Spring 2011 Newsletter
The A.G.M will be held on 18th June 2011 at 10am at The Lakeside Inn, Brayton, Wigton, Cumbria, CA7 3PY. All members are requested to attend. The annual open day will follow the A.G.M. We will have a discussion on the future of the breed with particular reference to whether we allow any outside genetics to be introduced to improve the breed or not.
After a light lunch at the Inn we will be able to visit our hosts’ farm ‘The Garth Home Farm’ which is almost adjoining the Lakeside Inn and like the Inn is the property of Messrs Barry and his son Harry Ward who have a flock of 200 Easy Cares. On their farm also are a golf course, holiday cottages and a large fishing lake. They are a very interesting pair and I’m sure that everyone will find the visit most rewarding. The hotel we have chosen as our base is the Best Western Castle Inn Hotel at Bassenthwaite near Keswick, CA12 4RG, Tel 01768 776401. A spacious modern hostelry with swimming pool etc. We have reserved 20 rooms at a very favourable price of £100 per room b&b on Friday 17th June and £150 for dinner, bed and breakfast on Saturday 18th June, no doubt it will be a jolly gathering as previous years have been. Please book direct with the hotel quoting ‘Easy Care Sheep’
Meeting at Barony College, 14 March 2011
Fourteen members of the Easy Care Society attended who had previously expressed an interest in recording. Apologies were received from five others. Barony College was thanked for its kind hospitality.
The object of the meeting was to collate members’ thoughts, ideas and experience of recording with a view to suggesting future policy, and to hear the views of Barony College about the possibility of establishing an elite flock there and recording it.
The College has a flock of 400 including 60 recently acquired Easy Cares, as well as mules and half-breds, to demonstrate different breeds to the students and show them alternatives. They are very interested in welfare issues – the Easy Care fit well here. The flock has to pay its way – every thing is sold to ASDA. They do not envisage increasing their Easy Cares beyond a maximum of 100. Although there are plenty of students in early May they all go home on May 31st leaving the entire flock to the care of the four full time staff. It is a commercial college, not research orientated. However they would be interested in helping to develop and record an elite flock. It is early days for them – they have not yet had their first Easy Care lambs.
About the Barony college elite flock - the consensus was that there would be great benefits for the breed such as PR, advertising, publicity, and nothing to lose. The students would disseminate information to a wide area. However it was pointed out that a couple of years from leaving college students went native and reverted to the practices of their grandparents.
The flock would not be big enough alone for significant results but would benefit the breed. It would be impartial and neutral and act as a control or baseline. To acquire stock from many sources would bring disease problems, for example Barony is clear of foot rot. The flock would have to belong to the college and be managed by them.
An informal, friendly and constructive discussion took place.
About recording - how will recording benefit the breed?
Every one would like the benefits of recording without the work. How much input would it take to get a better output, a better carcase.
It must be kept simple: the DNA system is complicated. The consensus was that more people used the Signet system; it works and is simpler.
Information recorded about rams and brought to sale with them is very valuable. Some people wouldn’t buy without.
To get meaningful comparisons you need numbers. Everyone records separately: what are they recording? If not done properly it is useless fudging, there is no external verifier.
It is necessary to formulate a recording policy: a criterion of traits you want recorded
The need for identification and tagging at birth is in fundamental conflict with the easy care system of leaving them alone to get on with it. Lambs can’t be individually identified. Maternal characteristics can – twins, good feet and so on. It will take five years of input before meaningful information appears.
The easiest data to record are early characteristics but the important characteristics are late, i.e. breeding characteristics.
Lamb survival, ewe longevity and efficiency could be recorded, weight of ewe at tupping, weight of lamb at weaning.
Computer programmes can iron out some variables between one breeder and another.
It was suggested that ultimately there would be three types of Easy Care: upland, lowland and terminal sire.
When figures are published human nature tends to go for the biggest, it is important not to get bigger and bigger.
- Collaboration with Barony College is an excellent idea. Their flock must be under their control.
- Recording would be useful, must be simple, cheap and not interfere with the easy care system. The recording system must be standardised to achieve a large enough number to enable everyone’s data tobe compared. The Signet system seemed the best bet. More information will have to be obtained.
Easy Care essentials are shedding, no horns, easy lambing. Must be free to improve and move with the times.
As mentioned in the winter newsletter we have secured a deal with Allflex for double tags at £1 per pair which includes the words Easy Care so there would be no need for a third tag. Orders must go through the society stating: number required, holding and flock number, colour (not yellow red or black) and a cheque covering £1 per pair plus £2.50 postage and £12.50 for an applicator if needed.
Fees are now due at £25 including entries for stock for sale on the website. Our prophet of this year has been won by another Lancastrian, Mr Bowstead of Lancaster who qualifies for free membership. Close equal seconds were Charlie Russell, Glen App and Mr Garnett of Skipton. Thank you all for competing: better luck next time.
Don’t forget NSA open days: Machynlleth 18th May, Hexham 8th June, Paignton 15th June and our own in Cumbria on the 18th June. Also the society sales at Worcester 24th September and Carlisle 29th September
Iolo Owen M.B.E., F.R.Ag.S., N.Sch.