Producer profile: Woolley’s Lamb, Simcoe, Ontario

By Cathy Gallivan, PhD Schuyler Farms Limited, located near Simcoe, Ontario, consists of 3,000 acres of corn and soybeans, 700 acres of apples, 550 acres of sour (pie) cherries, and 400 acres of pasture and woodlot. The farm is run by brothers Brett and Ryan Schuyler,...

Feed for Profit: Mineral Supplementation

by Dale Engstrom, M.Sc., P.Ag I am often asked about using free-choice loose and block minerals. Are they needed? Do they do a good job of providing essential nutrients to sheep? Are they cost effective? Let’s start by reviewing what minerals are. Minerals fit into...

Drover’s Way Farm, Perth, Ontario

Story by Cathy Gallivan, PhD, Photos by Allison Taylor, PhD Oliver and Sarah Loten have been raising sheep for 20 years and, like most sheep farmers, have made a lot of changes to their flock and their management in that time. They started on a hobby farm near...

Producer Profile: Millferns Holsteins, Lower Onslow, NS

Story & photos by Cathy Gallivan, PhD I met with Fred and Anne Hamilton on a sunny day in early July, on the farm that has been in Fred’s family since the expulsion of the Acadians in 1760. The original land grant was 1,000 acres. By 1802, the family had eight...

Producer Profile: Red Willow Colony, Stettler, AB

Story by Peggy Johnson, Photos by Tracy Hagedorn After months of winter gloom, it was wonderful to drive across central Alberta on a sunny morning and experience the magic of spring: soft green of new leaves emerging from tree buds, the hint of grass in the roadside...

Producer Profile: Catto Sheep Farm, Lipton, SK

Story & photos by Stuart Chutter Martin and Louise Catto farmed in Scotland prior to moving to Canada almost 15 years ago. Although their principal enterprise was dairy farming, they would purchase 500 ewes each year in the fall, lamb them out in the spring and...

Producer Profile: Bouw Farms, Dugald, Manitoba

Story & photos by Cathy Gallivan, PhD On a cold, grey, October day, I met with Stefan Bouw on his family’s farm about 20 miles east of Winnipeg. I visited Stefan to talk about their recently established sheep flock but, as is often the case, discovered that the...

Producer Profile: Shepherd’s Choice, Norwood, ON

By Cathy Gallivan, PhD Photos by Allison Taylor, PhD At a time when more producers than ever are turning to accelerated lambing, one couple who tried it for eight years has made the decision to go back to lambing once a year. John and Eadie Steele have been raising...

Pasture Lambing in Barrhead County, Alberta

By Cathy Gallivan, PhD Photos by Tracy Hagedorn Back in 2008, Bernadette Nikkel and Darlene Stein bought a small flock of 30 ewes and shared it, so that each of them had something to use to train their Border Collies. Four years later, they and their families are...

Producer Profile: Springwater Farm, Albion Cross, PEI

Story & photos by Cathy Gallivan, PhD George and Melaney Matheson have literally gone back to the land. George grew up on the farm where they now raise sheep, hay and straw, but the land was sold when his father retired in 1974. The house was kept in the family,...

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Producer profile: Woolley’s Lamb, Simcoe, Ontario

By Cathy Gallivan, PhD Schuyler Farms Limited, located near Simcoe, Ontario, consists of 3,000 acres of corn and soybeans, 700 acres of apples, 550 acres of sour (pie) cherries, and 400 acres of pasture and woodlot. The farm is run by brothers Brett and Ryan Schuyler,...

Feed for Profit: Mineral Supplementation

by Dale Engstrom, M.Sc., P.Ag I am often asked about using free-choice loose and block minerals. Are they needed? Do they do a good job of providing essential nutrients to sheep? Are they cost effective? Let’s start by reviewing what minerals are. Minerals fit into...

Drover’s Way Farm, Perth, Ontario

Story by Cathy Gallivan, PhD, Photos by Allison Taylor, PhD Oliver and Sarah Loten have been raising sheep for 20 years and, like most sheep farmers, have made a lot of changes to their flock and their management in that time. They started on a hobby farm near...

Producer Profile: Millferns Holsteins, Lower Onslow, NS

Story & photos by Cathy Gallivan, PhD I met with Fred and Anne Hamilton on a sunny day in early July, on the farm that has been in Fred’s family since the expulsion of the Acadians in 1760. The original land grant was 1,000 acres. By 1802, the family had eight...

Producer Profile: Red Willow Colony, Stettler, AB

Story by Peggy Johnson, Photos by Tracy Hagedorn After months of winter gloom, it was wonderful to drive across central Alberta on a sunny morning and experience the magic of spring: soft green of new leaves emerging from tree buds, the hint of grass in the roadside...

Producer Profile: Catto Sheep Farm, Lipton, SK

Story & photos by Stuart Chutter Martin and Louise Catto farmed in Scotland prior to moving to Canada almost 15 years ago. Although their principal enterprise was dairy farming, they would purchase 500 ewes each year in the fall, lamb them out in the spring and...

Producer Profile: Bouw Farms, Dugald, Manitoba

Story & photos by Cathy Gallivan, PhD On a cold, grey, October day, I met with Stefan Bouw on his family’s farm about 20 miles east of Winnipeg. I visited Stefan to talk about their recently established sheep flock but, as is often the case, discovered that the...

Producer Profile: Shepherd’s Choice, Norwood, ON

By Cathy Gallivan, PhD Photos by Allison Taylor, PhD At a time when more producers than ever are turning to accelerated lambing, one couple who tried it for eight years has made the decision to go back to lambing once a year. John and Eadie Steele have been raising...

Pasture Lambing in Barrhead County, Alberta

By Cathy Gallivan, PhD Photos by Tracy Hagedorn Back in 2008, Bernadette Nikkel and Darlene Stein bought a small flock of 30 ewes and shared it, so that each of them had something to use to train their Border Collies. Four years later, they and their families are...

Producer Profile: Springwater Farm, Albion Cross, PEI

Story & photos by Cathy Gallivan, PhD George and Melaney Matheson have literally gone back to the land. George grew up on the farm where they now raise sheep, hay and straw, but the land was sold when his father retired in 1974. The house was kept in the family,...

Story & photos by Rob Fensom

I have lived in Canada for 30 summers now, having spent roughly half my time on the prairies and half in the southern interior of British Columbia. Most of that time I have been ranching, and one thing that is often glaringly obvious is the mismatching of livestock to location.

Hailing from Britain as I do, where every county or area has its specific breed of sheep, cow, pig, duck or chicken, I find it strange that folks here buy with the heart not the head, keeping the breeds they like even if they are ill suited to the area where they live. This seems to be a bigger problem with small farms than with larger-scale operations. Of course, it’s probably easier to ignore the financial lesson being doled out by owning tropical sheep on a bald prairie with eight months of winter when you have only 20, rather than 200 or 2,000 animals.

It’s always easier to spot our neighbours’ mistakes than our own, so to begin with I will use Britain as an example. No shepherd there would dream of taking Dorset ewes up to the highlands of Scotland and swapping them for Scottish Blackface ewes to take back to the rolling fertile pastures of Dorset County. The Blackface ewes would become overly fat, with many not breeding, and those that did would end up with more lambs than they knew what to do with, along with many foot problems and a few cases of bloat. The Dorsets in Scotland would no doubt lose condition, some would not breed, and many that normally have twins would only have singles. All of the above would make for stressed sheep, stressed shepherds and empty bank accounts.

Sheep Canada

Now to bring this closer to home, I will use my own experience as the bad example. Remember, you know nothing without experience, and the man who hasn’t made any mistakes probably didn’t do a lot either. The trick is to learn by other’s mistakes, it’s a lot cheaper!

I used to ranch in southern Manitoba, we ran sheep, cattle and goats. The sheep were mostly Dorset/Suffolk crosses and suited for our area and management. Then one day I went and fell in love with Columbias, a huge wool breed with lambs that finish at 140 pounds, with lovely fine wool and a low lambing percentage that often goes hand in hand with easy care sheep. Not only did I pick a breed that was ill suited to our economic needs and management style, but I hauled them in from Maple Creek, Saskatchewan (a dry, short-grass area) into a moist park-like setting with grass up to our underwear.

I thought our plentiful grass would increase the lamb crop, but it was like lettuce compared to the granola-like, nutrient-dense stuff in Maple Creek. No extra lambs appeared the next spring, and over two years the wool clip value dropped as the wool became coarse, going from the fineness of silk to the thickness of bristles on a wire brush. It took four years of denial before I smartened up and got rid of the Columbias. As Red on television’s That 70s Show would say, “what a dumbass”. Buying breeds with the heart instead of the head will do that to a fellow.

Now I’m not telling you to sell off your sweethearts and study up on climate, grass and livestock to get a winning combination. But if you want to improve your bottom line, and even with all your tender loving care your gals are not coming up with the goods, maybe it’s time to do a little investigating. Believe me, it’s quicker to destock and buy the right breed than try to upgrade a breed that is a poor fit.

These days we ranch in British Columbia and rotationally graze irrigated pasture. This requires a high degree of management and needs a good return for all the labour of moving electric net fencing and irrigation pipes.

The mothering-up paddock in April, grazing started on April 29th in 2009.

The mothering-up paddock in April, grazing started on April 29th in 2009.

In playing with breeds, I bought in older ewes from small flocks that were being sold. There is some disease risk to doing this, but it has worked out well. We got Dorsets, Romneys and Suffolks. Our pastures are lush and green, and are grazed four to six times a season, so we need a breed that can make good use of these conditions.

The Dorsets and Romneys are coming up trumps, as the conditions here are similar to where these breeds come from. The Suffolks are not doing as well, unless their lambs are sired by the Dorset ram – the Dorset genetics seem to make better use of the grass. Romneys are also a lush grass-type animal, with the added bonus of worm and footrot resistance, as they come from Romney Marsh, a wet lowland in Kent, England.

The Suffolks hail from a grain-growing area of England, and were used to clean up crop land in the fall, and no doubt became accustomed to some grain. The ones I had seemed to be poor milkers on grass, and their lambs did not do as well as the other two breeds, so they had to go. They have now been sold, not because they were bad sheep (they did 175%), but because their lambs in our system did not finish on grass, which is what we require.

So remember, no rash moves, but take a closer look at where your breed comes from and do some looking at your pasture type and weather records. Maybe it’s time to end that love affair and start shepherding with your head. Your bank account will thank you for it.

 

Rob Fensom ranches in the southern interior of British Columbia and is a grazing mentor to those in need. He has been known to graze any type of critter for a buck.