Saskatchewan. Sheep farmers face cold spring and feed shortage

It’s been a tough lambing season for Saskatchewan farmers this year. The cold weather has been difficult for the new lambs, which are susceptible to hypothermia.

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

It is crucial in the first hours of birth that a new lamb is warm, dry and lactating. Even if it is above 0 C, lambs are still at risk if they do not receive milk.

Also, food was scarce. Last summer’s drought caused a shortage of hay and Chris Willenborg, a sheep farmer near Saskatoon, had to improvise.

“Trying to keep the ewes in good condition to lamb, making sure they have the groceries they need has been a real challenge,” Willenborg said.

Willenborg added pellets to his herd’s feed to make up for the lack of protein, but this dramatically increased costs, a problem for many producers in the province.

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

Willenborg is optimistic that the hay harvest will be much better this year.

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

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