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,...

Sheep Canada – Winter 2017

Sheep Canada – Winter 2017 Table of Contents
4: Greetings from Deerville
11: Good-bye, pink metal tags!
13: Feed for profit: Basic rations
15: New GM at Canadian Sheep Breeders’ Association
16: Analysing big bale silage
18: Another anniversary for NorthumberLamb
19: Buyer’s Guide directory
23: Dam nutrition affects milk production of female offspring
24: Government of Canada invests in livestock industries
26: 2017 Sheep Value Chain Roundtable meeting
29: Research roundup

Sheep Preserve Historic Ranges

Story by Susan Hosford

Photos by Bradley K Smith & Don Forestier

The foothills on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains are home to some of Canada’s most famous and historic cattle rangelands. One of the original ranches still in operation is the Waldron. It was established in 1883 by Duncan McNab McEachran of Montreal, with financial backing by Sir John Waldron of England. The original ranch spanned 260,000 acres of land with more than 20,000 head of cattle and hundreds of horses. Today the Waldron consists of about 65,000 acres between the Porcupine Hills on the east and Whaleback Ridge on the west, running for 30 kilometers along the picturesque Cowboy Trail (Highway 22).

   

Mike Roberts, manager of the Waldron Ranch, with Susan Hosford and Don Forestier.

Over the years, different ranchers and groups of ranchers have owned the Waldron for grazing their cattle. In 1962, a group of ranchers formed the Waldron Grazing Co-op Ltd., and purchased the ranch to ensure grazing and maintain range quality. In 2014, an arrangement with the Nature Conservancy of Canada made the ranch’s grassland into a permanent conservation area.

Sheep don’t like getting their feet wet and are allowed to graze the streams in the riparian areas directly. The cattle are fenced out of these streams and drink from water tanks to avoid polluting the water and eroding the banks.

The ranch environment combines short growing seasons, low precipitation and unpredictable winters. Most of the forage is native plants that are adapted to the environment, occasional wildfires and to grazing animals. Overgrazing, or a lack of grazing, can impact the health of these native rangelands. One pasture, fenced off for 30 years, shows accumulated, un-grazed, dead plant material that effectively reduces plant diversity, grazing capacity, and the ability of the soil to use the limited rainfall.

Mike Roberts contemplates a paddock that has not been grazed for 30 years. This old, grey plant material is smothering out new growth.

Today the Waldron is managed to support domestic livestock as well as wildlife. Deer and elk give birth on the lower valley ranges, then move into the higher hills for the summer. Depending on the season, rainfall and forage growth, up to 13,000 cattle are grazed over the year. Cows with their calves are better able to deal with predators (wolves, bears, cougars) and are grazed in the foothills. Yearlings are grazed on valley ranges that have been in a small part seeded to perennial grasses and legumes. Only 1,200 acres of the 65,000 have ever been cultivated. In these valleys, miles of old barbed wire fences are being replaced with high-tensile electric fences. These new fences divide large pastures into smaller grazing paddocks of approximately 50 acres. To manage the pastures, animals are moved from paddock to paddock through central watering areas. Large water tanks are supplied with fresh water from fenced-off dugouts and springs.

Patches of leafy spurge are fewer and farther between since the arrival of sheep on the ranch.

Waldron’s manager, Mike Roberts, continuously monitors forage growth, grazing impact and livestock. A number of years ago, invasive plant species were starting to change plant diversity and impact forage quantity and quality. Cattle, like the bison before them, prefer grass over leafy forbs, shrubs, and brush. A band of 500-800 ewes was brought in from a neighbouring sheep operation. The sheep are fully shepherded as they graze through problem areas, and penned at night to discourage predation. They have developed a taste for leafy spurge, and can be seen picking off the top blooms as they move across the ranges and coulees. Today, the leafy spurge patches are small and getting smaller.

The main sources of water on the ranch are springs in the hills. Dugouts hold water from the springs, as well as run-off from melting snow and rains. Water is gravity-fed through large black plastic pipes from the hills to the dugouts, and then to water tanks in the lower pastures.

Dugouts are fenced so the cattle don’t have direct access; this insures the quality of the water and the integrity of the dugout itself. Streams in riparian pastures are also fenced off; the pastures are still grazed, but the cattle’s direct access to the stream banks is controlled. Mike says that, given a choice, cattle actually prefer drinking from a water trough to out of a dugout, or even a stream. Cattle, like humans, love convenience.

The sheep, however, have full access to the streams for their water needs. Sheep are far more riparian-area friendly than cattle. Sheep hate getting their feet wet and usually drink from the edge and then quickly back away without ever going into the water source. Mike says the sheep never actually drink from any of the water troughs on the ranch.

The water troughs that are directly spring fed usually stay open in the winter but, if not, then the cattle have to drink directly from a spring or a stream that has open water. When there is clean snow the cattle don’t need water as long as they are grazing; they get their water requirements from the snow. Mike says that although this concept is foreign to many people, it has worked well at this ranch for over 100 years. The same applies to sheep in the maintenance stage of production.

Mike Roberts demonstrates intake on gravity watering system.

Cattle on the ranch drink from water tanks rather than directly from dugouts or streams. This water tank was made from a tractor tire.

Mike, a keen grazier, understands that grazing cattle and sheep is helping to protect and improve the rangelands to benefit both livestock and wildlife. Mike also believes that the rangelands would benefit from grazing 3,000 or more ewes.

Jamie Bueckert is the shepherd on the project. The sheep are night-penned with electric netting for predator control as well intensive brush or weed control.

Susan Hosford recently retired after more than 30 years with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, working with the sheep industry.