At the end of June, the south of Ireland (SOI) branch of the Suffolk Sheep Society was officially informed that not only was it now an approved pedigree breed society in Ireland (and by extension the EU), but also that its breeding programme had also received official approval.
Up to this point, there had only been three sheep breeding programmes approved in Ireland and these were much smaller organisations, making the SOI Suffolk Sheep Society the largest approved ovine breeding programme in Ireland.
Chair of the society in Ireland Dan O’Mahony told the Irish Farmers Journal: “This has not been a straightforward process, but we got there. On behalf of the SOI Suffolk Sheep Society, I want to thank both DAFM and Sheep Ireland for helping and guiding us through this.
“It would also not have been possible without the support and direct input from what we have always considered our parent body, the Suffolk Sheep Society,” Dan went on to say.
“This recognition and approval secures the future for our members and as we enter our first sale season as a society in our own right, we can not only meet the requirements of our Irish commercial farmers, but continue to sell Irish Suffolk genetics into the UK and throughout Europe.”
In 2019, a small group of Suffolk breeders left the parent body and set up the Irish Suffolk Sheep Society, which also obtained this recognition.
However, at that time, over 90% of Irish Suffolk breeders chose to stay with the main society, which is one of the oldest sheep societies in existence, dating back to the 1890s.
Vice-chair of the SOI branch Garth Graham, from Sligo, said: “This means that we have the best of both worlds – we are an approved zootechnical society in Ireland, able to trade pedigree Suffolks throughout the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe.
“Because we stayed with the UK society, we can continue to not only buy and import UK genetics, but present our sheep and sell at the main society sales in Ballymena, Lanark, Shrewsbury and Carlisle.”
The SOI branch now looks forward to its first sale as a society in its own right on bank holiday Monday 2 August in Blessington.
This sale will offer the largest selection of Suffolk rams at any single sale in Ireland, with the show at 9am and the sale kicking off at 12.30pm.
O’Mahony said it had been “a very difficult year with both COVID-19 and Brexit”.
“This is the first opportunity for us to come together as a new society. We have the top breeders in Ireland, from Cork to Donegal, Galway to Dublin, and everything in between, offering commercial breeders a superb choice.”