The Steele family manages 2,000 ewes on multiple properties near Norwood, Ont., and it has had to find innovative ways to feed them.
The farm uses 850 acres on 15 properties in the area. That means moving feed and animals around.
Five greenhouse shelters are on the farm, most dating back 20 years, but they are not used as much anymore, as two-thirds of the flock is outdoors year round.
The Steeles moved away from accelerated lambing seven years ago, to annual lambing on pasture. That meant more ability to use the outdoors and simplify management.
That’s also meant they had to find equipment solutions that were inexpensive and didn’t exist in Ontario at the time.
John Steele said he has relied on local fabricator, John Kloosterman Equipment to create much of his innovative equipment, including most of the penning.
They built the first snacker feeder for lambs, a practice that is now common, and also a large distributor for round bales. They put as many as six of them in the wagon, which moves the bale back using a walking table. At the back, teeth pull apart the bale as it is rolled out in the field for the sheep. That means they can feed 1,200 ewes in one trip.
Steele said he finds the pasture-fed bales are important for managing soil organic matter. After a winter of bale feeding, the pasture is disked twice and then put into corn for grazing. They put the field back into pasture the next year.
The Steeles also have an innovative lamb feedlot, which they created from the old dairy barn on Eadie Steele’s family property. The lambs are finished on a slatted floor on the second floor of the barn. The barn is well ventilated by curtains and the unprocessed corn and feed supplements are fed by drops into feeders.
The Steeles also use an older side slinger to roughly mix together feed. They use discarded fruit when available and also some corn silage and distillers grains.