The ultimate fleece shedding, low maintenance, prime lamb sheep breed. Specifically bred for ease of lambing, low input costs and maximum meat production
Take the stress out of shepherding, use EasyCare (R) . The future of sheep farming
The EasyCareTM Sheep is a revolutionary breed of sheep which requires minimal shepherding and veterinary care, sheds its fleece in the summer, does not need shearing and yet offers excellent meat yields and lambing ratios. The fleece is kempy, leaving a dense hair covered in lanolin. The shed fleece rapidly decomposes as a natural soil conditioner. The breed seldom succumbs to heat stress yet the dense nature of their fleece means they can withstand harsh weather.
The ewes seldom require assistance at lambing. They have strong maternal instincts, are milky and will rear their lambs without human intervention.
The breed is a well-established commercial sheep with flocks of 1,000’s all over the UK, yet it is also an ideal sheep for the small holder. The rams can be used over other breeds to remove the wool. In three to four crosses the fleece should be shedding, this is ideal for hefted flocks as it means the flock remains on the hill yet acquires the benefits of the fleece shedding coat.
The breed is proving extremely popular and successful with breeders in today's farming environment. The EasyCareTM Sheep Society was formed to promote this wonderful breed and to ensure its continued development.
The Society has Society Sales in various regions of the UK. We also have the Annual AGM and Open Day at a different EasyCareTM breeder’s farm each year. The farm visits are viewed as an excellent way to meet new friends and network. We also attend National Sheep Association Events throughout the summer months.
The Society has Regional Co-ordinators who are all volunteers. They are there to help promote and discuss the breed with anyone who is interested in EasyCareTM Sheep. See theCo-Ordinators list for details.
From Amber Barton
I work for the AHDB and we currently have funding from DEFRA to help farms in England prepare for the coming changes in agriculture. It is free and AHDB aren’t a commercial organisation so are completely independent.
You are likely aware that from 2021 the area-based Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in England is being phased out over seven years and alternatives are being introduced, which marks a period of significant change and challenge for much of the agricultural industry. This shift in agricultural policy will have a serious impact on many farmers’ income, affecting the resilience and sustainability of their businesses.
We hope to help alleviate some of these pressures and help farmers navigate to a more secure future. With the funding secured from Defra, we have established a free Farm Business Review Service, which offers farmers a combination of an online self-assessment tool, expert advice and peer support to help businesses prepare for the loss of the BPS. Designed for grazing livestock and cereals and oilseeds producers who are most affected by the move away from direct payments, the online Farm Business Review tool includes the following elements:
• BPS Impact Calculator: How will BPS reductions impact your business?
• Business Resilience Assessment: Is your business fit and ready for the future?
• KPI Express Calculator: How well is your farm performing?
Our goal is to get 4,000 farms signed up to the tool to help individuals fully understand the implications of the loss of direct payments. This information will be supported by access to a half day 1:1 with a consultant who will provide an action plan of potential options to help individuals secure their business’ resilience, mitigate for the loss of income and plan for the future. Subsequently those with the greatest need for additional support will be offered bespoke on-farm advice to support specific areas of their business, such as Full-Farm Benchmarking, Carbon Audits and Agribusiness Appraisals.
Saturday 18th September 2021 sale of EasyCare sheep at Worcester saw a very strong demand for both males and females. Top of the males was a yearling ram from G & MC Shepherd, Preston. This quality yearling sold away after a fierce battle for 2,300gns. Purchasing the tup were JE & M Davies, Cefnoch, Aberystwyth.
Second top ram of the day came from Iolo Owen & Co, Angelsey with a yearling ram. This one sold for 1,350 guineas and went home with Mr F Lord, High Wycombe. It was a strong trade for all yearling rams with a further 5 selling over the 1,000 guinea mark.
The ram lambs topped at 300 guineas from Iolo Owen and Co selling to S Cammack.
Plenty of competition was seen through the female sale with yearling ewes topping at £210 per head for a pen from WE Cook. These sold to ML Strange, Pontypool. Behind these were a further two pens from WE Cook, both making £195 per head.
The top pen of ewe lambs came from Mr J King, they sold to a strong but merited £160 per head and found a new home with AV Verity, Worcestershire.
Top priced yearling ram 2,300 guineas Graham Shepherd to John Davies
Top priced senior ram 600 guineas Mike Coyne to Richard Owen
Top priced ram lamb 300 guineas Iolo Owen to S Cammack
Average overall ram price £527
Top priced yearling ewes £210 Richard Cook to M L Strange
Other yearling ewe prices £195, £190, £185, £180, £175, £162, £150, £140 & £138
Top priced ewe lambs £160 J King to AV Verity
Other ewe lamb prices £130, £115, £101, £105, £100, £95, £85 & £75
The myostatin gene in the EasyCare Breed
The myostatin gene in sheep denotes an increase in lean meat percentage and a reduction in fat content.
First discovered by scientists in Australia, the gene is most prevalent in the Texel breed, but luckily the EasyCare breed to some extent, also carries it.
When individual animals are tested for the gene, the results from the laboratory will signify a negative, a single copy myostatin denoted by a T+ or a Twin copy denoted as a T+T+, which is usually described as being a MYOMAX GOLD which is trademarked by Innovis and must not be used on adverts or in the market. It is a double myostatin gene carrier.
Breeders who need to improve their carcass grades in pure bred EasyCares, will find that by using a ram with a single copy myostatin, 50% of the progeny wil produce some 5% extra lean meat.
Those however, who use a ram with a twin myostatin copy will expect two advantages within their flock.
Firstly, all progeny will possess an extra 10% lean meat and 7% less fat content which means of course that lambs can be taken to extra weights before being penalised for being over fat.
The second advantage to using a double myostatin ram is that all of his progeny will carry at least one copy of the gene. This is of course a simple but effective way of introducing the myostatin gene to all replacement stock.
By persisting with a double copy ram, all the flock will carry the gene within four or five years.
It is worth emphasising that there are no disadvantages to introducing the myostatin gene. Any fear of lambing difficulties can be ignored, this is one element which we must retain at all costs and the presence of the gene has no effect on lambing ease.
One thing that is worth pointing out is that there is no connection between a myostatin carrier and growth rate and therefore it is a wise move to test only lambs which you feel are above average weights at testing time. Also only test rams without horns and who are fully fleece shedding, have sound legs, good jaw and teeth and good feet.
It goes without saying that it is absolutely vital that there is no cross contamination of blood samples as that will render the whole test a waste of time. Gloves must be used, new ones with each animal. You can also take nose swab samples to get the necessary fluid to test for the gene. You must get plenty of 'snot' on the swab.
It is worth repeating that there are no negative effects to the gene and that you can proceed with confidence of a positive outcome for carcass improvement. The percentage of O grades will decrease significantly and R3Ls with some U's will dominate the grading sheets.
If you are considering testing for myostatin it is good practice to also include request for a scrapie test as well.
All test results must be shown to the purchaser prior to sale and must go with the animal when sold.
By Huw Thomas [edited and updated by Louise Hobson]
Neogen in Ayr can be used to test the samples. Ring 01292 525600 and ask them to email you a form and sampling informationRead more
Another good reason to own EasyCare sheep.
From an article in The Courier by Gemma Mackenzie May 9 2020, 7.26am
Wool prices will be severely impacted by the Covid-19 crisis for the next 12-18 months, warns British Wool.
The wool marketing body, which is owned by approximately 40,000 sheep farmers across the UK, says the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on global demand.
The organisation’s chief executive, Joe Farren, said British Wool experienced reduced demand for wool from the Chinese market in January. Thereafter, the global market for wool from cross-bred sheep slowed significantly in February, and it has been shut since March.
Mr Farren said the period between February and May was usually the busiest selling period of the year, and as a result of market closures the body has around an extra 7 million kg of unsold wool from 2019, on top of 3m kg of wool normally handled at this time of year.
He said: “The severe, hopefully short- term, drop in demand for wool products coupled with the huge global overhang in cross-bred wool stocks from the 2019 season is likely to severely impact prices for the next 12-18 months.
“It will also make our longer term objective of repositioning British Wool as a premium product more challenging.
“However, finding new demand for our wool in China at attractive prices will be a key driver of the early stages of recovery in British Wool prices.
“We must be more determined than ever in this objective.”
He said British Wool’s depots and collections sites were ready to start receiving wool, and protocols are in place to ensure the safety of producers and British Wool staff.
The National Sheep Association welcomed confirmation that depots and collection sites were open for business.
The association’s chief executive, Phil Stocker, said: “With so much uncertainty generally, we welcome that we are in a situation where shearing gangs can operate and wool can be moved.
“However, the news of the carryover of 10m kg, nearly a third of British Wool’s annual clip, is less welcome, although the UK is not alone in this.
“Fortunately, most British sheep farmers are used to wool covering shearing and handling costs and often not a lot more, with few farmers relying on wool values for a living.”Read more
EasyCareTM Open Day
On the last weekend of June, the EasyCare Sheep Society held their annual Open Day. With interest in the breed continuing to grow, and the low maintenance, wool-shedding, lamb finishing breed, looking all the more attractive to forward-thinking farmers, this year’s Open Days were set to be a success, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.
Saturday saw EasyCare stalwarts and new faces alike enjoy the hospitality of James and Rachel Barton at their farm near Gainsborough. Historically more arable based, it was their son Chris who initiated the introduction of EasyCare sheep to the business, and since then both generations have come to appreciate the breed.
The guests had the chance to see a range of their stock, including freshly weaned ram lambs, rams, and ewes. Throughout the morning we heard of the fantastic ability of the EasyCare breed to meet retail specifications - from supermarket buyers themselves no less! – and how the low labour costs and reductions in chemical and medicine use (due to reduced fly strike risk, good feet, and resilience to worms) of the EasyCare breed will be vital for sheep producers as the industry moves forward into the unknown, and increasingly challenging business environment.
The afternoon saw the day move to James and Rachel’s other farm unit, where EasyCare lambs were being finished, along with a shed of Holstein x Belgium Blue cattle.
The Barton’s cross a percentage of their EasyCares to a Beltex tup, and it was interesting to see and hear of the differences between those and their pure EasyCare lambs.
Agrimin, a trace element and mineral product company were on hand to give a brief overview of the importance of blood testing stock (once every one or two years) and working with your vet and/or abattoir to liver sample for nutritional deficiencies. The Agrimin representative, Tom, demonstrated the correct bolusing procedure – straight into the mouth, not at the side like wormers - while shepherd for the flock, Oliver, talked of his experience with bolusing and his belief in its success in improving lambing percentage and lamb vigour at birth.
The Society dinner on Saturday night proved a success with three courses of lovely food, and drinks and conversation flowing. No doubt a later start on Sunday morning was appreciated by a few members!
Sunday morning's farm visit was hosted by Andrew and Simon Casswell and family. It included a thoroughly interesting tractor trailer tour and presentation, surrounding their work on farming within a Higher Level Stewardship scheme including wetland grazing and lapwing habitat management, and how they manage to incorporate both grazing and forage crops for their EasyCare sheep into the arable rotation. With the suggestion of ‘public money for public goods’ fresh in people’s minds, their knowledge and experiences proved to be of great interest to the group.
Throughout the weekend, chat amongst those gathered focused on dispelling the myths surrounding the EasyCare breed; its value as both a maternal ewe and prime lamb producer was of particular notability, with many who currently run EasyCare flocks expressing their delight at its low labour and maintenance requirements, whilst also meeting optimum grades for retailers and the export market with low feed inputs.
The future of the sheep industry was discussed, no doubt some have acquired new tups for the coming Autumn, and enthusiasm and passion for the EasyCare breed ran high, with the opportunity to see different systems and learn from others – as always – of great value to all those that attended.
Many thanks to all those involved with organisation of the Open Day weekend, and to both families for opening up their farm gates to the masses!
Please watch this space for details of the 2020 annual AGM and Open Day
Georgie Gater-MooreRead more
EasyCare sheep are not pedigree nor are they 'registered', nor do we have a flock book. The Original True EasyCare sheep have been bred over the last 50 years by Iolo Owen at his farm on Anglesey. The Original True EasyCare sheep is one derived from his flock. That sheep is derived from mixing breeds and a lot of hard work.Read more