After 12 years in the equine-ranching business ended last spring, it didn’t take Steve Dryden and his brothers long to convert their operation over to sheep.
He and his brothers Clay and Dave got busy retooling a 96-stall horse barn into an 800-head lamb feeder operation that saw its first intake of lambs arrive in October.
Going from PMU into sheep is a “doable conversion,” he said, adding that they were even able to use some of the steel pipes left over from the former operation’s stalls to build the feed bunks which neatly surround four pens inside the massive barn.
“When you have livestock, you develop good animal husbandry. Although there may be a lot of intricacies with the sheep industry that we don’t know at the present time, I think we have a good basis to build on,” said Dryden.
“We’re very new at this, but our initial look at the sheep industry tells us that the demand is there for the finished product and it’s growing.”
The lambs are brought in at around 70 pounds, bedded in straw, and fed a diet of grass hay, pellets and whole barley, then shipped to Cookstown, Ontario once they reach market weight of 120 pounds. It depends on the breed, but the rate of gain averages about a pound a day, he said.
At this time of year, which also happens to be the same time that prices for finished lambs peak, finding enough lambs to keep his pens full can be challenging. To compensate for the annual shortages, he recently bought a herd of his own, 650 Columbia- Targhee-cross ewes.
Most of his fences are electric, so that aspect of the conversion shouldn’t be difficult, he added.
His farm which lies near the east bank of the scenic Assiniboine River Valley is home to plenty of coyotes.
But Dryden, an avid hunter who has a stuffed bear’s head in his office, isn’t too worried. The feeder lambs are all safely indoors, and he’s planning to surround his lambing area with heavy page-wire fence and enlist the help of guardian dogs.
If that fails, he’s got a .25-06 to sort out the troublemakers, he said, with a grin. daniel. [email protected]
“We’reverynewat this,butourinitial lookatthesheep industrytellsusthat thedemandistherefor thefinishedproduct andit’sgrowing.”
– STEVE DRYDEN