Friday, October 14, 2011

My trip to find new rams

A Shepherds Trip to the National Sheep Show and Sale

It all started last year when my friend Nev Eccles asked me if I would like to go to the National sheep show and sale at Drake Saskatchewan. It sounded like a great idea at the time. My wife offered to take care of the ranch while I was gone along with help from two of our children who would be home from University at that time. “It will be a good break for you, see old friends and flat land again, we know how much you miss it”. So it was settled, “count me in Nev” I said “it should be fun”.
When we got closer to the date I realized how much our operation had grown and was worried about taking time away. But I was quickly reminded I said I would go, so go I must. I began to think my going to Saskatchewan was more of a holiday for my wife than for me!
We set of at the appointed time and date, after loading up some of my wool for Carstairs woolen mill. We were driving right by so it would save me a large freight bill. We headed for Outlook Sask, I felt if we spent the night there and set off for Drake after breakfast we would arrive in plenty of time to book in the sheep and set up. We arrived earlier than expected in Outlook, but were glad of the break. The sheep, two rams and two ewe lambs seemed in better shape than us after the main leg of the trip.
Next morning after a hearty breakfast we set off to Drake via Nokomis. On the map the road is marked as red so one would assume it is a major road. But we are in the “Post Local Elevator age”, now large semi trucks and B trains haul farmers grain huge distances to a large terminals destroying the thin black top side roads on their way. Nev was beginning to wonder where I was taking him while he was fighting with potholes and gravel over large sections of a “black top” road!
I had hoped to learn a thing or two about showing sheep on this trip from Nev. Seems he was hoping for the same from me. Turns out we had both shown cattle and fat stock in England but both come up short on sheep. So we led the rams to the wash station and decided to watch the bloke next to us, and copy him! It worked out well as both rams came out several shades whiter than when they started and after a blow dry looked quite respectable. We felt that showing them “in the wool” was best for the sheep and us. We can both shear sheep, but the most I have ever left on is with a snow comb in February, so artistic clipping was defiantly out of the question.
This gave Nev more time to talk to prospective buyers and for me to look for some new rams. I needed a new Dorset flock sire, and a terminal sire, breed at that time undecided. The Classic is a great opportunity to compare breed sizes and styles all under one roof, which is really what the show and sale is all about for a commercial guy like me.
That night there was a wine and cheese event with great sheep’s cheese from The Cheesiry of Kitscoty Alberta, and there was me thinking it was only good for lambs! At this point I must say that the venue was great and the folks of Drake looked after us. Hats of to the ladies who made the Saskatoon pies, I now live in BC, the land of fruit but I really miss Saskatoons as they do not grow here. Yes I will admit to having two slices a day and three on Saturday.
The show had over 270 entries and with two rings and two judges it was a fast paced enjoyable event. No time to get bored and always some thing to watch. Nev did well with his North Country Cheviots and placed second with one of the rams. Although not trimmed and pretty, they were ready for the field, (having recently just left it) and did well on the sale day, generating a lot of interest in his stock. I spoke to Nev three weeks after the sale and he had sold all his rams since then, so showing and advertising pays. He seemed some what in shock with nothing left to sell, but was happy with his bank account. I will hazard a guess that what happened to Nev will happen to a lot of breeders of quality sheep this year. With higher lamb prices and the need to expand to keep markets the price of the sheep at the show was higher than in previous years and the bidding on good stock was fast and keen. There were the obvious high prices between breeders trading bloodlines, as some animals were priced well above the profitability threshold. The rams going to commercial flocks for either flock sires or terminal use sold well with many reaching or exceeding five times the market lamb price, which is the traditional guide line for pricing.
Its funny how you meet people, while collecting my bidding card the lady at the booth said “hi Rob, pleased to meet you”. It was Cathy Gallivan, the Editor and owner of Sheep Canada and although I have written for her we had never met, such is modern technology. It was good to meet Cathy and catch up with old friends from Manitoba to here all the latest from my old home. I would like to thank Clint Wiens for all his hard work and for our new Dorset flock sire, and Robin Herlinveaux for our new Texal terminal sire who will compliment our Dorset ewes.
So next time the classic is near you, or just a few provinces away, treat yourself and go to it. You will have a great time, meet great people and if you bid well bring home some great sheep!
Rob Fensom can be reached at

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