Sheep Canada – Summer 2023

To see more content from this issue, please subscribe online or call 1-888-241-5124 and ask to have a copy of the latest issue mailed to you right away.

Table of Contents

4: Greetings from Ste. Anne
5: Producer profile: Foothill Farm, Canning, NS
11: Contract grazing: Doing it right.
16: Moo Baa Farms: Grandora, SK
22: Research roundup
26: Feed efficiency. A closer look.
29: Western Canadian Lamb Cooperative
31: Is a necropsy workshop considered a date?
35: Buyer’s Guide


Producer Profile: Foothill Farm Canning, Nova Scotia

Story & Photos by Cathy Gallivan, PhD

The raised feed alley in one of the barns.

In the 23 years I’ve been interviewing sheep farmers for Sheep Canada magazine, I’ve visited a few operations raising sheep in total confinement in converted pig barns. But I got a surprise when I visited Foothill Farm in Canning, Nova Scotia, the home of Coleman Ueffing and his wife, Drew Slaunwhite. If you didn’t know better, you’d never guess that the buildings where the sheep are housed hadn’t been purpose-built for them. They are as bright and airy as any sheep barns I’ve ever been in.


Coleman is the third generation of his family on the farm, which has at one time or another been home to pigs, chickens (broilers and layers), and even mink. The pig enterprise peaked in 2012 at 2200 sows, when they shipped 1,500 40-lb. weaners every other week. The pigs are gone now, as are the mink, but Coleman’s father still has chickens in three of the 10 barns on the premises.

Coleman Ueffing with a few market lambs

The 130 acres of land and the remaining buildings are available for Coleman and Drew to acquire gradually over a period of years as they build their own farm enterprise. They have been renting 40 acres of grassland and three of the barns, and are making arrangements to purchase those barns plus an additional 65 acres.

Coleman started acquiring sheep three years ago, with the purchase of 30 ewe lambs. He added another 50 six months later and 75 more the following year, to bring the flock up to the current 155. He plans to expand to 400 eventually.

Coleman demonstrating the padded piglet squeeze on this repurposed lambing cart.

Coleman and Drew both work off the farm, so for now they have to fit their farming in around their full-time jobs. Drew is a nurse and works at the Valley Regional Hospital in nearby Kentville. Coleman works for a friend who farms 1,000 acres and raises beef cattle only five minutes away. The proximity of the farm gives Coleman the flexibility to run home during the day if he needs to check on his sheep.

Coleman spent a year at the agricultural college in Truro before returning to the farm and worked in his father’s pig and chicken enterprises. He says he is gradually getting his head around the differences between ruminants and non-ruminants. He makes use of the services offered by Perennia, a provincial development agency based in Truro, and gets his rations balanced by Katie Trottier, a ruminant livestock specialist on the Perennia team.

An aerial shot of the farm, three of the barns have been renovated for the sheep operation.

The rations are based on corn and soybean meal, which are readily available in the area, and Coleman grows his own haylage and hay on the 40 acres of rented land. He plans to grow more of his own feed on the 65 acres they are purchasing. Rather than purchasing all the necessary equipment, he will pay the friend he works for to custom farm it for him, and will probably end up doing the work himself as part of his day job.

There are seven barns available to him as his operation grows, and Coleman has renovated three of them for use with his sheep.

As we walk through the first one, which measures 180×50’, I can see the work that has gone into its conversion. The sides have been opened up to let in light and air, and the cement partitions that made it a pig barn have been jackhammered out. The interior is divided in half lengthways by a raised feed alley, which is wide enough to allow round bales to be unrolled behind a tractor.

Mink cages serve as hay feeders and are used across pig penning that has a new life as claiming pens.

On the day I visited, the only animals in the barn were the rams, plus a couple of cows that belong to Coleman’s mother. The rams are Dorsets and Rideau Arcotts, breeds chosen for their ability to lamb out of season. The Dorsets were sourced from Ryan and Romy Schill in Ontario, and the Rideaus were acquired closer to home from Harry Elsinga on Prince Edward Island. There were also several bags of wool stored in this barn. Coleman hasn’t sold any wool yet, but he uses it for insulation in his barns.

The second and third barns that Coleman has renovated are 220x 50’ and 250×50’, and are connected to each other to form one long, continuous structure that is 470 feet long. The sides of each of these have also been opened up, and the interior concrete dividers removed.

The outside alleyway in one of the barns, complete with a modified pig feeder serving as a waterer.

The shorter barn houses the 155 ewes and the remainder of a recent lamb crop on either side of a raised, central feed alley. Narrow alleyways run the length of the outside walls, and are used to move or sort groups of sheep. Coleman uses a tractor to unroll round bales in this barn as well, and grain and other concentrates are fed by hand. But the alley is wide enough, and the roof high enough, for a TMR mixer that will be added when the flock is large enough to justify it.

The longer barn isn’t used for housing sheep yet but the walls have been opened up and the hard work of removing the concrete pen dividers has been done, leaving a huge, open space used to store round bales, as well as panels and equipment not currently in use. A permanent handling system is planned for this barn, at the end that opens to the barn where the sheep are.

Everywhere you look, you see equipment from previous enterprises that has been adapted for sheep. Pig feeders have been modified with floats, turning them into automatic waterers. Other pig feeders serve as mineral feeders. The storage area holds stacks of smooth white panels, once used for penning pigs, which turn into claiming pens at lambing time. The cages formerly used for mink work as hay feeders, spanning two claiming pens

A wheeled cart once used for processing piglets serves the same purpose for lambs.

Unlike other milk replacer machines, the Heatwave milk warmer doesn’t mix the milk replacer powder and water. The machine is designed to be filled with milk replacer, or whole milk, which it then keeps warm and delivers through tubes and nipples to lambs in one or more pens, so that lambs have 24/7 access to milk replacer without the need for frequent mixing and bottle feeding. Coleman uses a non-acidified milk replacer in the Heatwave.

Like the rams, the ewes are mostly Dorset and Rideau Arcott. Coleman alternates between Dorset and Rideau rams with each breeding season, so he always knows which breed sired each group of lambs.

Coleman is interested in accelerated lambing, and has lambed groups of ewes in the fall and winter, but has since decided that winter lambing is not for him. He has more than enough space to lamb all his ewes at once, and this spring decided to simplify things by exposing the whole flock, including some recently-weaned ones, for an August/September lambing. He relies on the ewes’ natural ability to breed out of season, but plans to add light control in the future. A second breeding in late summer will pick up any that fail to conceive for that lambing.

On the day I visited in mid-April, there were four Dorset rams in with the 155 ewes. The ewes, which are between one and three years of age, gave birth to about 1.8 lambs each in the last lambing, and weaned about 1.6. These numbers will increase as the ewes mature and reach their peak production years.

The lambs are grown out to 80–100 pounds, and most are sold to Oulton’s Meats in Windsor. Others go to the Maritime Cattle Market auction in Truro and from there to markets in Ontario. Coleman sells Easter lambs if he has them ready at the right time, but this market isn’t a priority for him.

The feed alleys in the barns are raised so the sheep don’t have to kneel to eat as the bedding pack builds in their pens.

Things are only going to get busier for Coleman and Drew, as they are expecting their first child at the end of July. But they have a unique opportunity to grow their flock at a pace that makes sense for them, with additional land and infrastructure in place and available for purchase as they need it.

Sheep Canada – Spring 2023

To see more content from this issue, please subscribe online or call 1-888-241-5124 and ask to have a copy of the latest issue mailed to you right away.

Table of Contents

4: Greetings from Ste. Anne
5: Producer profile: Gentes Ridge Ranch, Battleford, SK
13: New owners for Sungold
15: Exit Strategy. Do you have one?
22: Research roundup
25: Grading up. Creating domestic purebreds
29: Wool Away! Shearing and wool handling.
35: Buyer’s Guide


Producer profile: Gentes Ridge Ranch, Battleford, Saskatchwan

Story & Photos by Randy Eros

Owen and Jennifer Gentes’ operation, Gentes Ridge Ranch, is an hour and a half northwest of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan along the #16 highway and from there a short 15 minute drive south, past the town of Battleford.

The farmyard sits in the middle of 480 acres of rolling mixed prairie land. Seventy acres in hay and 175 acres split evenly for oats, green feed and barley with the rest forest and native grass. Owen and Jennifer purchased the land in 2012, it is now home to a flock of 300 Rideau Arcott, most of them registered purebreds. They have three children, Simon ,21 is at the University of Saskatchewan, Andrew, 19 is working in Saskatoon and their daughter Grace, 17 is in her last year of high school.

Owen was raised on a 300 acre beef farm near the small community of Corning, an hour and a half southeast of Regina. Owen jokes about it being the typical small prairie community; there was him and one other student in his high school graduating class. Jennifer was raised in Saskatoon but like many prairie kids there are some strong farm roots; her uncle still works the family farm near Duck Lake, Saskatchewan.

West side of the 38′ x 80′ hoop barn.

Owen and Jennifer’s first farm was a 160 acre parcel located east of Saskatoon. There they ran a few horses and their first sheep. They purchased a flock of 57 commercial Canadian Arcott from Richard Zubot that they ran with the kids for 4H programs. Their main farm activity at the time was the annual production and delivery of 16,000 small square hay bales for the acreage farms in the surrounding area.

Groups of ewes feeding in the central alley-way on the east side.

When they moved to the new farm, near Battelford, 10 years ago there was no infrastructure for the sheep. The house had been used as a lodge for a neighbouring hunt farm. At the time Owen and Jennifer both worked full time in Battleford, Jennifer teaching and Owen working in the hydraulic industry.

The transition to a bigger sheep operation on the new farm had a bit of a rough start. They expanded to 100 ewes and in that same year ran into a problem with a pelleted ration that had been made from grain with high levels of ergot infection. “That tainted feed reduced milk production and poor blood circulation caused frozen ears and feet, those were some of the problems” Owen recalled. They choose to sell off the flock and start again. Since that experience they have grown most of their own grains.

The livestock guardian dog, an essential part of prairie sheep management.

The following year, 2013, they started to repopulate the sheep flock, picking up 50 Rideau x Charollais ewes. That same year, the Saskatchewan branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was called in to disperse the sheep flock from a large farm operation in southern Saskatchewan. Groups of purebred Registered Rideau ewes were tendered for sale and the Gentes were successful in purchasing a group of 250 young ewes. They sold off part of the group and ended up with just over 100 ewe lambs and one year old ewes. Owen remembers bringing them home “they were advertised as open ewes, but of course, more than a few of them lambed.”

A group of 2022 born ewe lambs.

They were initially lambing the mature flock in February and then the ewe lambs in April but as their flock expanded and Owen reduced his offfarm work, they changed their lambing program. They now run what Owen describes as a modified accelerated operation “Groups of 30 to 40 ewes are exposed to lamb almost year-round.” They don’t expose ewes for a May lambing in order to free up time for spring seeding, nor August or September to accommodate harvest. Besides their own crops Owen also helps his neighbours during seeding and harvest.

The operation that they built allows Owen to handle different groups of ewes and lambs with real efficiency. The only fully enclosed part of the operation is a 38’ x 80’ hoop barn that sits at the west end of a long central feeding alley. All of the pens, 11 in all, can access the alley for sorting and grain feeding. Grain is pail fed into wooden troughs in the alleyway and the selected group is allowed in to feed. When the group is finished with the grain Owen’s border collie, Kate, will run the sheep back into their pen, the gate is closed and the next group is fed. The dry ewes and replacement ewe lambs are fed whole oats while barley is fed to lactating ewes, bred ewes and young rams. The feeding system was made even more efficient a few years ago when Owen installed a grain shed on the south side of the alleyway. Now the grain is just a few feet from where he needs it. Hay is fed in collapsible round-bale feeders inside the pens. Several of the pens have access to larger areas and when I was at the farm in January two groups of ewes were being fed their hay and green feed on nearby stubble fields. Depending on the weather Owen will unroll this feed daily or every second day.

They put up their own 5’x 6’ round bales of alfalfa and oat green feed and usually grow all of their grain. Drought affected their region in 2021 and feed supplies were limited. Owen was happy to have some carry over from 2021 but still had to buy in some oats, barley and flax screenings.

Shearwell auto drafter with RFIDreader panels and a Bluetooth enabled scale.

The hoop barn plays a number of different roles. The sorting system is set on one end of the barn and includes a Shearwell automatic drafter with a Bluetooth scale and a Ritchie Combi Clamp. Owen is a big fan of the Bluetooth scale and the CSIP tags (Canadian Sheep Identification Program) “it would take me two hours to weigh 200 lambs now I can do it in 20 minutes, with no errors.” The automatic drafter comes with build in RFID reader panels making life a lot easier, “though both the panels and the gates will slow down a bit in our extreme cold weather.” He has used other holding crates but finds the Ritchie combi clamp works better for CIDRs, “fewer broken applicators and sore hands” he says. Owen feels that the better your handling system the more likely you are to use it.

The whole flock is sheared at the end of April. Laurie Reed, an Alberta based shearer, and his crew will have the work done in a day. The wool is bagged up and sold through Canadian Cooperative Wool Growers.

Small breeding pens.

The claiming pens are portable and get set up as needed for each group. As the lambing continues the space can be converted to a post lambing area for the ewes and young lambs.

The ewes are managed differently; depending on if they are to be bred in-season or “out-of season”. Owen considers in-season breeding for his Rideaus to be anytime between September and early February. No CIDRs (Controlled Intervaginal Drug Release) are used but the ewes will get a shot of Estrumate seven days prior to breeeding and then again when the rams are turned in. For out-of-season breeding with the mature ewes, CIDRs will be inserted 12 days prior to breeding and removed on the day of breeding. For in-season breeding of ewe lambs Owen will insert the CIDRs for six days prior to breeding. There is sufficient drugs remaining in the CIDRs to use them a second time when breeding the next group of ewe lambs.

Customized management tags.

Owen describes himself as “a big fan” of the GenOvis program. “We are not scanning for carcass traits yet but that may change.” Over the last few years they’ve brought in rams from Christian Beaudry at Agronovie in Granby, Québec. The Top Ram reports are what Owen looks to when choosing new rams. “I like the work they’ve done in Québec, they’re light years ahead with these genetic selection programs.”

As a breeder of purebred registered stock Owen is very careful with his breeding. After the CIDRs are removed the ewes are sorted into groups of five or six head and placed in small pens with a single purebred ram. The rams are in with the ewes for only three days. This tight breeding timeframe means that when the ewes are induced with Dexamethsone at 143 days the lambs are born within a three-day window. All ewes are vaccinated with Case-Bac, four weeks prior to lambing.

Moving from annual lambing to this accelerated system has dropped the average lambing percentage but not the overall number of lambs born each year. With annual lambing the ewes were averaging 2.87 lambs, now it varies, depending on the season, from 2.2 to 2.6 per lambing. Given that the ewes are now lambing more often it works out about the same and Owen finds he has fewer bottle lambs.

Ewes are usually left with 2 or 3 lambs and the extras are raised using a Grober machine. He has used a Lac-Tek in the past and find they both worked well for their operation. Owen called the milk replacer machines game changers “as the flock grew, we just didn’t have time for bottles.”

They have been on the GenOvis program for the last 6 years using Farmworks to capture their lambing data. The ewes and lambs will spend a day in the claiming pens where the lambs are weighed and a customized Shearwell management tag (non RFID) is applied. All of the lambs are docked and any commercial male lambs are castrated. They purchase an 18% creep ration for the preweaned lambs and also make sure that they are exposed to the mixed ration that will become their complete diet after weaning.

Lambs are weaned, weighed and given a Case-Bac vaccination at 50 days. One of the advantages of the tight lambing groups is the accuracy of the 50 day weight data; the lambs really are 50 days old. The ewe lambs and ram lambs will be given a Case-Bac booster four weeks later. The CSIP tags are also applied at weaning. The commercial lambs get a regular CSIP tag while the purebred lambs get the matched-set CSIP tags which work as an alternative to tattooing. The weaned lambs are fed an on farm mixed ration of barley and soya bean meal. Owen does his ration balancing with the SheepBytes program. A few years ago he tried replacing the soya bean meal with canola meal as a less expensive option but wasn’t happy with the results. “Palatability was the problem; the lambs wouldn’t eat it.” Feed for the weaned lambs is delivered through a long Flex Flow auger that fills a series of repurposed hog feeders. The feeders are hung on chains inside a south facing open sided shelter. The feeder heights can be adjusted to accommodate additional bedding. Minerals and vitamins are fed free choice to all the sheep using salvaged auger scoops, screwed to the shelter walls.

Market lambs are sold through the Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board (SSDB). The Saskatoon assembly yard is an hour and a half away. Registered Rideau ewe and ram lambs are usually in high demand with sales of 150 head per year. Things changed in 2022 with the collapse of the North American Lamb Company (NALCO). The dispersal of NALCO’s large flock had a negative effect on western Canadian breeding stock sales and the Gentes were not immune to this. Owen ended up wintering more ewe lambs this year. “This year we had quite a few folks back out of sales, they were taking advantage of NALCO’s dispersal, but the demand for good breeding stock will bounce back.”

The pen of registered Rideau rams. Opposite page left: ewes and lambs in the hoop barn. Right: Weaned lambs with the flex-auger fed feeders.

This visit with Owen and Jennifer showed me a new way of looking at year-round lambing. The fact that they can run this many sheep, in this many groups in a set up that is primarily out of doors was inspiring. Owen has spent time on the SSDB as well as on the board of the Canadian Sheep Federation. Through all that time he has seen more than a few sheep operations and he’s paid close attention. “I am a dreamer, when I see something that works, I wonder how I can take it home and use it”. Clearly a philosophy that has paid off.