders descend on the farm at Ethelstown, Kells, Co Meath this evening for the Suffolk Sheep Society open evening, which runs from 5pm to 8pm, they will have a lot to admire.

One of the highlights of the evening for Eamonn and his wife Anne Marie will be receiving the Jack McCulloch Memorial Trophy. Winning Flock of the Year is a great achievement for any breeder; retaining the award, as Eamonn has done, is truly exceptional, testimony to the consistency and standard of the Duffys’ 110-strong flock.

And this year they’ve even gone one better and been awarded Flock of the Year for Ireland and UK for flocks of more than 100 breeding ewes. In September, Eamonn, Anne Marie and their three-year-old son Tom will travel to Shrewsbury to receive the Brook Perpetual Challenge Cup. Noted sheep breeder Andrew Wilson, who judged both the Irish and UK entries, commended them for the quality and uniformity of their flock.

“I’m very impressed that there is no tail-end to the flock. Usually there are the very good ones and some not as good in flocks,” he said.

Eamonn is open about his formula: he decided to breed only the best with the best and had no hesitation about culling any that were not to the standard he aimed for.

“I always felt that was the only way to go,” says Eamonn. “I have stuck with selection of the best breeding stock that I could get, and aim to see improvement in the flock every year.

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“I like to have a good long, easily fleshed, tight-wool sheep and have bred consistently for those traits.

“The commercial breeder is a very important market for us and the Suffolk is a great breed for crossing with any other breed, to produce good lambs.”

An important date for the flock is their annual sale at Carnaross Mart in September, and Eamonn is considering a special sale of in-lamb ewes for November.

One of the big challenges is achieving such a high level of consistency and uniformity in a flock of more than 100 breeding ewes.

Sires used in the flock over the years that stand out include: Glenho Pajero, bought in 2003, which put length into the females; Errigal Dundee the Novice Champion at Roscrea in 2010 which added height, power and colour into the flock; and Limestone Tom and Limestone Mr Muscle, sons of Muirton One Direction which cost 19,000gns in 2014 and proved excellent for breeding long, easy-fleshed lambs with good carcase, skin, style and great colours.

One of the additions to the flock over the past year has been the purchase of the sire Burness Royal at Sterling.

“He has added more power and length and a lovely colour to the progeny,” says Eamonn.

The aim is to keep the Suffolk up at the top on the star ratings for both maternal and replacement indices. More than 60pc of the Kells flock, are double five star on the indices.

Some 25-30 of the top ewe lambs are selected every year to be retained in the flock.

The policy has kept improving the standard of the flock year on year.

So is there still room for further improvement?

“I am always looking for further improvement and I will continue to try for the longer carcases and more easily fed lambs that will suit any commercial breeder,” says Eamonn.

Online Editors

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