Suffolk breeders from across the UK and Ireland will descend on United Auctions’ Stirling Agricultural Centre for the breed’s Scottish National show and sale next week.
The annual event, which takes place on Thursday and Friday, has attracted 261 Suffolks to include 257 ram lambs and four gimmers from Patrick Donnelly’s Donrho flock, Ballymena.
One family busy preparing its entries for next week’s event is the Lorimer family – longstanding breeders who run the Cadgerford flock at Kingswells, Aberdeen.
The flock was established in 1962 by Judith and her father Alex Simpson, and Judith now runs 40 breeding females with her husband James, their son Stuart and his 16-year-old daughter Hannah.
Cadgerford was previously home to a 70-cow dairy herd but since the family stopped dairying in 2006, the Lorimers are now able to concentrate on the Suffolks, with all three generations now dedicating their spare time to the flock.
“We find Suffolks are relatively easy to manage and their superior growth rates are second to none,” said Stuart, who works full-time for the department of agriculture.
“Suffolks have been criticised for years for having big heads and too much bone but in order to compete with the white face, they need the conformation and we’ve certainly got conformation back into our sheep.
“The Suffolk produces a uniform crop of lambs in commercial flocks and although Suffolk lambs are believed to be dopey, improved genetics and management has meant our lambs are vigorous and easier lambed.”
While the flock is now made up of home-bred breeding ewes, it was foundation females from Bruce Little, Mains of Hatton, and the Deveronside and Stonyford flocks which got the Cadgerford flock on the map.
Stock tups are purchased from Stirling, with the majority of ewes in the flock by Strathisla Fencer, Ballynacannon Boss and Irongray Ironman.
Over the years the family has consistently bought top genetics from Muiresk, Cairness, Conveth, Strathisla and the Benrafton flocks.
They select on conformation, scale and tups which are sound on their feet as they feel this is very important when it comes to showing progeny.
Ewes are tupped naturally and sponged beforehand so they can be lambed in batches and managed more easily.
Lambing kicks off on December 28, with ewes fed a Harbro feed mix.
Ewes and lambs are turned out to grass during the day at three to four-weeks-old and return inside again at night.
“Lambs are weaned at the beginning of May and we usually have a good idea of what we want to keep for breeding,” said Stuart.
“We run a very strict culling policy and only keep the best for breeding. Initially, we finished what wasn’t retained but we are now keeping more ewe lambs with the aim to sell females further down the line following increased demand.”
Lambs not suitable for breeding are away by the second week in May and are sold either at Aberdeen and Northern Marts’ Suffolk show and sale at Thainstone or direct to Kepak McIntosh Donald in Portlethen.
In the past, they have peaked at £130 and usually produce U grades, with a few E grades.
Last year at the Aberdeen Christmas Classic, Cadgerford sold two females for 950gn apiece, including the first prize ewe and the second prize gimmer which were shown in strong classes at Thainstone.
Around 12 females are retained in the flock each year and the family has hopes to sell more females this year both privately and at Thainstone.
Inevitably, it’s the tup sales that are the highlight of the year for the flock, with the top draw sold at Stirling and the remainder sold between two sales at Thainstone.
Tup lambs have sold to a top of 2,100gn at Stirling in 2017 for Cadgerford Am Your Man, which stood second in a class of 40 lambs, while a top price of 1,200gn was achieved for a previous Suffolk champion at Thainstone.
At Thainstone the Lorimers annually sell to repeat customers in both Orkney and Shetland.
Stuart said customers often return to Thainstone to sell their store and fat lambs and annually top the trade – a fact the Lorimers find most satisfying.
Tup lambs thrive on Galloway and MacLeod creep feed and are then introduced to Harbro course mix with Galloway and MacLeod Sweet Mash fed six weeks prior to sale.
Next week, the flock will have four tup lambs for sale at Stirling including two by Cadgerford Challenger, one by Ballynacannon Boss and another by Irongray Ironman.
As well as gearing up for the main sale of the year, the family are in the midst of the summer show season in which they attend four local shows with sheep.
The family has already scooped a championship and reserve inter-breed win in a strong entry of Suffolks at Echt with a gimmer by Ballynacannon Boss and they will be exhibiting at Banchory and Turriff.