Sheep Canada – Winter 2011

Sheep Canada - Winter 2011 Table of Contents
4: Greetings from Deerville
5: Producer Profile: Miles & Alyssa Driedger, Olds, AB
13: Slow lambing leads to asphyxiation in newborn lambs
16: Sheep research updates
18: Subscription and Buyer’s Guide forms
19: Buyer’s Guide
22: Advertisers’ index
23: Natural health remedies for sheep: iodine
26: Baxter Black: A run of bad luck
27: Hook, line and stinker
29: Ivomec resistance revisited
30: Wool the most comfortable fibre
31: Copper poisoning: is that why my sheep died?
33: NB sheep producers tour NS operations

Sheep Canada – Fall 2011

Sheep Canada - Fall 2011 Table of Contents
4: Greetings from Deerville
5: Producer Profile: L5 Farms Ltd., Southey, SK
9: Anatomy of a simple but useful handling system
13: First annual Rideau Focus Day held
14: Reality TV: The Farm Channel
15: Natural health rememdies for sheep:kelp
18: Buyer’s Guide
24: Advertiser index
25: Baxter Black: The scars to prove it
26: 31st Annual Atlantic Sheep Sale, Truro, NS
27: Grasslands Canadian Classic, Drake, SK
29: A shepherd’s trip to the Classic
32: It’s not rocket science
33: Are your dogs part of the C. ovis problem?

Producer Profile: L5 Farms, Ltd., Southey, SK

Story & photos by Cathy Gallivan, PhD

July 21st was a gloriously sunny day as I drove 30 minutes north of Regina to visit Trent and Sandy Larson at their sheep operation along the beautiful Qu’Appelle River valley. It was a busy day for the Larsons, who kindly made time to talk to me smack in the middle of haying season and with a new barn going up in the yard.

Trent and Sandy started raising sheep on an acreage near Stony Plain, Alberta, in 2002, when Trent was working as a police officer with the City of Edmonton. In 2006, they decided to expand their operation, and came to Saskatchewan in search of more affordable land. A retiring grain farmer sold them 620 acres, they put up some fences and small shelters and moved their flock of 80 ewes from Alberta. The flock now stands at 370 head, including ewe lambs, and is entirely descended from the original Alberta ewes.

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The Larsons started with Romanovs for high prolificacy and out-of-season breeding ability, then added Dorset genetics to improve the lamb carcass while retaining the aseasonality. They are now using Rideau Arcott rams to sire replacement ewe lambs in an effort to add more milk; the first of the Rideau Arcott crosses are lambing this year. Texel and Canadian Arcott rams are used as terminal sires.

The new lambing barn measures 40 x 100’.

The new lambing barn measures 40 x 100’.

Trent and Sandy lamb three times per year – in December/January, April/May and August/September. The entire ewe flock goes out to pasture in the summer time, but lambs are weaned, kept in the yard and fed a pelleted ration plus free-choice hay. Trent makes his own hay, but purchases all the concentrates the flock requires.



Trent sees lots of opportunity for expansion in the industry. He says the demand is there for a Canadian product, and the industry needs to take advantage of it. But with many Canadian sheep farmers being close to retirement age, and many others limited to hobby operations, the Canadian industry needs young farmers to run larger flocks and/or lamb more often than once per year.

Sheep Canada: The old lambing barn was extended by the use of three fabric garages, joined end to end.

The old lambing barn was extended by the use of three fabric garages, joined end to end.

The Larsons are definitely in expansion mode. The new barn (40’ x 100’) will serve as the lambing barn, freeing up the older hip-roofed barn for the lambs reared on milk replacer and the rams. More corrals will be built to tie the new barn in with the rest of the existing facilities. They are also making the switch from hand-feeding to self-feeding lambs in the feedlot. The goal is to have 600 ewes, producing a 200% lamb crop every eight months, for a total of 1,800 lambs sold per year. From there, they might expand to 1,000 ewes, if they can acquire the land to support a flock of that size.

Sheep Canada: The ‘tunnel’ addition provided space for ewes to drop lambs before being moved into the old barn.

The ‘tunnel’ addition provided space for ewes to drop lambs before being moved into the old barn.

A key to meeting this goal is having the ewes conceive for the lambings they are scheduled for. Trent and Sandy have learned that the rams do a better job of breeding the ewes during the hot days of summer when they are confined to about five acres, rather than running on 80 acres.

Ewes are exposed for fall lambing without any assistance from artificial hormones or light control, and the results are good: 80% of ewes exposed in the spring go on to lamb in the fall. Ewe lambs are selected from all three lambings, and exposed to lamb at one year of age. Ewe lambs born in the fall, however, usually end up lambing for the first time in the winter at 16 months of age.



Ewes are sheared prior to each lambing. Lambing rates are highest in the spring lambing, when the flock drops around 225% with 200% marketed. With a high percentage of ewe lambs in the flock, the average is closer to 200% dropped and 190% marketed. Ewes routinely raise three lambs, depending on the season and their condition, but about 80 lambs a year are raised on milk replacer.

Sheep Canada: The tunnel was surprisingly bright inside.

The tunnel was surprisingly bright inside.

Trent finds that the Rideau Arcotts and Dorsets adapt well to confinement. They thrive on the pasture in the summer (in the company of a guard dog), but choose to come in to the yard in the evenings as it gets dark.

An effective handling system located inside an old grain bin allows for rapid processing of sheep and lambs in any weather. Ewes are vaccinated for clostridial diseases every year in the fall, and lambs at one month of age. Ewes are wormed prior to lambing in the spring and fall, but not before the winter lambing.

Most of the lambs are marketed as feeders at around 90 lb., which keeps them moving through the facilities in time for the next group of lambs to be born and fed.

The flock has Romanov, Dorset and Rideau Arcott bloodlines.

The flock has Romanov, Dorset and Rideau Arcott bloodlines.

Trent and Sandy are strong proponents of the advantages of traceability equipment. Lambs are RFID-tagged and numbers are read automatically with a Psion tag reader as the lamb steps in the scale. The scale is electronic but not connected to the Psion, so Sandy reads the lamb’s weight from the scale head, then types it into the Psion where it is stored with the tag number for later downloading into the computer. Using this system, the Larsons can move a group of 440 lambs through the system and weigh them in about three hours.



In addition to farming, Trent does construction/renovation work in the community. He and Sandy have three children (Jocelyn, Nolan and Megan) who keep them very busy as well.

This round bale feeder was constructed from galvanized wire panels. The lambs are able to push it around and eat the whole bale, but they do lose an ear tag occasionally.

This round bale feeder was constructed from galvanized wire panels. The lambs are able to push it around and eat the whole bale, but they do lose an ear tag occasionally.

Trent also makes time to be actively involved in the industry, serving as a director on the Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board, and also as Saskatchewan’s representative to the Canadian Sheep Federation (CSF). Trent says the CSF’s greatest value is the knowledge and advancements that can be gained through communication and cooperation with farmers across the country.

There is no doubt that Trent and Sandy are ready to do what they can to help the Canadian industry meet its objective of expansion; having spent a short time with them, I left feeling more optimistic about the future.

Sheep Canada – Summer 2011

Sheep Canada - Summer 2011 Table of Contents
4: Greetings from Deerville
5: Dealing with flystrike
9: Farmageddon
14: Market wishes versus farm and ranch practicalities
16: Little things mean a lot
18: Subscription & Buyer’s Guide forms
19: Buyer’s Guide
23: Natural health rememdies for sheep: diatomaceous earth
25: Baxter Black: The high price of hay
26: Canadian Sheep Breeders’ Association meets in Truro, NS
27: Manipulating sheep per acre to control parasites
30: Sheep and goat industries hire new scrapie coordinator
31: Revisions to Code of Practice for sheep underway
32: Wool market update
33: Peru – land of Incas, Conquistadors and hardy sheep

Dealing With Flystrike

Story & photos by Anne Switzer

Last year was one of rain, rain and more rain. Our regular shearer did not show up on two separate occasions in May and June, and we had been scrambling to find another shearer but not having any luck.

On August 6th we discovered to our horror that one of our ewes (Wendy) had flystrike.  Flystrike is a condition that occurs in the summertime when blow flies lay their eggs on the soiled hindquarters of sheep. These eggs hatch into larvae (maggots), which feed on the skin and flesh of the sheep.

Wendy was much more comfortable after being washed, sheared, and treated.

Wendy was much more comfortable after being washed, sheared, and treated.

I have no idea how long Wendy had been in trouble before we realized it. We do check our sheep every day, but there was one week when we hadn’t been able to get out to see them until after nightfall, and therefore did not see her condition as soon as we should have.

Wendy’s coat appeared to be wet, and when we looked closer we discovered the area was infested with maggots – it was horrible to look at and smelled just awful.



After a fast trip to the vet for advice and supplies, we washed the maggots off with cold water, and treated her with injectible ivermectin, long-acting penicillin, and something for pain. We sprayed the area with scarlet (wound) spray and covered it with an old T-shirt. We sprayed the rest of her with fly spray and kept her inside.

The shearer arrived the next day and we sheared her in a standing position. We then washed and patted dry the affected area, applied more scarlet spray and gave her another injection for pain. We covered her hindquarters with a clean T-shirt to keep the area as clean and dry as possible. She was feeling a little better by now, and starting to eat again. Her milk supply had decreased, however, and we were supplementing her lamb.

Wendy on Day One, after clipping and washing off the maggots.

Wendy on Day One, after clipping and washing off the maggots.

We washed and treated her twice a day for the first few days, and continued the pain treatment for the first three days. By the third day Wendy was feeling even better and eating more aggressively.



On the fourth day, at the suggestion of Dr. Tim Slemp, we started applying honey to the damaged area. The honey was much less painful on her raw skin than the scarlet spray had been, and her recovery seemed to really speed up from this point on.

A few days later, Wendy’s milk was coming back and her lamb began to nurse again, and a couple of days later we were able to stop the bottle feeding altogether.



We continued the washing and other treatments for two weeks. Four weeks after the treatments began, there was soft fleece coming in all over her back and hindquarters.


Wendy’s fleece regrew and she raised triplets in 2011.

Wendy’s fleece regrew and she raised triplets in 2011.

Anne Switzer is a small flock owner and photographer living near Medicine Hat, Alberta.


Sheep Canada – Spring 2011

Sheep Canada - Spring 2011 Table of Contents
4: Greetings from Deerville
5: Use of the Booroola gene to increase ewe productivity
13: RFID: How to buy a tag reader
18: Subscription & Buyer’s Guide forms
19: Buyer’s Guide
22: Brian Trenholm retires
23: Natural health rememdies for sheep: probiotics
25: Baxter Black: Samantha and Braveheart
27: What a marking harness can tell you
29: Alberta announces $900,000 to help pay for RFID tags
31: Sheep may well be smarter than you think
32: Ian Brown: rent-a-ram
33: Back to Back in the Shuswap
35: Producer profile: Beverly Creek Farm, Burlington, ON

What A Marking Harness Can Tell You

By Jim Morgan, PhD

Many flocks use marking harnesses on their breeding rams to help manage their lambing ewes. They are not 100% in catching all matings but, in our flock about 90% of the time, the marks do identify the mating that leads to the ewe becoming pregnant. Typically, a shepherd will use a light colour for the first cycle and then near the start of the second cycle change to a different colour. In our flock, the colour of the crayon is changed on day 14 or 15.

Prior to the start of lambing, based on the markings, it is possible to make a chart of the predicted order in which the ewes will lamb. In our system, the vast majority of ewes lamb at 145-149 days. When walking through the flock, it saves time to only have to closely look at the ewes that are predicted to be near lambing. We find it useful.

But what else can a marking harness tell you?

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Ram fertility
One year, every ewe in one breeding group marked in the first 15 days. Then at day ten in the second cycle, after we changed the colour of the marking crayon, every ewe was marked again. It told us that the ram wasn’t very fertile. If only one or two ewes had been marked with a different colour, we would have blamed those ewes. A marking harness can alert you to an infertile or sub-fertile ram when there is still time to do something about it, which is much better than finding out months later when ewes fail to lamb.



Managing a prolapsing ewe
About one out of 80 lambing ewes will prolapse in our system. Knowing when the ewe is predicted to lamb helps us decide how to manage that prolapsing ewe. If there is only a week left before the expected lambing date, we would use a harness. If she still has three or four weeks to go, we would probably resort to suturing.

Late gestation nutrition
Early in our shepherding careers, we noticed that the average gestation length in our flock increased from 147 to 150 days and our lambs were born about 1.5 lb. lighter on average (several 6.5 to 7.5 lb. lambs). Both of these were quantifiable. It seemed that it took two days after birth before any of the lambs were hopping around. The vast majority of the lambs were pretty lethargic. But the behavioural observation fit with the other data and we concluded that our flock had had some adverse nutritional event during late gestation.

Ewes switching breeding groups
One year we were using a green crayon for a ram in one breeding group and a yellow crayon for another ram in a different breeding group. After the third cycle, I noticed a yellow marked ewe in the green group. After checking eartags, we realized we had a ewe that went over or through two 32” electrified cross-fences and around some electric netting. Never would I have considered that a ewe would do that, since we rarely have ewes that get out. I now use different coloured crayons for every ram in their separate breeding pastures. This is important for maintaining accurate sire records.

Changing rams in a breeding group

When registering lambs, it is important to know which ram sired your lambs. A safe waiting period between two rams is ten days or maybe even two weeks. When using harnesses, you can shorten the period between taking one ram out and putting another one in to four days. Rarely have I seen a ewe that will breed for longer than 36 hours. You can be certain that a ewe that didn’t get marked by the first ram and then did get marked four days later by a new ram was bred by the second ram. But this only works if the shepherd goes out every day and looks for newly marked ewes.

It is important to watch lambing dates. If the gestation length for a ewe doesn’t make sense in terms of who you think the sire is, then it is best to either blood test the lambs or not register them.

Open ewes
In our system, about one out of 20 or 30 ewes doesn’t get marked, but most of them usually go ahead and lamb.

More rarely, we have ewes that don’t lamb. Most of these ewes are good candidates for culling, but marking records can tell us whether the ewe did not cycle at all (no marks), or cycled repeatedly but did not conceive (marked every cycle) or conceived in the first cycle and then lost the pregnancy later in the year (marked in the first cycle only).


Making culling decisions
Occasionally, a flock will run short on winter feed. In the midst of winter, trying to decide which ewes to cull can be difficult. Marking harness records could tell you which ewes did not get marked, or which ewes got marked several times. These ewes have a lower probability of lambing and may be better candidates to cull. A ewe that always takes three cycles to become pregnant makes management more difficult.

Selecting ewes for out-of-season lambing
This task is always difficult, as there are more variables, including ewes that cycle and get bred but do not conceive. But that being said, marking records provide the shepherd with more information about his or her ewes and their ability to cycle in the spring.

If some ewes are marked, then you know the ram is detecting estrous and you know how many ewes are cycling out of season. If a ram marked most of the ewes but none of them lambed, it indicates that many of the ewes were cycling but the ram probably has sub-par fertility at this time of the year.

Catching the ram
We often remove rams from the breeding pen without taking all the ewes back to the sorting pens. The sheep could be in a distant part of the rotation or across the highway from the sorting pens. By dropping a little grain or alfalfa hay on the ground, the harness straps make it handy for us to catch and control the ram as we get him out of the pen or into a cage on the trailer or back of the truck.

Problems with harnesses
Harnesses do not work for everyone. If the pastures or pens have brush or junk that can catch a harness, a ram could get caught or become entangled, and maybe even be severely injured.



Crayons can be purchased for three sets of temperatures (hot, warm, cold). The wax of the crayon needs to melt in order to mark the ewe. A hot crayon will not melt if the temperature is 300F. A cold crayon will melt all over the ram if the ambient temperatures are in the 70’s or 80s, thus requiring replacement. If temperatures change dramatically, the shepherd needs to catch the ram immediately and change the crayon to keep the harness working.

Harnesses can also rub the ram raw, if not adjusted correctly. They can even cause bleeding. Some folks say the harnesses are only 25-50% successful in helping to identify when ewes are bred and when they will lamb.
Harnesses are less useful for those with off-farm jobs that do not allow them to see the ewes in the daylight every day to check for marks. Some rams have a light touch or maybe a cooler chest and are less likely to leave marks.

In summary, marking harnesses are a useful management tool. They provide much more information for managing your flock than just telling you when a ewe is likely to lamb.

Editor’s Note: Many producers prefer applying a mixture of paint and vegetable oil directly to the chest of the ram to using a marking harness, but it can be very time-consuming for producers with several rams, as the paint has to be reapplied daily.

Jim Morgan raises Katahdins in Arkansas and is Operations Manager for Katahdin Hair Sheep International.