Easycare: wool shedding is only part of the story

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The Easycare breed has a continuing role to play within the sheep sector, according to Co Antrim flockowner Campbell Tweed.

“And the animals’ ability to naturally shed their wool is only one of the factors that make these sheep increasingly attractive to producers the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland,” he told members if the Northern Ireland Institute of Agricultural Science, who visited his Ballygally farm earlier in the week.

“The other drivers are the ability of ewes to lamb outdoors with little or no assistance, their excellent mothering abilities and the production, for the most part, of R grade lambs from flocks that are offered only grazed grass and silage.”

Tweed runs a flock of 2750 ewes on his upland farm, lambing in April. All the animals are performance recorded throughout the year.

“Last year only half a per cent of our ewes needed assistance at lambing,” he said.

“Mothers have an excellent supply of milk with most able to rear twin and triplet lambs without difficulty. In a normal year we will have lambs ready for market at around 19.5 kilos carcass weight by the end of August. Ewes with twins are stocked at a rate of six per acre. The equivalent stocking rate for those with singles is ten.

“Lambs will be drafted on a continuing basis from September onwards with grazed grass the sole feed source,” Tweed explained.

Ewes will start to shed their wool around the middle of May. They fall into three categories: bare, scruffy and rough.

“Bare sheep will lose all of their wool. Those in the other two categories will hold on to their wool to varying degrees. We will clip those sheep that retain a high proportion of their fleeces,” said Tweed.

Institute members were told that it is not profitable to produce wool at the present time. Moreover, sheep with heavy fleeces are more likely to go on their backs and they are more attractive to flies, thereby creating a maggot problem.

“In turn, this leads to the use of more chemicals,” Tweed pointed out.

“Last year, we only treated a total of 20 ewes for fly strike.”