Easy Care is a revolutionary breed of sheep which requires minimal shepherding and veterinary care, sheds its wool in the summer, does not need shearing and yet offers excellent meat yields and lambing ratios. The breed is now well established in Britain and abroad and is proving extremely popular and successful with breeders in today's farming environment. The Easy Care Sheep Society was formed to promote this wonderful breed and to ensure it's continued development.
Easycares exceed all expectations at Barony Agricultural College
A recently established flock of Easycare ewes at Barony College is set to expand in numbers following a successful first year.
The 60 ewe flock which was bought from the breed’s developer Iolo Owen, was established to investigate the alternative management options available in the modern sheep industry, explains flock manager Craig Drummond.
The flock is part of an ongoing Asda trial investigating high output, low input sheep systems, with the Easycare selectively bred for high welfare traits such as easy lambing and requiring less intervention at other times too, says Asda agricultural manager Pearce Hughes.
“The sheep require minimal treatment for fly strike and are far less likely to become stuck on their backs and there is no need to tail dock lambs either.”
The college farm has traditionally run a fairly intensive flock of Scotch Mules which has been lambed indoors and is a high input operation, says Mr Drummond. “I was keen to see if there was another way of doing things which would be equally profitable.
“So far the Easycare certainly look like they could fit the bill. The 60 ewes were tupped to a purebred ram lamb for the first 17 days and then Charollais and Beltex tups were used as sweepers. As it turned out only about 10 returned to the terminal sire tups and the flock scanned at 198%.”
With the lambs just weaned Mr Drummond says there have been very few losses, with 189% weaned from the ewes put to the tup. “The lambs have done really well on their mothers and the ewes have had an amazing amount of milk despite having had no concentrate feed at all.
“The flock lambed outside and with the kind spring we had this year outside lambing with the Easycares was far easier than the intensive indoor lambing with Scotch Mules.”
At the moment the Easycare flock is on course to outperform the Scotch Mules on rearing percentage. Lambs from both flocks will be sold on a deadweight basis to Welsh Country Foods via the Asda LambLink scheme.
As well as rearing a strong crop of lambs the ewes have maintained their condition well, possibly a little too well, he adds. “That is undoubtedly one of the challenges with the breed; keeping them from getting too much condition on them.
“But that’s not a bad thing, it just means we’ll be able to stock them tighter and carry a few more ewes. I’m looking at putting the Easycare numbers up to 200 ewes and using them as a way of expanding the flock without incurring too many extra overheads.
“The current sheep housing is perfect for the current Scotch Mule flock and can’t cope with any more numbers, so Easycare, lambed outside, allow us to increase flock size without having to erect new sheds or add any other infrastructure costs.”
“I am highly impressed; they look like they’ll have the output of a Scotch Mule with the inputs of a Blackface ewe, this breed has a very bright future.”
Flock manager Craig Drummond
A sheep’s worst enemy is another sheep”
This saying was very well known in my young days but since the dramatic advancement in the veterinary field it might not be quite so relevant, however there is no getting away from the fact that every sheep is competing with the others for forage and the denser the stocking the more problems with worms, foot rot and mismothering.
We can look back at another very successful season with a sound steady trade for our sheep at our three society sales. Our original sale at Worcester led the way with 1,137 females and 55 rams averaging £98 for ewe lambs, £148 for yearlings, £127 for order ewes and £540 for rams. Carlisle had 409 females averaging £100 and £300 for rams. Our new sale at Gaerwen had 200 females also averaging £100. There were a lot of local interest at this sale and several local farmers starting new flocks. In response to requests for a new sale to cover Yorks and Lincs we have arranged to have yet another sale at Thirsk on Saturday September 21st.
Our hosts for this, the tenth AGM and Open day of the Easy Care Society, were Councillor and Mrs John Thomas of Flemingston Court Farm. Every one enjoyed their generous hospitality and the well-organised tour round their farm that is 500 acres, organic, set in the beautiful Vale of Glamorgan. They have 500 Easy Care ewes, a good herd of Lincoln Red cattle, also horses and crops.
Our open day is at Flemingston Court, St Athans by kind permission of Councillor & Mrs John Thomas. We meet at the Flemingston village hall aptly named The Gathering Place at 10am on June 30th. After lunch, approximately 1pm we proceed to the Farm. Following the AGM we intend to have a discussion on marketing in its broadest sense with particular emphasis on brand name.