Producer profile: Blackie Farm, Florenceville, NB

By Cathy Gallivan, PhD; Photos by James Blackie Blackie Farm is located in the village of Florenceville in western New Brunswick, which is less than 15 km from the US border. This area is known for growing potatoes, and the village is home to the corporate...

Producer Profile: Willowdale Sheep & Lamb, Steinbach, MB

By Randy Eros It was a cool, cloudy January afternoon when I pulled into the parking area at Willowdale Sheep & Lamb, 10 minutes south of Steinbach, Manitoba. The farm sits on a ¼-section (160 acres) that is part of a larger operation owned by Apex Farms. Harry...

Managing waste in round-bale feeding systems

By Cathy Gallivan, PhD Sheep farmers who feed round bales are familiar with their convenience and also with the resulting high feed waste, even when round-bale feeders are used. Many unique designs of round-bale feeders have been developed and some claim to reduce or...

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...

NEW

Producer profile: Blackie Farm, Florenceville, NB

By Cathy Gallivan, PhD; Photos by James Blackie Blackie Farm is located in the village of Florenceville in western New Brunswick, which is less than 15 km from the US border. This area is known for growing potatoes, and the village is home to the corporate...

Producer Profile: Willowdale Sheep & Lamb, Steinbach, MB

By Randy Eros It was a cool, cloudy January afternoon when I pulled into the parking area at Willowdale Sheep & Lamb, 10 minutes south of Steinbach, Manitoba. The farm sits on a ¼-section (160 acres) that is part of a larger operation owned by Apex Farms. Harry...

Managing waste in round-bale feeding systems

By Cathy Gallivan, PhD Sheep farmers who feed round bales are familiar with their convenience and also with the resulting high feed waste, even when round-bale feeders are used. Many unique designs of round-bale feeders have been developed and some claim to reduce or...

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...

Sheep Canada – Spring 2015

 

SPRING-2015-1 Table of Contents
4: Greetings from Deerville
5: Taking advantage of the efficiencies of sheep
14: Feed for profit: Are my sheep cold?
17: Genetic testing for susceptibility to OPP (Maedi visna)
18: Scrapie could breach the species barrier
19: Buyers’ Guide
23: Natural lamb: Is grass-fed best?
25: The chicken diaries
27: Got your premises ID yet?
29: Producer Profile: Medicine Ridge Ovine, New Norway, AB
Web Links Mentioned in this issue
LSheep Production Handbook
LEffect of Environment on the Nutrient Requirements of Domestic Animals
LA review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. 
LGrass-fed lamb and goat. 
LAcquiring a Premises ID in your province

Producer Profile: Medicine Ridge Ovine, New Norway, AB

photo-(4)

Rideau, Canadian, Charollais and Ile de France ewe lambs.

Story by Kathleen Raines

Photos courtesy of the Brinkmann family.

When Ute and Gerrit Brinkmann immigrated to Canada from Germany with their two young children in 1988, their dream was to farm. Although they hadn’t grown up on farms, both had a background in animal production and experience as farm apprentices. They purchased land near New Norway in central Alberta’s parkland region and established a pig operation that peaked at 400 sows. The Hanoverian horses they brought with them as a hobby grew to be a significant part of the farm business over the years. The farm is home to 30 horses including two stallions standing at stud. Canadian Equestrian Team member and 2008 Olympic silver medalist Jill Henselwood competes internationally on an Equitop stallion, Quidam Blue.

Gerrit and Ute with one of their horses at Spruce Meadows, Calgary, Alberta. Photo courtesy of Kim Berlie Photography.

Gerrit and Ute with one of their horses at Spruce Meadows, Calgary, Alberta. Photo courtesy of Kim Berlie Photography.

As the horses were building Equitop’s reputation and contributing to the bottom line, the challenges of pork production—low prices, record-high input costs and competition from the oil and gas sector for labour—led to a decision to liquidate the pig operation in 2010. That left four barns totaling 25,000 square feet empty, and had the couple exploring options to use the space in a way that would complement the horse business.

During this period of farm business adjustment, a mutual friend introduced the Brinkmanns to Deb and Ian Clark of Medicine Ridge Farm. The Clarks were exploring a transition from fulltime shepherds to semi-retirement. It was a fortuitous meeting that led to the formation of a partnership whereby the Brinkmanns purchased half of the Medicine Ridge flock of four pure breeds: Charollais, Ile de France, Canadian and Rideau Arcotts. Deb and Ian provided hands-on assistance as Ute and Gerrit “learned sheep”, coaching them through their first couple of lambings and advising on genetics and selection criteria.

The core production principles the Brinkmanns successfully applied to their hog operation—genetics, nutrition, facilities, health and management—have served them well as sheep producers. A strict bio-security protocol, part of the Medicine Ridge regime since the flock’s inception in 1988, has been maintained, along with full certification in the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program.

Inside the repurposed pig barns. Both the lambing barn (above) and the feeder barn (above, right) have a central alley and fenceline feeder. Lambs are fed concentrate in pig self-feeders (not shown).

Inside the repurposed pig barns. Both the lambing barn (above) and the feeder barn (below) have a central alley and fenceline feeder.

Lambs are fed concentrate in pig self-feeders (not shown).

Lambs are fed concentrate in pig self-feeders (not shown).

Medicine Ridge Ovine has been a very good fit with the Brinkmanns’ facilities and farm operation. Gerrit stripped the pig equipment from three of the four barns, filling in the gutters and opening up doorways to improve airflow and accommodate a skid loader. Round hay bales are spaced down a centre corridor and hand-forked into fenceline feed bunks on each side. Portable panels are used to adjust pen sizes, depending on production stage.

To the north of the barns and well sheltered by a row of trees are four ewe pens. They open onto a central feeding area where each group takes its turn at the grain troughs. Hay is provided at fenceline bunks, although Gerrit is hoping that the new Hay Boss feeder he’s trying will reduce feed waste and allow him to eliminate feeding hay by hand in these pens.

Top left and above: Dry and pregnant ewes are housed in drylot pens, where round bales are fed by hand from central feed alleys. Left: The Brinkmanns are testing this new round bale feeder as a method of reducing the workload. Bottom left: Ewes and lambs always have access to the outdoors, even when they are housed inside.

Above and below: Dry and pregnant ewes are housed in drylot pens, where round bales are fed by hand from central feed alleys.

fence-line-feeding-(2)

The flock currently numbers 330 ewes split between the four breeds. Over the last two years the traditional spring lambing has been changing into a system where smaller groups lamb every three months. The March-lambing group is still the largest, and most of the ewe lambs are bred to lamb in June. CIDRs and prostaglandin are used to synchronize the September and December lambing groups, which are exposed to rams for three days, and subsequently lamb in a single week. When I visited the farm in mid-February, the 80 lambs born in December had just been weaned. Gerrit feels the winter lambs do especially well: “They’re clean, no diarrhea, really healthy”.

Left: The Brinkmanns are testing this new round bale feeder as a method of reducing the workload. Bottom left: Ewes and lambs always have access to the outdoors, even when they are housed inside.

The Brinkmanns are testing this new round bale feeder as a method of reducing the workload. Photo by Tracy Hagedorn.

Bottom left: Ewes and lambs always have access to the outdoors, even when they are housed inside.

Ewes and lambs always have access to the outdoors, even when they are housed inside. Photo by Tracy Hagedorn.

Within each breeding cycle, rams are introduced in stages according to the average gestation of the breed. The Ile de France rams go in first, the Canadian Arcott and Charollais rams three days later, and the Rideau Arcott rams another three days later.

sorting-pens

Young rams selected for sale in the sorting pens. These pens hold up to 10 animals, depending on their size. At lambing they are divided in half and used as claiming pens.

After lambing, ewes and lambs are sorted into groups based on the number of lambs being reared. Extra colostrum is kept on hand for small and weak lambs, and an automatic milk replacer feeder supplies the “bottle lamb” group of orphans and those from larger Rideau litters. Ewes are weaned when the lambs average 50 days of age to allow time for them to regain condition for breeding on a nine-month cycle; those that don’t conceive on the modified schedule drop back into a once-a-year cycle, although the goal is four evenly-sized breeding groups. Gerrit sees a number of advantages to this accelerated system including a better use of their facilities and a more even workload and cash flow. It also offers the potential to reduce price fluctuations, and enhances their ability to meet customer demand for year-round freezer lamb and out-of-season breeding stock, especially valued by more intensive sheep producers.

Above: Paired Shearwell CSIP tags are used to register the sheep. A colour-coded management tag is also applied at birth. Green = Canadian Arcott. Right: Pregnant Rideau ewe lambs on a sunny winter day.

Paired Shearwell CSIP tags are used to register the sheep. A colour-coded management tag is also applied at birth. Green = Canadian Arcott. Photo by Tracy Hagedorn.

Detailed, meticulous record keeping is essential for performance-based selection. FarmWorks software is used for flock management and inventory, and Ewe Byte to calculate within-flock performance indexes. The flock is also enrolled on GenOvis for calculation of between-flock Expected Progeny Differences (EPDs). All of this gives Gerrit a wealth of relevant data for his own use, and also to share with prospective breeding stock customers who range from small acreage operators to large-scale intensive producers.

Asked to list the relative advantages of the four breeds on the farm, Gerrit diplomatically attests that “each has its benefits and purpose”. By offering a range of types from the maternal Rideaus through to the terminal Canadian, Charollais and Ile de France, the Brinkmanns can satisfy a variety of customer needs. In order to maintain a wide range of bloodlines within each breed, the mature ram pen numbers 45 animals. Each ram is used for one season only, increasing the rate of genetic improvement in the flock.

Right: Pregnant Rideau ewe lambs on a sunny winter day.

Pregnant Rideau ewe lambs on a sunny winter day. Photo by Tracy Hagedorn.

Having two livestock enterprises makes it easier to provide the necessary labour. A local helper handles the morning sheep chores, and students who ride and work in the stables after school can be mobilized for bigger sheep projects such as weighing, vaccinating and sorting. Word-of-mouth brings European students to the farm on a regular basis, including the German veterinary student set to arrive for a practicum this spring.

Ute sees tremendous potential in the variety of viable production models in the sheep industry, in marked contrast to their experience as pork producers. Many of their customers are new entrants to the industry whose goals are relatively modest: raising 50–100 ewes on small land holdings, supplementing an off-farm job or diversifying an existing farm operation. Many, like the Brinkmanns, are seeking to utilize empty hog barns.

While the flock goal is to maximize breeding stock sales, over 50% of the lambs are sold for slaughter, either to a local buyer or through private sales of freezer lambs. The latter are processed at a number of provincially-inspected plants in the area, and Ute enjoys providing quality local food to customers. As the year-round lamb supply becomes more consistent, the Brinkmanns will be able to assemble and ship larger groups of lambs and provide more efficient deliveries.

This Rideau ewe (Medicine Ridge 53W) was born in 2009. She had a single lamb in 2010, twins in 2011 and 2012 and these five lambs in March of 2013. She lambed twice last year, in March and December, producing another six lambs, for a lifetime total (so far) of 16 lambs.

This Rideau ewe (Medicine Ridge 53W) was born in 2009. She had a single lamb in 2010, twins in 2011 and 2012 and these five lambs in March of 2013. She lambed twice last year, in March and December, producing another six lambs, for a lifetime total (so far) of 16 lambs.

The Brinkmanns own four quarters (640 acres) of land. The cropland is rented and a neighbour puts up hay on a share basis, limiting the farm’s equipment needs to a small tractor and skid loader. Hay fields are a mix of timothy, alfalfa, brome and orchardgrass in varying stages of production. With both horses and sheep to be fed, the Brinkmann’s are able to maximize the use of their forage crops and pasture. All feeds are tested and rations are formulated using SheepBytes. Barley and 32% protein supplement are sourced locally and mixed according to production status; an 18% crumbled creep ration is also purchased. Trace-mineralized salt is fed, along with a commercial sheep mineral with added ammonium chloride to prevent urinary calculi in the rams.

Fencing is a work in progress and is one area where the differing needs of the sheep and horses present a challenge. A field across the road from the farm site has electric fence around the perimeter and electric netting, moved once a week, was used for rotational grazing of the ewes last summer. Although the Pyrenees guardian dog was kept close to the barns, there were no predator problems on pasture.

view-from-house

Medicine Ridge Ovine is located in Alberta’s Parkland region, south and east of Edmonton. This five-acre pasture in front of the house is used primarily for mares and very young foals. The Brinkmanns have approximately 80 acres of pasture and 210 acres in hay.

Entering its fifth year, Medicine Ridge Ovine has built on the success of its founders as solid producers of healthy breeding stock. Gerrit and Ute agree that the sheep fit much better with their vision of family farming in Canada than did the pigs. Ute laughs as she admits that “getting rich with sheep” might not be the most realistic goal, but she and Gerrit plan to convert more of their existing barns and further increase the size of the flock.

Kathleen Raines raises Rideau Arcott sheep near Innisfail, Alberta.