Sheep at Navall Farm

Lambing, click for more lambing images 

Sheep at Navall Farm are grown for fresh Ontario Lamb. Up to a year or two ago we normally had between 150 and 180 ewes, most of these are North Country Cheviot and North Country Cheviot crosses.
For some time we obtained our ewe flock by crossing North Country ewes with Border Leicester rams to give us the a higher lambing percentage.
Over the last 24 years we have experimented with a variety of different breeds as sires for crossbreds or as terminal sires. We always try to breed crossed back to a North Country ram so that all of our animals have at least a strong North Country Cheviot background. This year we will use a North Country Cheviot and also on a few ewes a young Texel ram. Both of these rams come from the flock of Don Acres who has been an excellent and concientous breeder of sheep for many many years.

sleeping lamb As I am getting older I have now limited our flock to about 80 ewes. After many years of careful evaluation, keeping the best producers that lamb without problems and culling others we now have a very healthy flock. For the last few years it has been very rare that I needed to help an ewe at lambing. Normally our live lambing percentage is around 180% and we have hardly any lambs that do not survive. Aside from the replacement lambs most of our lambs are sold at a salesbarn close by but we do have a few commercial ewes or ewelambs for sale every year.

We are grass farmers that sell our grass in the form of lambs. Contrary to some reports the lambs so produced are of excellent taste and quite lean. What is more we know what our animals consume. We do not ever feed our sheep a pelleted ration, that can contain pretty much anything, rather we supplement their feed with locally grown whole grain and roasted soybeans. We supplement our ewes with this during gestation and lactation.

During the grazing season we pasture our sheep on small strips of pasture in a system called rotational grazing. Generally the sheep will stay on one strip for only two or three days then they are moved on to the next strip. Each strip has about 30 days to recover between grazings. Our pasture consists largely of birdsfoot trefoil, white clover, tall fescue, some timothy, some orchard grass. We also produce our own hay and normally have sufficient hay for 210 days.

Ara guarding sheep, click for larger imageTo protect our sheep from predation we now use two Great Pyrenees: Ara and Thor. They live with the sheep year round. Previous to Ara we tried a guard donkey with unfortunately very mixed results: he would protect all the sheep that were relatively close to him but he was quite aggressive towards my two young sons, biting one quite severely plus he was a real pain to move from rotation to rotation.
The most important ingredient in our sheep operation are our border collies: they move the sheep from pasture to pasture, from pasture to barn, they seperate out sick sheep, they hold sheep to us so that we can catch them and treat them. Our operation could not function without these tireless border collies.

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