Suffolk sheep are the product of a Norfolk Horn ewe cross with a Southdown ram. They were developed in Suffolk, England and earliest records of the breed date back to 1797. By 1901, the breed had expanded to the rest of Great Britain, and not long after Suffolk sheep were exported to many parts of Europe, North America and other colonies. Suffolks were traditionally bred for mutton. However, recent years have seen breeders adapt the type to meet market demands.
Suffolk sheep are large-framed animals, bred primarily as terminal sires to produce quality prime lamb. For meat production, they are particularly conducive to a cross with a mountain ewe. They are known for their climatic adaptability, foot disease resistance, parasite resistance, high fertility, longevity and easy lambing. In ideal conditions, Suffolk lambs are ready for market at nine to 12 weeks. Their quality carcase is recognised for its lean supply of meat.
Mature rams typically weigh between 113 and 159 kilograms, while mature ewes reach weights between 81 and 113 kilograms. Mature ewes produce fleece at weights between 2.25 and 3.6 kilograms, yielding between 50 percent and 62 percent. Their fleece falls into the ‘medium-type' category and typically measures between 25.3 to 33 microns, with a staple length between 5 and 8.75 cm. When crossed with a Merino, their wool is suitable for home spinners.
It is thought that Suffolk sheep first arrived in Australia in the early 1880s. However the 1903 importation from England by Albury breeder GR Jackson is accepted as the ‘first stock' to arrive. Today, the Suffolk Sheep Society of Australia provides a registry and information for breeders of Suffolk sheep.