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!
On Sunday 26th June, Suffolk Sheep Society South of Ireland breeders from all over the country turned up to Charleville Agricultural Show to compete in the Irish Suffolk Sheep National Championships from which there had been an absence of 3 years as a result of the pandemic. It was great to see such a high level of interest at the Suffolk ring and we were especially delighted to see some of our Suffolk Colleagues from the Netherlands attending the Show while on a visit to Ireland.
The Society were delighted to receive a new cup for the Supreme Champion of the Show. The Tom Quirke Memorial Cup was presented to the Society by Ann Quirke-O’Mahony on behalf of the entire Quirke Family in memory of her late Father who was an enthusiastic and forward thinking Suffolk Breeder, from his Flock’s establishment in 1967 up until his death in August 2017.
Despite inclement weather conditions, enthusiasm was high as Judge William Fleming of the Hallhill Flock in Scotland prepared to take to the ring. The standard of sheep presented on the day was a credit to all the breeders participating and showcased the Suffolk Breed to its full potential to all those watching the show.
The show kicked off with the Junior Handler class which saw 7 enthusiastic young stock persons demonstrate their knowledge and ability to handle sheep. It was 15 year old Harry Graham of the Westside flock, which he established in 2020, who received the red rosette from the Judge.
In the Shearling Ram class, it was Arthur O’Keeffe who dominated with a Birness Freedom son with Coote Geelan’s Cairness Diamond Geezer son taking second and Harry Graham’s Errigal Jack the Lad’s son taking the third spot.
The sun shone as the Aged Ewes took to the ring with Susan O’Keeffe’s home bred ewe, sired by Castleisle Kilteskin Prince taking the top honours in the Class. In the Shearling Ewe Class, Susan O’Keefe dominated the field once again catching the judge’s eye with her Annakisha Ewe, again sired by Castleisle Kilteskin Prince. Her second entry also sired by Prince took second and Kenneth Bailey’s Cairness Cobra sired ewe took the third spot.
In the Novice Class it was Coote Geelan of the Loughrynn Flock who took top honours with his stylish ewe lamb, sired by Beechbrook Oscar. It was a tight call between Kenneth Bailey’s ewe lamb sired by Cairness Our Bucks and Ann & Dan O’Mahony’s Errigal the Emperor sired Ewe lamb for second and third but the judge settled on Lismurtagh second and Ballygarvanstud third in the class.
The Ram Lamb class was next in the line up where Susan O’Keeffe’s Muirton One Direction son took top honours with Sean O’Connor of the Islandmore Flock claiming his first rosette of the day, taking second with a Beechcrest Bacardi son. Third in the class was Ann & Dan O’Mahony’s Blackbrae Diamond son.
Next it was the turn of the ewe lambs and the first class in was the Untrimmed Ewe Lamb where Philip Byrne of the Limepark Flock showed a lamb by Errigal Simply the Best. She was a stylish ewe lamb who emerged from the class victorious, claiming the red rosette, much to the delight of Philip’s son Padraig who had shown her earlier in the Young Handler Class.
The final class of the day was the Trimmed Ewe Lamb which resulted in a hat trick for the O’Keeffe family with Patrick and his Blackwater Flock taking first with his Ballinatone BT Buddy son, Susan taking second with her ewe lamb also sired by BT Buddy and Arthur taking third spot with his lamb sired by Castlewellan Sportsman.
In the Female Championship it was Susan O’Keeffe’s Shearling Ewe who claimed the top honours and Philip Byrne’s Untrimmed Ewe Lamb took the Reserve spot.
The Male Championship was awarded to Arthur O’Keeffe’s Shearling ram with Susan O’Keeffe’s Ram Lamb taking the Reserve Spot.
In the Final Showdown the judge tapped out Susan O’Keefe’s Shearling Ewe as his favourite of the day to claim the Supreme Champion title and the newly presented Tom Quirke Memorial Cup, with Philip Byrne’s Untrimmed Ewe lamb emerging as Reserve Champion.
The Society would like to thank our sponsors for the day – Connolly’s Redmills and Animax-Vet for their generous support. We would also like to express our gratitude to the Sheep Section Show Committee for setting up the penning and showing area and for running such a well organised event.