One of the world’s oldest Pedigree Sheep Societies, the Suffolk Sheep Society, is looking for a new Chief Executive following the announcement by the current CEO, Robin McIlrath, that he intends to retire at the end of 2022. Society Chairman, Michael Weaver, said “Robin had a conversation with me last December saying that he would be stepping down at the end of 2022, but he wanted to give the Society plenty of time to find a suitable replacement.”

Robin joined the Society in 2016 and has successfully navigated some of the most challenging issues facing the industry in general, and the Suffolk Sheep Society in particular during that time. Not least, the fallout of Brexit resulted in the South of Ireland and continental members of the Society no longer being included in the Society flock book, the first time this has happened in the 135 year history of the Society. Over the last 18 months Robin has been instrumental in helping the South of Ireland establish their own Society and obtain Zootechnical recognition by the Irish authorities which makes Suffolks the largest government recognised sheep breeding programme in the South of Ireland.

Although its Office is currently located in Northern Ireland, the Society is inviting applications from throughout the United Kingdom. Chief Executive Robin McIlrath said “one thing COVID lockdown has taught us all is how to work remotely and with flexibility. The mechanisms are already in place for the new CEO to work from anywhere in the UK as long as they have good internet coverage. Although there are no plans at the minute to move the office, the most important thing is to get the right person for the job, and there is plenty of time to put the necessary structures in place to support them.”  

Michael Weaver added “whoever takes over from Robin will find the Society in a strong place. Sales averages and clearances have been increasing year on year, we now have a very successful youth programme and our membership is increasing throughout the UK. We also have a strong presence in the commercial world with Suffolk genetics consistently delivering lambs at Fat Class 3 between 45-50kgs liveweight in the shortest time possible while still achieving R Grade or better.”

He went on to say “the skills now required for running a Society have changed over the years. The days of a breeder running the Society part time are in the past. I would equate the competencies needed for leading a commercially viable and forward-thinking Society to those of the MD of a small business where problem solving, marketing, brand management, finance and excellent communications along with exceptional people skills are more important than an in depth knowledge of lambing!”.

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