Ballycoose Farm hosts visit by students and staff members from North Carolina University

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Students and staff from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALF) at North Carolina State University recently visited Ballycoose Farm at Ballygally in Co Antrim.​

The visit was part of an itinerary drawn up to allow the group view a selection of farming systems now operating across the island of Ireland.

Ballycoose is owned by Campbell and Isobel Tweed. It is home to 3,000 EasyCare and Wiltshire Horn breeding ewes.

The flock is totally self contained. Selling elite, EasyCare genetics is a key driver of the Ballycoose business plan.

Campbell and Isobel Tweed recently hosted a visit by staff and students from North Carolina State University to their Ballycoose Farm at Ballygally in Co Antrim.Campbell and Isobel Tweed recently hosted a visit by staff and students from North Carolina State University to their Ballycoose Farm at Ballygally in Co Antrim.
Campbell and Isobel Tweed recently hosted a visit by staff and students from North Carolina State University to their Ballycoose Farm at Ballygally in Co Antrim.

Lynn Worley Davis was one of the CALF staff members in attendance. She explained that all of the visiting students had a strong background in livestock production, adding: “The farm visit provided us all with a real sense of how grass can play such a key role within a modern sheep production system.”

The entire Ballycoose enterprise is managed by three full time staff. This, in itself, is a very powerful illustration of what ‘EasyCare’ sheep management is all about.

Campbell took the decision of going down the self shedding route after the wool price crash of 1999.

His initial investment centred on the acquisition of Wiltshire Horn rams, which he purchased in Northern Ireland.

Up to that point the Ballycoose flock comprised a mix of Newton Stewart Blackface and Colbred ewes.

Within a relatively short period of years, he fully committed to the Easy Care breed, the first of which he imported from Iolo Owen in Wales.

The EasyCare is a composite breed of sheep comprising mostly Welsh Mountain and Wiltshire Horn bloodlines. It was developed almost 60 years ago with breed members specifically selected for their wool shedding and polled traits.

Ten years prior to his switch to self shedding sheep, Campbell had committed to complete animal recording within the flock.

“There is no splitting of the flock into groups. Each lamb is tagged at birth and, thereafter, electronically recorded on a regular basis throughout the period of its stay on the farm,” he explained.

“From a breeding point of view, we cull on a consistent basis.

“Obviously, we will assist any ewe that has a problem lambing. However, that female and her lambs will not be retained for further breeding purposes. Nor will we sell these animals on to other breeders: they are all sent for slaughter at the appropriate time.

“We take a similar approach, where lameness is concerned. Obviously, any animal can succumb to a problem of this kind. However, if the issue arises again, after the initial treatment, it will not be retained for breeding.”

Campbell believes that EasyCare sheep have a key role to play on sheep farms of all types.

He added:“They are particularly suited to flock owners who work out from 9.00am to 5.00pm between Monday and Friday.

“To a large extent, the sheep can manage themselves.”

Campbell is currently selling both breeding EasyCare ewes and lambs to flock owners throughout Ireland and the UK, adding:

“We are offering fully recorded stock that can add significantly to any sheep enterprise. Demand for EasyCare bloodlines is on the up and this trend shows no sign of diminishing.”

He is quick to confirm that the self shedding ability of the breed is a big selling point.

“Back when Blackface sheep were our main focus, we would have sold up to seven tonnes of wool on an annual basis,” Campbell further explained.

“Last year that figure dropped to around 600kg.”

On the back of the commitment to comprehensive sheep recording, demand for Ballycoose bloodlines is increasing on a truly international basis.

In 2020 EasyCare rams were selected by Shrewsbury based Farmgene Ltd. from the Ballycoose flock.

Progeny from this selection were sold very successfully in two sales in New Zealand this year

The 25 ewes from Ballycoose produced 250 high quality embryos for the New Zealand market.

“The sale of breeding stock, both rams and ewes, is an important driver for the business,” Campbell Tweed concluded.

“Animals are initially selected on the basis of their performance figures, after which full physical and health inspections are carried out.

“Some stock has already been spoken for this year.”

For further information, contact Campbell Tweed on 07802 835355