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Secret pentelligence as Russians import prize Scots sheep

© DEREK IRONSIDE / NEWSLINE MEDIAIrene Fowlie with one of the Essie Suffolk sheep she sends to Russia
Irene Fowlie with one of the Essie Suffolk sheep she sends to Russia

The Russians are coming… but it’s our sheep that they are after.

Rams and ewes, bred on an Aberdeenshire farm, have caught the eye of Russian farmers. The flock have been reared by grandmother Irene Fowlie, whose stock is rated in the UK’s top 1%.

Irene, 67, who retired as an English teacher to concentrate on her sheep on the family farm, was asked to take part in agricultural show in Moscow in January and showed her herd online.

Shortly after, she was contacted by Russian farmers desperate to
buy her rams and breeding ewes.

“I nurture them the way I did my pupils, with plenty of encouragement and hard work,” said Irene.

“Point to any sheep in my flock of Essie Suffolks and I will tell you who its parents are, and probably the grandparents, too.

“They are 18-month-old shearings, who have had their first coat cut, and are reaching their prime.

“I am delighted that the Russians are interested. It’s a great compliment.

“The sheep undergo thorough testing by our vet to ensure they are completely healthy before travelling to their new homes in Russia.”

© DEREK IRONSIDE / NEWSLINE MEDIA
Irene with the Essie Suffolk

The transporters make stops en route and the sheep are rested at quarantined stations.

One of her best rams to date was born weighing 17lb and grew to eight-and-a-half stone. Irene’s family named him Superman.

At a few months old he stood almost taller than his mum, Bessie.

Irene added: “When I called the sheep registration body to register him they called back to double-check  his weight.

“He was a bit of a mummy’s boy, though. After he had his picture taken he raced back up the field and stuck like glue to her side.”