Sask. sheep farmers face cold spring, feed shortage

Lambing season has been difficult for Saskatchewan farmers this year. The cold weather has been hard for new lambs, who are susceptible to hypothermia.

“If you think of getting out of a swimming pool with the cold air or cold wind, I mean you cool off very quickly, and lambs have a pretty small body mass,” said Gordon Schroeder with the Saskatchewan Sheep Development Board.

It is crucial in the first few hours of birth that a new lamb is warm, dry and nursing. Even if it’s above 0 C lambs are still at risk if they don’t get milk.

In addition, feed has been in short supply. The drought from last summer caused a shortage, and Chris Willenborg, a sheep producer near Saskatoon, had to improvise.

“Trying to keep the ewes in good condition to lamb, make sure they’ve got the groceries that they need has been a real challenge,” Willenborg said.

Willenborg added pellets to his flock’s diet to make up for the lack of protein, but it has greatly increased costs, a problem for many producers in the province.

“Some producers, you know, couldn’t find feed so there was a reduction in some areas of the province for our flock,” Schroder said.

Willenborg is optimistic that there crops will be much better this year.

And despite the challenges, Willenborg says the lambs are worth it.

“They’re always very cute. It’s the best time of year.”

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