Sarto Sheep Farms
Sheep Sense
Manitoba Sheep Association Quarterly Newsletter
January 2017
I'd like to start this SheepSense by thanking all the people that have helped me with producing quality newsletters over the last few years. We have hired a new person to handle the production of SheepSense and she will be taking over after this issue. 
The MSA is also in the process of finding a new Office Manager. In that capacity we have advertised in both the Manitoba Cooperator and the Winnipeg Freepress and hope to have a new Office Manager by early February. 
I look forward to put my focus into the growth of the industry in Manitoba and the growth of the provincial ewe flock.

Jonathon Nichol
Manitoba Sheep Association Chair

CSF Report
The Canadian Sheep Federation continues its efforts to provide national producer representation to all facets of government and industry that require input.
PEI's CSF director was recently part of a 3 person trade mission to Mexico. The Mexican government is hoping to be able to import both purebred and commercial breeding stock from Canada in the near future!.
The release of the drug Flukiver, for use in sheep, is also the result  of CSF involvement at both the Canadian and International government levels.
Traceability in the sheep industry continues to require the strong voice of our national organization. There are major hurdles on the near horizon that require knowledgeable and practical input. After all these years of producers doing their part, a large part of the industry and government has yet to do theirs!
It has been an eye opening experience being your provincial director on CSF these last 5 years! I hope that you will continue to stay tuned and support your next director as well.
Thank you,
Herman Bouw
Lameness Control:
Coming up with a plan that works.
Rob Berry- Manitoba Agriculture

Lame sheep are a problem every producer will have to deal with at some  point. The economic impacts on the flock can be considerable as the production losses are far larger than the treatment and labor costs of a control program. Lame ewes have lowered body condition score which, in a recent study,  was found to impact conception rate by 15% and result in a 20% reduction in lambing percentage compared to sound ewes. The most common cause of lameness in North America is foot rot which is characterized with an initial infection in the skin between the hooves which then spreads deeper inside the hoof and causes severe inflammation and separation of hoof horn. The second most common  cause of sheep lameness is interdigital dermatitis or scald. This disease typically has a rapid onset but standing animals do not lift their hooves to get relief. To develop an effective control strategy it is important to work with your veterinarian correctly diagnose the type of lameness present.
Control measures can be summarised by a  5 point plan:-
Treatment : Catch all lame sheep and use appropriate treatment such as antibiotic sprays &  injectables
Avoid Spread: Foot rot is a highly infectious disease which can spread at areas of high sheep traffic. If possible use a footbath regularly using a proven control agent e.g. formaldehyde, copper sulphate, Zinc sulphate. Footbaths are more effective if the feet entering them are cleaned first. Consider investing in a secondary footbath which can be filled with a solution of detergent and rocksalt to clean hooves before treatment.
Vaccinate: The use of vaccination can reduce the levels of foot rot significantly by protecting individual sheep and lowering the overall disease challenge on farm
Cull: Individual sheep that are persistent offenders (recurrently lame) should be culled. These animals are a constant source of infections to others.
Quarantine: All incoming sheep should be quarantined to avoid introduction of different and often more virulent strains of foot rot. During quarantine they should be examined, trimmed if necessary and footbathed.  Introducing lame animals to a healthy flock should be avoided.

Nutrition: 85% of the Work
When I started my career after graduation from University I spent my first year in the Nutrition Section and this was a very fortunate event for me. I was working with specialists in swine, poultry, dairy cow, beef cattle, sheep and horse nutrition. This opportunity was unique and I doubt it could be repeated now. Through my years of working with sheep producers or livestock producers, I have seen very clearly the importance of proper nutrition. I have read in popular press articles that when you feed your sheep properly you have done 85% of the work. That is a significant amount of work already done just by proper feeding. Once you add facilities, a flock health program and other husbandry factors, you're good to go. It's more complicated than that but a proper nutrition program is the corner stone of a successful sheep operation. There are several diseases that result from inadequate nutrition; white muscle disease, hypocalcemia and polio are some. I do not intend to discount the importance of a vaccination programs and deworming schedules as part of a total management program.
                Ruminant animals have a fermentation vat (their rumen) that allows them to eat feed that a simple stomached animal (humans) can't. The feed sheep eat, is initially fermented into organic acids and microbial protein that the animal then digests to meet its requirements. In truth when you feed your sheep you are feeding the rumen first and the rumen feeds the actual animal. Ruminant animals have the ability to get nutrients from many different types of feed. Some of the nutrients animals need are energy, protein, vitamins, minerals (macro & trace) and water. The most important nutrient is the one that is in shortest supply; it's important to remember that animals can only produce to the most limiting nutrient and that can is a big problem.
Animals eat feed to get nutrients because they have specific nutrient requirements. These requirements change depending on what the animal is doing; i.e. is it growing, is it pregnant (first trimester or last trimester) or is it producing milk. A ewe that isn't nursing lambs or is not pregnant has lower nutrient requirements than ewes that are. The lower nutrient requirement means the ewe doesn't have eat high energy or protein feed as it isn't needed and it's expensive to provide that type of feed. When you consult with a nutritionist for your sheep you are taking the animals nutrients requirements (published in National Research Council book and entered into a computer program) and matching it up to the nutrient content of the feed that the animal eats. Animals can only eat so much feed and this is taken into consideration when developing a feeding program. It's very important to remember that in late pregnancy (the last six weeks) the developing lambs fill in the ewe start to squeeze against her digestive tract (rumen) so ewes need to be fed high quality forage and some concentrates (grain). Feeding poor quality roughage to pregnant ewes can result in pregnancy toxemia from a deficiency in energy or a prolapse from an overfull abdomen. Don't feed poor quality hay to your pregnant ewes. You should have someone to consult with for nutrition advice. 
                I want to end this article with a couple of final points. My first point is that expensive hay isn't usually expensive and more importantly cheap hay almost every time isn't cheap. The number of times that sheep producers have problems by feeding cheap hay is more common than you think. There are times that poorer quality hay can be fed when it's supplemented and to do this requires consultation with a nutritionist. When buying hay always compare the two on a dry matter basis, there is no point in spending your money on buying water. My second point is feed grain in 1 lbs feeding with access for all ewes as unprocessed as possible to reduce digestive upsets. Corn can be cracked but all other grain (barley or oats) should be fed whole. Be careful with feeding anything that contains oil seeds (screenings with canola or soybeans) because fat can inhibit rumen fermentation quickly. If you have concerns do a feed test and ask for a crude fat measurement that you can give to your nutritionist.  My final point is learn to condition score your sheep and take time to put your hands on their backs (easy when they're eating) to monitor their condition. It takes sheep time to gain or lose condition and a quick condition score a couple of time a week can tell you what they're doing so it doesn't turn into  a problem; prevention is WAY better than treatment. Good luck in 2017 with your sheep.
Wray Whitmore

East Region Director Vacancy
On January 10th the East region held a meeting to elect a new Director to fill the position left by Herman Bouw. The meeting was unsuccessful and the position remains vacant. If there are any producers from the Eastern region interested in this position please contact the MSA Board by phone 204-421-9434 or by email at

Premises Identification
Premises identification: Will you be notified in an emergency?
Victoria Tkachuk
A/Traceability Coordinator, Manitoba Agriculture
Victoria Wojakowski
Traceability Student, Manitoba Agriculture
Every second counts in an emergency . To respond quickly, up-to-date information is critical. The Manitoba Premises Identification (PID) program links livestock, poultry and producer contact information with their geographic locations, which is needed to rapidly alert producers about emergencies that pose a risk to the health and welfare of their animals.
A premises is a parcel of land where livestock and poultry can be grown, kept, assembled or disposed of. This includes farms, veterinary clinics, auction marts, stables, abattoirs and fair grounds just to name a few. Owne rs and operator s of any premises with livestock or poultry are legally required to identify at least the primary premises. However, many producers have chosen to identify all their parcels of land with livestock or poultry, to be sure they are informed about all emergency situations that could affect them.
What is premises identification and how is this information used?
Premises identification is a tool used to plan and manage animal health and food safety emergencies. In Manitoba, premises identification information has been used to respond to natural disaster s such as flooding, wildfires, natural gas explosions, as well as many animal disease issues, including Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), anthrax and avian influenza - for both small and commercial farms. Premises identification is one of three pillars of a full traceability system , in conjunction with animal identification and movement.
The information gathered by Manitoba's PID program can only be used for animal health and emergency managemen t, as outlined in the Animal Premises Identification Regulation under The Animal Diseases Act. The information is used only to prevent, prepare, respond to or recover from a disaster, foreign animal disease outbreak or any other similar emergency. The personal information of owners and operators is protected under The Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FIPPA). 
P ID is used to identify farms with any susceptible animals on a map. If a disease only affects certain animals, a map can be generated to show only the locations of those species. For example, sheep are susceptible to foot and mouth disease (FMD). Although not deadly, FMD is one of the most devastating livestock viruses and is highly contagious . The sooner FMD is detected, the easier it is to control, or stop a widespread outbreak. In this situation, a map w ould be created to show all farms with animals susceptible to the disease .   Producers and their veterinarians would be notified if they were at risk. This information is critical for producers so they can take extra precautions, enhance biosecurity and minimize the risk of disease transmission within their premises.
If a flood is expected, the same type of information available through PID can identify all livestock and poultry locations so producer s can be notified toensure their animals are moved or protected. During a particular lycold stretch several winters ago, a natural gas explosion resulted in services being interrupted for a few days. Again, the PID program proved to be instrumental in identif ying and notif ying all operations affected by the gas outage.
The province can only notify the farms we know about . To protect your livestock, register for th e free Manitoba Premises Identification program .
A n application can be completed in less than 60 seconds online at or at your local Manitoba Agriculture GO office. The program requires a legal land description, basic animal information and contact information. After the application is processed, you will receive a letter containing your farm PID number in the mail and via email if an address is provided on the form.
A PID number is also required for all lab test submissions to Veterinary Diagnostic Services and some government programs, such as Growing Forward 2 and Crown Lands lease renewals. The current Manitoba Livestock Manifest has  been updated to include a space to record a PID number when moving livestock from one location to the next . These can be purchased from you r local Growing Opportunities (GO) office.
Your PID number can be found on the letter and wallet card mailed to you. To replace a lost document or to find out your number, call 204-945-7684 or email You can also add your PID number to your Canadian Cattlemen Identification Agency (CCIA) Canadian Livestock Tracking System (CLTS) account by calling them at 1-877-909-2333.
For more information
Visit or a Manitoba Agriculture GO office, email or call 204-945-7684 to learn more about the Premises Identification program or to update your existing PID information.

Code of Practice
This is a section out of the Canadian Sheep Code of Practice that all producers must comply with. To see the Code in its entirety visit
or contact your district's Director to receive a paper copy of the Code of Practice

1.1.2 Provision of Shelter during Cold and Windy, and Cold and Wet Conditions

Healthy mature sheep in full fleece and in good body condition with access to feed, water and a choice of appropriate shelter can cope well in cold conditions. However, freshly shorn ewes, newborn lambs, or compromised sheep at any age will require additional protection.

When conditions are cold for the sheep they will (5):

-face away from the prevailing winds
-seek shelter from the wind
-huddle together
-shift positions within the group

Wind combined with cold, wet conditions can compromise the welfare of sheep.

Cold, wet and windy conditions reduce the insulation value of the fleece

-Sheep can experience wind chill
-Wind chill can have a severe impact on the effective temperature experienced by sheep and cause hypothermia
-Newborn and very young lambs, freshly shorn sheep and compromised sheep are more susceptible to hypothermia.
-Sheep must have access to shelter. Shelter can be provided by any natural or man-made structure that acts as a barrier to wind. This can be provided by a building, shed, or portable shelter. Tree lines, bales, the lee of a hill, etc. can also provide windbreaks.

Planning for cold, stormy weather events and providing an appropriate location for the sheep are important factors for minimizing the negative effects of cold conditions.


Sheep must have access to shelter, either natural or man-made, that provides appropriate relief for the regional and seasonal climatic conditions and is appropriate for the individual production system. Properly designed and maintained hedgerows and windbreaks can be adequate, as can natural land features (e.g. lee side of a hill, bush, gully, coulees) for certain classes of animals.

Producers must plan the lambing period for the available shelter and to match local climatic conditions (e.g. provide shelter for young lambs and freshly shorn sheep).

Special considerations for management and shelter during lambing will be required under some conditions. (See Section 5.11 on Pregnancy, Lambing and Neonatal Care).

When planning for extreme weather events and winter management, a producer must consider and be able to:

-manage their flock to minimize the risk of hypothermia
-monitor flock closely for signs of cold stress and take immediate action to provide relief if it occurs
-relocate sheep to a sheltered area or shed
-provide more feed (energy)
-provide extra bedding where appropriate
-manage timing of shearing events to minimize risk of hypothermia (e.g. if bad weather is predicted, make alternate arrangements such as delaying shearing or increasing available shelter).


-consult a veterinarian to establish a protocol for treatment options for sheep showing signs of hypothermia and include this in the flock health and welfare plan
-if adverse conditions are expected postpone shearing
-use a cover comb (or comb lifter) to provide some protection against cool temperatures, insects and solar radiation as this leaves more wool than a regular comb.
MSA 2nd Annual Farm Tours and the Sheep Symposium
By Kate Basford

MSA received a second grant through the Growing Forward 2 funding initiative of the Federal and Provincial governments to enhance and increase producers exposure, knowledge base and developing skills to raise sheep and lambs in an more efficient and sustainable manner.
The project The Farm Tours and the Small Ruminant Symposium brought together researchers, specialists, veterinarians and successful producers, who in a collaborative approach shared their experiences, knowledge and guidance with Manitoba producers and industry stakeholders.
The farm tours had 76 participants, with a wide range of producers attending. Those with a few sheep looking to expand, those new to the industry looking for information and to connect with other sheep producers. As well as producers with several hundred ewes looking to increase their efficiency and sustainability, people with no sheep looking to get into sheep and industry stakeholders. This year, the farm tours were held on separate days, this allowed producers to spend more time at each tour for discussion. The day long symposium had 39 participants, with the same diversity of sheep producers as the farm tours along with industry stakeholders and veterinarians attending.
The farm tours provided an opportunity for producers and stakeholders to see and hear how two operators approached their sheep businesses from different production methods. Both producers presented how they used business planning and sound management principles, marketing and market development, food safety and biosecurity in completely different ways to achieve their successes.
This year Canada sheep and lamb opened a second intensively managed operation in the Interlake at Lundar, Manitoba. This closed flock of over 5000 Rideau Arcott Ewes which lambs year round, which has been selected for minimal labour, a targeted goal for 3.4 lambs per ewe per year and a maximum feed efficiency ratio as feed is their biggest expense. This is a high tech operation with a large heated facility for lambing using fence line feeding and TMR mixes, with an automated feeding system to deliver pelleted ration.
The farm is run efficiently with minimal labour thru computer software programs, the RFID based Farmworks, OviRation, Ovissey and custom spreadsheets to manage replacement selection using established and proven criteria. They sell breeding stock and provide on farm management training for the purchased flocks. Owner Pat Smith's previous role as an educator and consultant in the area of computer technology proved to be a valuable asset in his business and his business partner is well established in lamb processing plants in New Zealand.
Albert Giesbrecht from Altona, Mb. follows the Pipestone System of sheep production developed in Minnesota, which revolves around lowest cost feed, efficient labor, low input costs, high production levels, and intensive management. 285 ewes are dry lotted year round due to the high cost of land and avoid grazing lush pasture during the maintenance period. Winter lambing in an insulated, ventilated barn kept at 3 to 5 degrees C with ewes shorn 6 to 8 weeks prior to lambing which helps to keep the barn drier. Ewes are lambed in groups of 80- 100 head in a 20 day period and then about 10 days off to pay attention to new lambs and not become over whelmed, spread work load and spread risk in marketing. All bonus lambs are raised on a pail system with milk replacer. All lambs and cull ewes are finished on site and marketed to local abattoir, Ontario Stockyards, and Manitoba buyers. The importance of nutrition, starting lambs on feed as soon as possible and a sound management program to get lambs to market as quickly as possible. He identified the type of lamb he markets with knowing lamb weighs, he is able to match the demands of buyers and the industry. He notes that lambs have to weigh 80 pounds for him to make a profit. Albert identified a lost market, where more profit was made. That being marketing heavier weight lambs (100 - 160 pounds) to the United States and how important it is to have the US border open for Canadian lambs. The Market intelligence Specialist - livestock for Manitoba Agriculture spoke about the program and information was distributed as well as information on Premises identification.

The Small Ruminant Symposium focussed on researchers, veterinarians and specialist presenting relevant production and management information to assist producers and veterinarians improve their production practises. The symposium focussed on veterinarians and specialist presenting relevant production and management information to assist producers and veterinarians improve their production practises. 

Animal Husbandry: Dale Engstrom presented on Trace Mineral Nutrition, a topic that mystifies many producers. Starting with a review of what minerals are essential for sheep; both the macro and micro minerals and how best to provide them to sheep in a cost effective manner. The importance of feed testing to understand what minerals are needed to balance rations during the entire production cycle. The mineral requirements of different feed stuffs, grains verses forages. Discussed the importance of providing salt to encourage the consumption of minerals, always provide a trace mineral salt and salt should comprise 40 - 60 % of your complete mineral mix. To know and have a target mineral consumption in mind and monitor the flock's intake. The copper conundrum was discussed in detail, many producers and the industry are under the assumption that sheep and copper don't mix, not true. Copper is required in sheep diet and needs to be completely understood so that it is not fed at toxic levels or that deficiencies occur such as reduced immune function, reduced fertility. It's a very fine line, but needs to be understood and monitored.

Dale Engstrom's second presentation was "Tuning up your feeding system " Are producers set up to properly deliver feed efficiently, data from the Alberta Lamb traceability pilot project indicated that labour (feeding) was the second largest cost 27 % of total production costs and feed was 39 %. Dale Engstrom discussed ways to improve labour cost of feeding with consideration to the placement and access to feed during all the seasons, using bunks and feeders, enough bunk space, more pens needed to feed effectively, feeding and watering during lambing, can the feeding system in the claiming pens be improved to reduce labour of feeding and cleaning.
Dale F. Engstrom, M.Sc., P.Ag. from Lake Isle, Alberta, with forty four years as a professional agrologist working in both the government and private sectors as District Agriculturist, Regional Livestock Specialist, Private Farm Manager, Ruminant Nutritionist, Trade Director, Senior Manager and Nutritional Consultant. Author of over 30 extension resources and author/co-author of 12 scientific publications. Lead development team for "Cowbytes" Ration Balancer Software (Alberta Agriculture - 1988-93). Beta tester, Nutrition Contact and workshop presenter for SheepBytes Ration Balancer (2012 to present).

Flock Health: Dr. Neil Versavel presented Parasite Management - Producers most common mistakes. First know your enemy, various parasites were identified and life cycles explained that infect Manitoba sheep. Mistake #1 - poor nutrition. Quality nutrition is the lynch pin to successful sheep production, insufficient energy and protein, proper pasture rotation. Mistake # 2 - inappropriate use of dewormers. Mistake # 3 - raising lambs on poor pasture, lack of quantity and quality, consider dry lot. Mistake #4 - assumption of resistance to dewormers. Mistake # 5 - buying a worm problem, ask questions. Mistake # 6 - Failure to consult with a professional. Follow a Strategic Parasite Management: control parasite populations, routine monitoring, targeted deworming, resistance avoidance, and record keeping.

Dr. Neil Versavel second presentation Production Limiting Diseases. Often the observable symptoms of the disease are sporadic enough or subtle enough not to raise a producer's alarm. This does not mean that these diseases are not having a negative financial impact. A discussion of various diseases and how to identify and manage them. Abortions and their causes. Maedi Visna aka Ovine Progressive Pneumonia (OPP), hard bag, a 1991 study identified 19 % of sheep tested positive, 61 % of flocks had at least one positive, Higher positives in the east than the Prairies - What is happening today? Johnes, a bacterium that invades the wall of the small intestine that causes a chronic immune response and reduces nutrient absorption. Coccidiosis a parasitic protozoal infection carried by adult sheep affect young lambs, causing permanent gut damage. Mastitis, an infection of the udder. Poor doers - thin ewes, a myriad of causes.
Dr. Neil Versavel is a Practicing Veterinary, who operates Equi-Tech Veterinary Clinic with his father in stonewall, Manitoba and sheep producer. Neil, his wife and family raise purebred Suffolk sheep. As purebred sheep producers are enrolled in the Genovis performance program and do extensive genetic and health testing of their flock. Neil has been actively involved in the Canadian sheep breeders association and is part of the Canadian Lamb Producers Co-operative.

Animals Welfare and Behavior: Dr. Rob Berry presented Sheep Behavior and Handling. General behavior of sheep was presented. They are a highly social animals that recognize faces, have excellent hearing, a good memory and like routine. Sheep function on a 24 hour rhythm cued to photoperiod. Their daily activities was outlined with 3 to 8 hours spent eating (9-14 meals a day). Flight zones was explained and how to use flight zone and the behavior of sheep to move them effectively and stress free. Handling systems designs and layouts were discussed and the labour cost saved by incorporating them. Common handling problems identified both in a system and generally working sheep. Research has shown that early experience with sheep, when subjected to a variety of stressors when young (tail docking, injections), will cause a larger response to acute stress as adults and its effect on productivity and this response may present in the next generation. There was much interest and discussion on this topic.
Dr. Rob Berry, Dairy Specialist with Manitoba Agriculture. Dr. Berry was raised on a sheep farm in Wales and brought much practical experience as well science based information.
Speaker Panel Discussion with Dale Engstrom, Dr. Neil Versavel, Dr. Rob Berry. The symposium attendees had many questions and discussions on the topics discussed by the speakers. It was informative to have all speaker's perspectives and knowledge available at one time.
MSA Update: MSA board members provided an update of activities, Meetings with the Provincial government and AG Minister, What's happening with CSF, Vision 2020 - MSA business plan to build the industry as well as a review of 2016 finances and 2017 draft budget.
The evaluations confirm the success and uptake of the project and the need to have had this project and the want to see more events like the Farm Tour and Symposium. Nutrition, Feeding lambs, Dry lotting sheep, Marketing, Biosecurity, Intro to sheep where some of the topics identified as wanting to see more of .
MSA considered these events very successful as well, many of Manitoba sheep producers participated and felt they received good information to take to their operations. Currently MSA is reviewing the evaluations for the next farm tours and sheep symposium in order to continue to provide quality programming to Manitoba sheep producers.

In This Issue
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 1- 800-567-3693
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Lethbridge, Alberta

SheepBytes is a web-based program designed to effectively manage flock nutrition. Breeding flock owners, feedlot managers and nutritional consultants use SheepBytes to take the guesswork out of balancing cost-effective rations.
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For Sale
  • Polypay X Ile de France rams from a prolific flock
  • Weaned 200% on pasture
  • Yielded an average of 8 - 10 lbs of fine wool per head.  Limited numbers. 
EWE LAMBS also available.
Brian Greaves, Miniota, MB phone: 204 567 3509

Manitoba Sheep Association | (204) 421-9434 | |
Suite 244, 23-845 Dakota Street
Winnipeg, MB
R2M 5M3