Suffolks since childhood
SUFFOLKS have been a passion for Deva Weitman, since her grandfather gifted her some of the sheep when she was 12 years old.
Ms Weitman, who hails from Washington State, US, runs blue rock highlands and suffolks at Romsey, Victoria, with her husband Mark Clement.
One of Ms Weitman's ewes won supreme short wool interbreed exhibit at Sheepvention last year and she will return this year to defend the title.
The 1½ -year-old ewe was out of a blue rock ewe, sired by a kurrali ram from Neilrex in NSW. Its dam was sired by a cotter suffolk, from Beeac.
Ms Weitman said her interest in sheep brought her to Australia in 1989 on a youth exchange and she worked at a polwarth stud at Dunkeld.
About nine years ago, she and Mr Clement took over the Clement family farm, with their daughters Sequoia and Chenoa, and registered the stud in 2007.
"They're a very hardy breed that is easy to care for and the meat tastes fantastic,” Ms Weitman said.
"I like how they look and how they perform.”
Ms Weitman said the suffolk was originally from England and the breed began when a southdown ram was crossed with a norfolk horned ewe.
Mr Clement gave Ms Weitman a small flock of suffolks as a wedding present.
Ms Weitman said she sourced some of her ewes from a stud in NSW, while the rams had New Zealand blood.
"We replace the rams every few years, to suit which way we want to head.”
The couple use Australian sheep breeding values to help with making decisions.
They run 80 breeding ewes and three rams on 40ha and had reduced the number of highland cattle to five from about 25.
The family sells the offspring as stud rams and ewes privately, while a restaurant in Romsey takes a portion.
"We held a paddock to plate event in April, focusing on the breed,” Ms Weitman said.
"The meat is fine textured and sweet, with plenty of internal marbling. There's not as much external fat so there's not as much waste.”
She said farmers liked the suffolks because they had "a high lambing percentage” with plenty of twins and grew fast.
"If the conditions are right, we can have them at 70-75kg at 5½ months old for a ram lamb in a very good year,” Ms Weitman said.
"On good feed they will reach a prime lamb weight quickly.
"Those heavy ones were fed on a standing oat crop. Their feed conversion is good and they are heavy milkers.”
Ms Weitman said there was also plenty of interest from Chinese buyers who wanted breeding stock, and she had sent some suffolks to China in the past few years.
Ms Weitman and Mr Clement will take 11 ewes and rams to Sheepvention.
"We were surprised by the win because Hamilton is the centre for wool,” Ms Weitman said.
"But it was good that they saw the animal for what it is worth - great muscle and good structure. It's nice to have a beautiful animal, but it must serve a purpose.”