Members of the East Wicklow EasyCare (EWE) sheep group recently visited the Co. Antrim flock of Campbell Tweed.

His Ballygally farm is home to the largest and most genetically diverse flock of EasyCare bloodlines in Northern Ireland.

“And this is why we felt it so important to take the opportunity of seeing the sheep first hand,” confirmed EWE secretary, Lucy Tottenham.

“The group was established less than 12 months ago. We firmly endorse the benefits which EasyCare sheep can deliver, she explained.

“And in Campbell’s case we have the added benefit of his commitment to recording each individual ewe, ram and lamb across his entire flock.”

EasyCare operation

The Tweed EasyCare operation comprises 3,000 ewes with the farm extending to 1,600ac.

The available land comprises a combination of traditional hill and in-bye ground. However, the grassland area across the entire farm has been consistently improved over many years with continuous soil testing and lime application at the very heart of this process.

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.

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

“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  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 7t of wool on an annual basis,” Campbell further explained.

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

Members of the EWE group had the opportunity of viewing the various family lines within the Tweed flock up close.

They are committed to expanding their own EasyCare footprint, both in terms of breeding the sheep they already have, and bringing new blood lines into the flock development programmes, which they choose to follow.