Southdown Sheep Society to stage its national contest at Suffolk Show

Gail Sprake with breeding ewes at Meens Farm, South Elmham All Saints.

Gail Sprake with breeding ewes at Meens Farm, South Elmham All Saints. - Credit: Archant � 2010

A prestigious national sheep competition is set to attract breeders from across the UK when it comes to the Suffolk Show this year.

Gail Sprake on her farm near Bungay with some lambs

Gail Sprake on her farm near Bungay with some lambs - Credit: Nick Butcher

It’s the turn of this year’s Suffolk Show, which takes place on May 31 and June 1, to host the Southdown Sheep Society’s national event this year.

Gail Sprake of Meens Farm, South Elmham All Saints, near Bungay, who has been secretary of the Southdown Sheep Society for 11 years, explained that the competition now toured top shows around the country, following the demise of the Royal Show in 2009.

“It’s special,” she said of the event. “It is the second year the national contest has come to the Suffolk Show, and last time around it attracted about 100 entries.

“This year I would like to think we would attract a similar number,” she said. “We had 26 shearling ewes in one class, which is pretty impressive. We always have Southdown Sheep classes because we always have good numbers attending. This year we’ll attract exhibitors from further afield because of the prestige of winning it.”

Gail Sprake on her farm near Bungay

Gail Sprake on her farm near Bungay - Credit: Nick Butcher

The aim in moving it around the country was to encourage different exhibitors to take part, she explained, widening the appeal.

Gail has kept Southdowns for more than 30 years, when it was still a rare breed on the watch list, and normally has between 40 and 50 breeding ewes. She enjoys the camaraderie of being part of the society, through which she meets like-minded people.

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She farms with husband, Michael, and grows wheat, barley, sugar beet and oilseed rape on the 600 acre farm, as well as keeping the Southdowns, and Devon Closewools.

Gail, who is closely involved in the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RSBT), which she currently chairs, is “equally keen” on both breeds. She has been a member of the trust for 25 years, and an active supporter of the East Anglia support group, standing as group chairman for a number of years. She also keeps Irish Moiled and Northern Dairy Shorthorn cattle. She has bred past Southdown Sheep Suffolk and Norfolk show breed champions.

“I think we must have been exhibiting for nearly a quarter of a century (at the Suffolk Show),” she said. “The reason we keep coming back is because we enjoy it. It’s a good rural show. It showcases the best of Suffolk.”