The South of Ireland Premier Show & Sale took place on August 4th & 5th in Blessington Mart

The 137th Annual Show & Sale of the Suffolk Sheep Society South of Ireland took place in Blessington Mart on Saturday August 5th where auctioneer Mr John Doyle described trade as ‘a very strong trade with exceptional demand from Commercial Breeders. Breeding rams were of excellent quality with stock presented on the day up on 2022’

Judging got underway on Friday afternoon under the experienced eye of Judge, Mr Alastair Barclay of the renowned Blackbrae Flock in Northern Ireland while Commercial breeders Michael & Ger Murphy were on hand to step in to judge the Gigot Ram class.

In a Championship of exceptional quality, the judge tapped out a superb ram lamb from the Annakisha flock of Arthur and Patrick O’Keefe. He was sired by the Reserve Champion from the NI Premier in 2022 Blackbrae AB President out of an Annakisha ewe. This stylish lamb had previously won the Open Ram Class and the Male Championship before claiming the title of Supreme Champion. 2023 has proved to be a very successful year for this lamb as he had previously won the Champion Ram Lamb spot at the National Suffolk Championships in Gurteen in June. The quality of this lamb came to the fore when he was eventually knocked down under John Doyle’s hammer for €20.000 and sold to the Cairness Flock of Jimmy Douglas in Scotland.

Taking Reserve Champion was Andrew & Jonathan Lucas’s lamb from the Finnvale Flock. Their lamb Finnvale BFG had been sired by last year’s Champion , Finnvale Am the Man whom they had retained. The ram had won the Best lamb sired by a South of Ireland Ram earlier in the day before claiming Reserve Male and Reserve Champion of the Show. He went on to sell in the ring to the Burnview Flock of William & Stephanie Tait, Northern Ireland for €2600 while the Finnvale pen overall, averaged €1695 with Am the Man lambs selling to an average of €2067.

Reserve champion of the Show – Andrew & Jonathan Lucas, Finnvale Flock

A Cairnton Chaos sired lamb out of a Solwaybank Ewe, owned by Alan Kilpatrick of the Convoy flock in Donegal claimed the second highest price of the day for a strong, stylish lamb which also found a home in Northern Ireland. Other top prices on the day included  a Crewelands Dancing Brave ET lamb from the pen of JJ & Martin Doherty, Malinhead. This was a SIS eligible lamb which sold to a fellow South of Ireland Breeder for €2300. Also selling well on the day was another of the Doherty’s lambs which had placed 1st in the Pen of Three Class and was knocked down at €2100.

The winner of the Novice class was a very correct lamb from the Cronebane pen of local man, Gus Doyle. He had beaten off stiff competition from PJ McMonagle’s Forkins Masterplan lamb which sold at €2200. This Novice winner, sired by Donbraid Assassin went on to sell to a Donegal pedigree breeder also for €2200. There were a number of other lambs sold at the €2200 mark which included a Kells T-rex sired lamb from the Ballygarris pen of Michael & Marie Jennings in Mayo and two rams from the Finnvale pen sired by Salopian Pure Gold and Finnvale Am the Man.

Novice Champion from Gus Doyle’s Cronebane Flock

The Shearling Ram class was won by Philip Byrne of the Limepark Flock with his Muirton One Direction Ram which later went on to sell to a commercial buyer for €900.

The Female classes commenced with the Shearling Ewe Class, which saw local breeder John & Esther Gahan claim the top spot with a stylish Lakeview Del Boy sired Gimmer. She had fought off stiff competition from two Cairness Our Bucks sired gimmers from the Lismurtagh and Loughrynn Flocks who had been placed 2nd and 3rd respectively. While these two females remained unsold the Champion Shearling was knocked down at €1200 in the ring to another breeder.

Champion Shearling Ewe from John & Esther Gahan, Barronstown Flock

The ewe lamb class was a very stylish affair and was tightly contended. Taking top honours from the judge was the Mountford flock of Oliver and Adrienne Deane’s January born lamb, sired by Ballinatone Al Capone from a Mountford Ewe. This breedy lamb was eventually sold to a Pedigree Breeder in the West. Placed 2nd in her class, Philip Lynch’s Clyda Awesome bred lamb sold for €820 while the 3rd placed, January born lamb from the Milldam Flock of Shane Brady and sired by Cairnton Chaos also sold for €820.

In the final lineup in the Female Championship, it was the Mountford Ewe Lamb which proved to be the judge’s favourite as she claimed the top honours as Female Champion with Philip Lynch’s Glyde Ewe Lamb claiming the Reserve Female Champion spot.

Champion Ewe Lamb and Champion Female from Oliver & Adrienne Deane’s Mountford Flock

Overall, there was a great buzz about the sale with much interest being shown in the lots on offer both prior to the sale and ringside. With a clearance rate of 85% – well increased from the 2022 figures, it was clear to see that the excellent quality of stock on offer, encouraged buyers to purchase. The pedigree Average came in at €2628 with the Commercial average hitting €804 – up 16% on the previous year’s trade. While there was no export to Europe from the sale, there were a significant number of animals exported to Northern Ireland directly from the sale.

Gigot Class Champion from Arthur & Patrick O’Keeffe

The sale was described by Auctioneer John Doyle as ‘overall a very good trade with exceptional demand from Commercial Breeders, with some leaving disappointed at being unable to secure a purchase. Breeding rams presented were of an exceptionally good quality and the commercial end of the sale was on fire. ’

Despite the huge demand , there were prices to suit all pockets with SIS eligible rams being purchased from €500, which made for an extremely brisk trade. With an overall clearance rate of 85% on ram lambs, 70% of the lambs sold headed into the Commercial sector – up 20 percentage points on 2022. Demand was high and the Society attribute this high demand from the commercial sector on the confidence held in the Suffolk Breed for its ability to finish faster from a grass based system. In a climate of rising input costs this ability to finish ‘Fast from Grass’ is an important factor when trying to maximise farm profitability. Early finishing lambs always command premium prices – a major plus in this current difficult climate. Breeders are optimistic that this demand for the Suffolk breed will be evident throughout the breeding season and beyond.

Group of Three 1st Prize winners – Martin & JJ Doherty – Malinhead Flock

It was very encouraging to see so many of the newer breeders taking part in the sale for the first time and also to see the Young Handler Class so well supported with 1st place going to Isabella Taylor, Ballynacannon Flock, 2nd place, Paddy McMonagle with his own Beltanyview flock, recently founded with his brother Tommy and 3rd place to Millie Donald from Donbraid Suffolks.


The remaining Society Sales for 2023 will take place on the following dates: Cahir on Friday 1st Sept (Eve), Carnew on Wednesday 6th September (eve), Ballina on Tuesday 3rd October (day) and Raphoe on Friday 6th October (eve).

The Society would very much like to thank all our generous sponsors including – Championship sponsors Mayo Healthcare, Strabane Mills & Mullinahone Co-Op

Also Thankyou to our Class Sponsors Volac, Paul & Vincent, Corby Rock Mill, Tirlan, Redmills Feeds, LA McAuley Feeds, Galloway & Macleod, JP & M Doyle, Kiernan Milling, Dairygold, Animax Ltd, Brett Bros.



NSC Takes Place at Sheep 2023 Event

The Suffolk Sheep Society South of Ireland were delighted to be a part of the Sheep 2023 Event held on Saturday June 17th in Gurteen Agricultural College. Suffolk Breeders came out in their droves to be a part of the National Suffolk Championships. The event was again sponsored by Connolly’s Redmills and we would like to express our sincere gratitude to them for their support.

 While the weather was very inclement as breeders arrived with their stock, thankfully, the sun came out from the clouds and shone for the entire Suffolk judging.

Judge for the day was Mr. Martin Butler of the acclaimed Castlewood Flock, Ballymena and he was faced with some very difficult choices in each class.

Judging commenced with the Shearling Ram & upwards class with some very strong rams on display. It was Philip Lynch’s Clyda Awesome stock ram sired by Ballinatone BT Buddy who claimed the top spot with Susan O’Keefe claiming the reserve spot.

In the Aged Ewe class, Susan O’Keeffe dominated the field with her ewe which was sired by Castleisle Kilteskin Prince out of a Cairness ewe. This same female had taken the Champion Spot at the National Championshipsin 2022 and she caught the judge’s eye again this year, claiming the red rosette over a very smart ewe from John Molloy’s Glencolmcille Flock.

The Shearling Ewe Class was an exceptional class with almost 25 of the top breeding Shearlings in the country on show. Martin Butler had an extremely difficult task to whittle them down. In the final line-up however, it was Susan O’Keeffe who once again claimed the top spot with a very smart ewe once again, sired by Ballinatone BT Buddy. Reserve in this class remined in the family with Arthur O’Keeffe claiming the reserve spot.

The Novice Ewe lamb class was a stylish affair with the Doherty Brothers from Malinhead dominating a strong class. Emerging as Champion and reserve in the class were two full sisters sired by Crewelands Dancing Brave from a home bred Malinhead ewe.

These two sisters then went on to compete in the Open Ewe Lamb class where one claimed the red rosette and a very smart lamb from the Clyda Flock of Susan O’Keeffe claimed the reserve spot.

In the untrimmed Ewe Lamb Class, the filed was once again dominated by John and Martin Doherty whose very stylish lamb claimed the red rosette over Arthur O’Keeffe’s lamb.

The Novice Ram Class was dominated by Eamonn Duffy of the Kells flock who claimed first and second place with two very breedy ram lambs. The Champion, Kells Bacardi,  was sired by Fongoy Rocket from a Hogillfoot ewe.  Once again, these two top placed rams moved into the Open class to compete in a very strong class of powerful rams. In this instance, the judge tapped out Arthur O’Keeffe’s Blackbrae AB President sired lamb bred out of a home bred Annakisha Ewe as his class Champion, with Eamon Duffy’s Novice winner taking the reserve spot.

The Young Handler’s Class, sponsored by Animax Vet is always a class enjoyed by everyone. This year it was Lorna Bailey of the Lismurtagh Flock who took the top honours. The judge was very impressed with her handling skills. The runners up in the class were Tara Bailey, Conor Bailey and Thomas Duffy. Well done to all the Young Handlers on a job well done!

When it came to the Championships, the judge’s deliberations were long and hard, such was the quality of stock on show in front of him.

The Female Championship was eventually decided with Susan O’Keeffe’s aged ewe claiming the top spot with Martin and John Doherty’s Ewe Lamb, who had previously won the Novice and the Open Ewe lamb classes claiming reserve.

The Male Championship was another difficult choice for the judge but it was Philip Lynch’s Shearling ram, Clyda Awesome who was tapped out with Arthur O’Keeffe’s ram lamb, a close second.

In the final line-up, it was Susan O’Keeffe’s Aged Ewe who continued her winning streak from 2022 by claiming the top spot of the Championship taking Supreme Champion of the show.

The Doherty’s Ewe lamb was a very worthy recipient of the Reserve Champion spot.

The Society would like to thank our two very generous sponsors of the event – Connollys Redmills and Animax Vet (Young Handler Class).

The Suffolk Sheep Society South of Ireland would like to commend all our breeders who attended the Championships. The quality of stock on display was second to none and is testament to the time and effort undertaken by breeders to continue improving bloodlines within the breed.

We would also like to express our gratitude to the Sheep 2023 Committee on an extremely well run and interesting event. It was a credit to all involved.



The 2023 National Suffolk Championships will take place this year in conjunction with the SHEEP 2023 Event in Gurteen Agricultural College on June 17th.

This one day event will be the largest dedicated sheep event in Ireland in 2023 and follows on the successes of past events held at Teagasc, Athenry and UCD. It is being organised by five major stakeholders within the Sheep Industry – Bord Bia, Department of Agriculture, Food 7 the Marine, Irish farmers Journal, Sheep Ireland and Teagasc.

Suffolk Sheep Society – South of Ireland is delighted to be hosting our National Suffolk Sheep Championships at such a prestigious event. Top breeders from all around the country are already preparing their sheep to take part in one of the top events in the annual Suffolk calander. Competition is always fierce at the Championships and classes include Young Handler, Shearling Ewe, Aged Ewe, Shearling Ram and upwards, Ewe Lamb – trimmed and untrimmed, Ram Lamb and Novice Ewe and Ram Lamb classes.

Judge for the event is Mr. Martin Butler of the well known and respected Castlewood Flock in Northern Ireland.

2022 NSC Supreme Champion – Susan O’Keeffe, Shearling Ewe

Anticipation is building for this dedicated sheep event in the wake of a five-year Covid-19 enforced absence. The multi-faceted event has something to cater for all interests, as well as being an enjoyable family day out.

Upwards of 10 technical areas are planned, each with their own extensive programme incorporating workshops/practical demonstrations/short presentations, an opportunity for one-to-one dialogue and visual displays.

Technical topics at Sheep 2023 will include breeding and genetics, environment, flock health, forestry, grassland, health and safety, hill sheep, nutrition and organic farming.

There will also be a Wool Village, A Young Shepherd Competition, Sheep Breed Stands, A Sheep Dog training demonstration, cookery demonstrations by celebrity chef Mr Nevin Maguire, trade stands and much, much more.

So save the date and come along to what promises to be one of the best Agricultural events of the year!



Suffolk Sheep Society South of Ireland

Coote Geelan, Loughrynn Flock

The Committee of the Suffolk Sheep Society were delighted to nominate Mr Coote Geelan of the Loughrynn Flock in Co. Leitrim as the 2023 recipient of the National Hall of Fame for Suffolk Sheep. The National Hall of Fame Awards, now in their 19th year, are an annual all-livestock breeds event held to  ‘recognise individuals who have dedicated their lifetimes for the improvement and progress within their chosen breed’

The 2023 Awards were presented this year by Mr Adam Woods, Beef Editor at the Irish Farmers Journal.

Coote Geelan receiving the 2023 Hall of Fame award from Adam Woods, Beef Editor, Irish Farmers Journal

Established in 1981 ‘with the purchase of four 1 Shear and one 2 Shear Ewes bred by J. Coughlan’, Coote could never have known the multitude of awards, rosettes and competitions he would go on to win over the course of his lifetime. Regularly attending competitions and shows, Coote was successful both North and South which included prizes at The RDS ‘Spring Show’, the Balmoral Show, National Livestock Show,  National Suffolk Championships, National Premier Show and countless Agricultural Shows, the length and breadth of the country. He has served on many Suffolk committees over the years, contributing greatly to the enhancement of the breed.

Coote is very modest about his achievements and says that he owes much of his expertise to the likes of the late Bob Howlett, Ted Jeffery and Herbert Stanley who he says ‘taught me many skills in trimming and judging sheep’. Coote is renowned for his capabilities in trimming and showing sheep and has helped many aspiring new Suffolk Breeders on their journeys, mentoring them with patience and good humour in the skill of animal presentation.

Coote is a great believer in producing well fleshed rams aimed at the Commercial farmer. A good quality Suffolk ram helps to produce hardy, fast finishing lambs which in turn boost on farm profits from high farm gate prices for early, top quality lambs. Carcass is key in the Suffolk Ram.

The Loughrynn Flock today still enjoys great success at National and local level with the help of Coote’s son Trevor who has been attending shows and tending the flock with his father since he was old enough to hold a rosette!

Coote would like to extend his gratitude to the Committee of the Suffolk Sheep Society, South of Ireland for his nomination, which he sees as a huge honour. He would also like to thank his family for all their support over the years without whom, non of his successes would have been possible.

Kenneth Bailey, Gerry Killilea, Alison Irwin, Coote Geelan, Garth Graham, Susan O’Keeffe (Chairperson)



Judging at the National Suffolk Championships, by Irish Suffolk Sheep Breeder, Garth Graham

at Queretaro, Mexico

Report by Judge, Mr Garth Graham, Vice Chairman, Suffolk Sheep Society, Ireland

There are many places an Irish Suffolk sheep breeder might expect to be in mid December, but Mexico would not be one of them! After receiving an official invitation from the Mexican National Sheep Breeders Association to judge the Suffolk Breed in their National Show in Queretaro (which is a city about 3 hours north of Mexico City with a population of just over 1 million), I was very much looking forward to seeing the best of Mexican Suffolk Sheep Breeding on show.

‘Feria Internacional Grandera de Queretaro’, as a show is similar in style to the likes of the Ploughing or Balmoral Show but it runs for three weeks, encompassing stock judging, rodeos, equine displays, police and army displays, a circus, concerts, retail halls, food halls and shows to mention but a few of the things which happen over its duration.

On arrival at the judging venue on Thursday December 8th (after 25 hours of travel) there was a very warm welcome from the organisers of the Ovine event – Jose Luis Cervantes (President of the Sheep Breeders Association and Juan Jose Salas, Ovine event Chairman.

With little knowledge of what to expect in terms of quality, and only some reports of more ‘leggy, lengthy sheep with smaller heads and overall, a different type of Suffolk’, I was very much looking forward to judging this extremely prestigious show. The actual grounds were huge with football pitch size marquees. As judge however, I was not allowed to enter the sheep area where all the breeds were penned, prior to judging taking place.

Several breeds were judged prior to the Suffolks, including Charollais, Texels, Dorpers as well as eight other breeds, many judged by other international judges from Europe and South Africa. The Suffolk judging took place on the Saturday. All animals entered to the show were brought to the judging ring and tethered just outside the ring to await their turn to be shown. It was with great delight that I saw a large number of quality Suffolks, who would have made the cut for any of the show circuits in Ireland.

Warm weather and good grass obviously agree with the sheep as they displayed super carcasses, great bone and generally, very good toplines. There were a small number of teeth problems but these were in the minority, but conformation was generally very good., in particular in several young lambs who were judged in groups dependent on age.

A smashing young Ram Lamb with great style, carcass and bone, from the flock of Jose Luis Cervantes took the Male Champion and the same flock produced the Female Champio nwith a superb Shearling who turned out to be a daughter of Solwaybank Major and early in lamb to a South of Ireland, Irish Suffolk Ram, Malinhead Geras.

Unlike the system here in Ireland and the UK, the only information you receive about the animals being judged is their tag number, Flock and age. No breeding information is given to the judges prior to judging. The other difference is that there is not Supreme Champion judging – there are only Male & Female Champions. Flock genetics are also judged in Classes with groups of three & four animals (male or female) from the one family.

The Super Female Champion went on to be judged in the Interbreed Competition on the Sunday against the Female Champions of all the other breeds. This competition was judged by a panel of five judges from France, Ireland, South Africa and Mexico who each had to vote to pick their Champion. To the delight of the large crowd in attendance (and myself I might add) the judges unanimously picked the Suffolk as their Interbreed Champion of the Show.

Once the Show judging was complete, the Mexican Sheep Breeders Association hosted a banquet in the transformed judging marquee for about 500 sheep breeders present at the event with a presentation of prizes and speeches after the meal.

I would very much like to congratulate the organisers of this fantastic event which was extremely well organised and ran without a hitch and to thank them for the wonderful opportunity to judge at the Show. As a fellow Suffolk Breeder it was a tremendous experience to attend such a prestigious event and to see the excellent quality of the sheep being produced in Mexico. It was also wonderful to see Irish & UK genetics breeding so well within Mexican Suffolk Flocks. I felt that there is a real understanding  by the breeders in Mexico of Suffolk genetics and the importance of maintaining and improving their bloodlines for the development of the breed. The Suffolk breed in Mexico has a very bright future indeed with such forward thinking and insightful breeders developing the National Suffolk Flock.

Thankyou to all concerned for the fantastic experience and the opportunity!

Presentation of Prizes at Society AGM

Presentation of Prizes at Society AGM

Suffolk Sheep Society AGM

The Suffolk Sheep Society recently held its AGM in Tullamore.

The meeting was Chaired by outgoing Chairman Mr Dan O’Mahony who welcomed all the attendees. Mr O’Mahony thanked the Committee for all their hard work during the year. He re-iterated that much had been achieved in 2022 and he mentioned the fact that the Society is attracting many new breeders. He also stated that in the post Brexit era, the future is looking bright for the Society and the Suffolk breed and that there are many opportunities to be availed of by breeders.

The committee were delighted to have Mr Robin McIlrath, outgoing CEO of the Suffolk Sheep Society UK, along with his wife Roberta  in attendance at the meeting. A presentation was made by the Society to Robin as a token of appreciation for his all his hard work and guidance in the South of Ireland throughout his tenure as CEO and the Committee and attendees wished him well in his retirement.

Robin McIlrath (outgoing CEO Suffolk Sheep Society UK), Roberta McIlrath and Dan O’Mahony (Chairman Suffolk Sheep Society – South of Ireland)

Mr O’Mahony thanked attendees for coming and wished everyone well with their 2023 lambing season.

At the end of the meeting the presentation of prizes to the winners at the Premier Show took place. Winners of each class detailed below: