It’s a long wait for the Suffolk Show when you’re only six years old

Ted Stocking, six, who would have been competing in the Young Handlers competition at the Suffolk Sh

Ted Stocking, six, who would have been competing in the Young Handlers competition at the Suffolk Show, with Megan a pedigree Suffolk sheep - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Fans of the Suffolk Show will be missing one of the great highlights of the county’s year on June 2 and 3 — including the Stocking family.

For young Ted Stocking, aged six, it’s been a long, long wait for the Suffolk Show - cancelled for the second year a row because of the coronavirus crisis.

The Young Sheep Handler had a few shows under his belt across his county show and that of neighbouring Norfolk when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

On one occasion he dropped his lead rope as he went to pick up his rosette from the judge, but he has handled himself well in the competitions, says proud dad Tom Stocking, of Rectory Farm, Tostock, near Bury St Edmunds. 

Some of the ram lambs can be a bit feisty, he explains. So far Ted has picked up a second place and a third place in the young handler contests he’s entered.

Electrician and sheep breeder Tom and wife Kate keep around  40 pedigree Suffolk Sheep and some commercial cross-bred sheep and have been exhibiting at the Suffolk Show for about 10 years.

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They love the camaraderie and the friendships that develop with other breeders, and the children also enjoy being part of it. 

“There are so many friends I have made from it,” says Tom. Some of his show contestant friends are in their 80s so the loss of two shows is a big deal for them.

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Tom and Kate’s high point was a couple of years back when their animal scooped the best in breed champion’s rosette in the livestock competitions.

Ted’s little sister, Betty, three, could have made her debut as a young handler at the Suffolk Show this year had it not been for the pandemic. 

“I think they just pick it up,” says Tom. “It’s not something I force upon them but they quite like it especially if they win a rosette.”

The loss of the event — which was due to take place on Wednesday, June 2, and Thursday, June 3 — has left a hole in their lives, admits the multi-skilled farmer, who also has a sideline selling laying hens.

“It’s quite a big gap it leaves. It’s given us more time but there’s a lot of preparation that goes into it and getting the sheep looking right,” he says.

The annual cycle begins at lambing which for Tom and Kate is timed for the period between Christmas and New Year when Tom has a break from his day job and can devote time to it. Earlier in the year, the ewes are given a hormone so that they will all come on heat simultaneously.

Many consumers don’t realise that to get lamb on tables at Easter, they need to be born in autumn or winter, he says.

Had the show gone ahead this year, the build-up would have been difficult, he admits. The wet weather makes it hard to get the animals in the right condition for showing.

But he and his family are now looking forward to next year’s event as show organisers focus their efforts on putting on an event to remember when it does return.

Phillip Ainsworth, chief executive of Suffolk Show organisers Suffolk Agricultural Association (SAA), said: “For the Suffolk Agricultural Association, as well as the rest of the country, it has been a tremendously challenging time.

"Two years without being able to hold the Suffolk Show is incredibly sad but we are now starting planning for the Suffolk Show 2022 and hope to welcome visitors to Trinity Park once again on Tuesday, May 31, and Wednesday, June 1, 2022.”

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