Derik Strauss, President of the Suffolk Sheep Breeders Society of SA, was born in Schweizer-Reneke, where he went to school and played rugby for the Pukke for three years. He went back to the farm in 2008 and started farming with his father.
The Suffolk is a meat breed that was bred from a Southdown ram that was crossed with a Norfolk ewe and originally came from Europe.
“I had my first ewes selected for stud in 2014, after I had a lot of difficulty obtaining stud ewes, and the ones that did come on the market were very expensive. It was quite difficult to find a name for my stud as many of the names were already in use at Stud Book, but luckily I was able to use the name Topchop. I believe this is exactly what you get from the breed and best and shortest describes it,” Derik says.
“I had a few cattle when I was very young that I got from my father and grandfather, but my father always sold the calves without me knowing,” he adds.
Then Derik decided at the age of 15 to sell his cattle to his father and buy sheep in their place, so that he could start a farm that was only his and whose sales and breeding he could easily control.
“I had pretty much tried everything before settling on meat merinos and farming with them for a long time. Then one day I saw a Suffolkram at my uncle’s, which immediately caught my eye and was incredibly beautiful to me,” says Derik.
He did not wait long, purchased a Suffolk ram, and used it on his SAVM ewes.
“The results were very impressive with the good growth and beautiful weanlings I got from the cross,” he says.
After a few years of owning rams that he had purchased, a breeder persuaded him to become a stud farmer, but “I didn’t want to bite the stud thing right away.”
“At one stage I had quite a few ewes that were starting to become purely Suffolk due to years of breeding and selection, and so I decided to get the process started, because there were very few breeders at that stage and no farmer near me who didn’t farm Suffolks,” he says.
Characteristics of the Suffolk breed:
- The Suffolk is a very good grower in intensive conditions such as, e.g., feedlots, which make them very popular among buyers and even make them pay premiums.
- At a young age, Suffolks are very fertile, and if you manage them well, they can have a lot of lambs.
- Suffolk ewes have very good maternal qualities and milk production.
- The meat is very juicy and has a unique taste that you will not find in any other breed.
- Suffolk lambs are easily recognisable where rams are used in crossbreeding programmes by the lambs’ furred faces or claws, especially when it comes to wool farmers, and they do not want to keep back crossbred lambs and thus affect their wool quality.
“We would like to become THE sheep breed that is found on every sheep farmer’s farm and the breed that is the preferred breed of every restaurant and butcher when it comes to mutton. We will try to offer courses more frequently in order to educate interested parties and new breeders about the breed, as well as attend ALL shows and farmer’s days where possible,” states Derik.