Up until recently our farm consisted primarily of a commercial goat dairy owned by my parents and run by the family. My brother and I had always been interested in sheep and cattle production. Recently we added both to our farm. We wanted ewes that would consistently twin with fairly low management with a forage only diet. I did a lot of breed research, looking for ideas in various countries. I liked what I saw of the UK sheep industry. The most common commercial sheep in the UK seems to be the mule, but since the breeds involved are very hard to find in North America, we had to do all three tiers of the system ourselves and start very small. We bought Clun Forest ewes and we are now breeding Clun mules, and a few Scotch mules.
As I did further research, I found that the Lleyn breed is gaining popularity in the UK, for efficiency, versatility, productivity, and carcass. I looked into the breed and found they did not exist in North America, causing me to begin searching for sources of British genetics to bring here. We are hoping to eventually breed up to a high percentage Lleyn flock using Clun Forest and possibly Cheviot base stock bred by AI to the best Lleyn rams available. Through the addition of Lleyn genetics, we are hoping to become a leader in low input, high output sheep farming in Canada. We are hoping to gain all the basic economic advantages of Lleyn cross ewes, but also the opportunity to sell breeding stock, as the first breeders in North America.
For interest, these are the common sheep systems in Canada at present:
Range/Ranch system: Columbia or Rambouillet type ewes on rough pasture producing 1-1.2 lambs per year.
Farm system: Usually Suffolk cross, or sometimes hair sheep ewes, with high grain inputs and 1.5-2 lambs per year.
Accelerated System: Rideau Arcott, Polypay, Dorset type ewes producing 4+ lambs per year under intensive management.
We have somewhat better grass and conditions than typical range land on our farm, but would like to work with little or no concentrate inputs for the ewes, and still get 2 lambs per ewe annually. We thought the Lleyn ewe would fit our system better than any other we can find.
Canadian Sheep Farmer