Suffolk Show 2011: Sheep interbreed title is a family affair

THEY didn’t dare to believe it would happen – but it did.

The Middleditch family from Belchamp St Paul, near Sudbury, carried off the Sheep Interbreed Championship for the second year running on day two of the Suffolk Show.

Having won the interbreed title last year with a Hampshire Down they were in with a double chance this time around, after retaining the Hampshire breed championship and claiming the Other Native Breeds title with an Oxford Down.

But despite such a good first day, Denise Middleditch’s reaction to the possibility of winning a second consecutive interbreed was: “I cannot think we will do that again.”

And yet that was how things turned out, not with their champion Hampshire Down shearling ewe, which Mrs Middleditch admitted afterwards she had quietly thought was in with a chance, but with their winning Oxford Down ram.

Shown by Mrs Middleditch in the interbreed judging but owned by her son Harry, the shearling ram was chosen by judge Claire Jakeman ahead of the Suffolk breed champion, a ewe lamb owned by MJ & JA Pinny from Holcot, near Northampton, which took reserve.

Harry, currently studying at Shuttleworth College and about to spend six months working with long-time sheep breeder Stephen Cobbald, from Acton, near Sudbury, said: “He won his class here as a lamb last year and we were very pleased to win the section on day one this year but we did not think he stood much chance against the other breeds.”

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However, Mrs Jakeman, from Chester, said Oxford Downs in general had made good progress as a breed in recent years, and the Middleditchs’ champion ram was a good example of that. “He is very true to the breed standard; very, very correct and a good meat sheep,” she added.

Besides Mrs Middleditch and her son the rest of the family, including her husband, David, and daughters Jess and Alice were also at the show to enjoy the success, together with Jess’s boyfriend, Ollie Moore, who also helped with the showing.

Harry’s girlfriend, Georgie Smith, also helps out with the sheep, which in total number just 18 Oxford Down ewes and 20 Hampshire Down ewes.

Their champion ram also won special awards from the National Sheep Association (Eastern Region) for minority native breeds and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust East Anglia Support Group for breeds on the trust’s watch list, and then, together with a shearling ewe from the same flock, also picked up the pairs breed championship.

“Harry has worked very hard to get him where he is,” said Mrs Middleditch. “He only has one shearling ram, so it’s not as if we have a big pool to choose from.”

But she added: “Of course since he is at agricultural college he is not at home much, so it is mother who does a lot of the work.”