Tendring Show: Success at the first attempt for sheep breeder

SHEEP breeder Gail Sprake “went through the card” on her first-ever visit to the Tendring Show, with her flock winning all five classes for the Southdown breed.

A strong entry made her success all the sweeter, with more than 40 animals from five different breeders making the Southdown the best-represented breed at the show, well ahead even of the local Suffolk breed.

“There was a good number of entries from five different breeders, and that is quite a compliment to a one-day show,” said Mrs Sprake, from All Saints, near Halesworth. “What’s more, all the entries were forward, despite the weather. We do not let the rain beat us.”

Her success in all five classes made the destination of the breed title a formality but, for the record, the championship went to her winning ram, which also won at the Royal Norfolk Show last month, with a ewe lamb as reserve.

Mrs Sprake was assisted at the show by Holly Sleightholme and then, when all five of her class winners went forward for the judging of the championship, other breeders stepped in to help, including Simon Hutley from Great Holland, his son, Andrew, and Amy Readhead-Higgins from Leiston.

It was Mr Hutley who persuaded Mrs Sprake to enter his local show and it was he who got to show the winning ram in the final judging.

“We are a close-knit group of Southdown breeders in East Anglia,” added Mrs Sprake. “Everyone likes everyone else and we all help each other out.”

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The Suffolk breed championship went to a shearling ewe owned by the Partridge family from Kersey, near Hadleigh, with an untrimmed ram lamb owned by Mr B Skinner and Mrs E Cameron from Banham, near Diss as reserve.

Chris Partridge said that the champion shearling ewe had been placed second at the Hadleigh Show, fourth at the Suffolk and third at the Royal Norfolk. “She was a March-born lamb and has improved as the season has gone on,” he added.

Peter Ryecraft from Surrey, who judged the Suffolks, said: “The champion has a wonderful level back, good wool and is well-fleshed – a very correct sheep, and well presented too.”

The championship for rare and minority breeds went to a Wensleydale ewe owned by Mr C A Coe from Great Wenham, near Ipswich, with a Coloured Ryeland ram, owned by Mrs V Howells, from Benfleet, taking reserve.

In the commercial beef classes there was another championship for the Ketley family from Fingringhoe, near Colchester, frequent winners at the Tendring Show and regular supporters of the weekly livestock sales at Colchester.

They claimed the Coleman Cup, for the supreme champion beef animal at the show, with Serena, a Limousin heifer, and also won two other classes, with a Bazadaise-cross steer and a Blonde-cross heifer.

Reserve to the champion was Zak, a Belgian Blue-cross steer owned by Mrs R Parker from Burlingham, near Norwich.

Cattle judge David Bull, from Easton, near Woodbridge, said: “It has been a real pleasure to come here today, although it has been a bit damp, to see such a good quality show of cattle.

“The champion is an absolutely superb heifer, full of flesh everywhere without any excess in the loin, the back end and the shoulder. The reserve is a wonderful steer, with width, length and depth, but my personal view is that the meat from a heiifer is always a bit sweeter.”