Since its creation in the 1800s, the Suffolk sheep breed has gained worldwide popularity among commercial and pet shepherds.
The Suffolks are friendly and versatile animals that produce excellent mutton and medium-quality wool. Apart from being fantastic grazers, the Suffolk sheep are hardy and can braze most climates with moderate to low maintenance needs.
This guide looks at this exciting animal’s information, behavior, and care. Join us as we explore and help you decide if the Suffolk sheep will be a great addition to your flock.
Quick Facts About The Suffolk Sheep Breed
|Species name||Ovis Aries|
|Cost||Ewes: $100 – $200
Flock rams: $300 – $500
Stud rams: $1000 – $ 10,000
|Breed purpose||Meat, Wool|
|Mature body weight||Ram: 275-400 pounds
Ewe: 200-300 pounds
|Body size||29-32 inches|
|Average wool properties||25.5-33 Microns
Spinning count: 48-58
Staple length: 2-3.5 inches
Wool grade (USDA): 46’s – 58’s
|Grease fleece weight||4 – 8 pounds|
|Fleece staple length||2.5-3.5 inches|
|Temperament||Alert, intelligent, easy to herd|
|Minimum shelter size||6’ x 4’ x 3’|
The History Of Suffolk Sheep Breed
The Suffolk sheep breed was created by mating Norfolk Horn ewes with Southdown rams. Though alleged to date back hundreds of years, Suffolk sheep were first mentioned by name in agricultural papers in 1797 by Arthur Young.
Before then, these England-bred sheep were locally known as Blackface or Southdown-Norfolks around their area of origin in Bury St. Edmunds.
The Suffolk breed gained popularity fast for its tasty and quality meat and quiet temperament. The breed developed around rotational farming systems, grazing freely in summer and being fed in labor-intensive set-ups in winter.
In 1810, the breed was accepted as pure with great ease of lambing, meat production, and adaptability.
As a result, the breed multiplied, reaching Ireland in 1891, Scotland in 1895, and United States in 1888.
Today, Suffolk sheep significantly contribute to quality meat and wool globally.
What Are Suffolk Sheep Breed Characteristics?
The Suffolks have a distinct black head and feet, with white, refined, and moderately short and dense wool. Unlike other large meat sheep breeds like the Hampshires, the Suffolks have no wool on their head and feet.
Additionally, their black and bell-shaped ears complete their attractive appearance. However, lambs are born with uneven coloring that slowly turns to white as they mature.
Suffolks mature fast, with females reaching sexual maturity at around five months.
The rams and ewes are solid and muscular, but the former has more mass and volume. Their body and legs are well built, with a short neck and no horns.
Typical Suffolk Sheep Behavior
Suffolk sheep have a friendly demeanor with unique personalities. They don’t get agitated fast and will settle down quickly once the threat or aggression is over.
Even for beginners, the Suffolks are easy to herd and won’t cause considerable trouble in the fields.
They are always alert and quick to learn and will quickly form routines. Most breeders say the ewes are more manageable than the rams, and you may require an incentive like a bucket of food to move them around.
How To Care For Suffolk Sheep Breed
Suffolk sheep are low-maintenance animals. Their care involves proper feeding, internal and external parasite control, shearing, and providing shelter. Below are several ways of caring for your Suffolk flock:
Feeding Area Set-Up
Suffolk sheep are heavy feeders. They like to graze freely in areas with plenty of grass and adequate drinking water.
If you’re keeping a few as pets, you can have them in a small space and provide hay. However, most experts recommend you keep Suffolks in an area they can move around freely.
You’ll also need to build a shelter for your animals. However, since Suffolks are considerably hardy, you only need a three-sided cover to keep adverse weather at bay.
If possible, install a fan to better air circulation during summer. Also, put down straw beddings to make the shelter more comfortable for your animals.
What To Feed Your Suffolk Sheep
If you’re keeping your flock in a large yard with plenty of grass, you only need to let your animals graze around during the growing months.
However, you’ll need to provide enough hay during winter, preferably alfalfa and clover hay.
Avoid feeding your animals with high-copper grains as too much copper can lead to health problems.
Suffolk sheep need lots of drinking water per day. Therefore, ensure your herd has access to enough fresh water supply all year round, especially in hot weather.
If you can afford an automatic waterer, you can cut down on the work you need to do to keep your animals hydrated.
Salt lick provides essential vital minerals for your Suffolks’ health. Luckily, salt licks are cheap and easy to find.
Ensure your flock has enough salt licks or better alternatives like ground salt to keep them healthy.
Keeping Suffolk Sheep Healthy
Apart from feeding your flock, you’ll need to keep away diseases and pests. The feeding area and shelter need to be dry and pest free.
Use the necessary pesticides to control flies and lice, deworm your flock twice a year, and dock the lamb’s tail to prevent fly strikes.
Regularly check their hooves to ensure they are in good shape and free from foot rot. If the ground does not wear the hooves down sufficiently, trim them every 4-6 weeks. Also, checking for infections often and applying the required medication is advisable.
Remember to keep the afflicted sheep away from healthy ones to avoid spreading diseases. In addition, keep the area below the tail trimmed to prevent urine and feces from clinging to dense fur.
Finally, shearing should be done at least once a year to prevent the wool from habiting pests and becoming waterlogged.
Breeding Your Suffolk Sheep
Suffolk sheep reproduce fast. Well-fed rams have great libido and can work all year round with ewes nursing twins and sometimes triplets with minimal problems during birth.
If you’re keeping your flock for crossbreeding purposes, you need to control which ram mates with which ewe to maintain quality genetics.
Do suffolk sheep breed need to be sheared?
The Suffolk sheep breed needs shearing at least once a year. You can decide to shear your flock on your own or hire professional services. However, the shearing cost and difficulty involved will depend on the size of your herd.
How much space do a Suffolk sheep need?
Suffolk sheep need a minimum space of 6 x 4 x 3 inches. You can increase the shelter size as your flock grows and with your flock’s needs.
Luckily, Suffolk sheep can brave most climatic conditions and only needs three-sided shelters to escape extreme weather conditions like rain, sun, and snow.
What is poisonous to suffolk sheep breed?
All plants and chemicals poisonous to other herbivores will be deadly to Suffolk sheep. Ensure you eliminate common toxic plants like garden iris, holly, morning glory, and cruciferous vegetables from your flock’s grazing area.
Also, avoid feeding garden clippings and trimmings to your stock or disposing of them in places your animals can access.
In addition, regularly check your animals for symptoms of poisoning such as rapid deep breathing with weak pulses, unusual salivation, bluish discoloration on the gums, and muscle twitching.
Suffolk sheep breed makes excellent additions to any farmland. They don’t require much care and adapt well to most climates.
Whether for commercial or pet purposes, the Suffolks are satisfying to herd and produce tasty meat and quality wool.