EasyCare 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-Moore