Recent History – 1999
July 2, 1999
Submitted by PRASPS
Although the sheep industry in the Peace has been one of low profile, it has had a presence since the days of the early settlers. Along with a few large flocks, most settlers kept a few sheep for the wool and for family meat. A sheep was a small enough animal to use relatively quickly when food preservation was a problem. Sometimes not everyone even had a ram (male breeding animal), but one was kept in the community to pass around to sheep owners at the appropriate time so that each of the small flocks would have a lamb crop.
From this, the industry has grown. There are presently a few local flocks of 400 to 700 head, but many more in the 10 to 200-head range. Sheep are a good family enterprise, being small enough and quiet-natured enough to be handled by youngsters and oldsters. They take a relatively small amount of land base, compared to most alternative grazing livestock. There is a profit to be made in the sheep business. The average price of breeding ewes at the 1998 Peace Country Sheep Sale was $90 per head. Present lamb prices are in the range of $1.20 per pound for feeder lambs and around $105 for 100-pound fat lambs.
Net wire or electric fencing play an important part in sheep containment and predator control. Also, many producers use either guardian dogs or an alternate type of guardian animal such as a llama or donkey with the flock. Lambing facilities range from a barn or shed for colder weather lambing to properly fenced and arranged pastures for the warm weather pasture lambing now being practiced by some flocks in the area.
There are several marketing alternatives for sheep. With increased sheep numbers in the area, there are now several feeder lamb buyers who offer private treaty buying plus some organized trucks of fat lambs which run to the Canada West processing plant in Innisfail, Alberta.
In 1994, with funding assistance from PRASPS, local producers organized the Peace Country Sheep Sale, an on-farm sale to gather and sell all types of sheep from the area. The first sale sold 1776 head of sheep. Last September, the Peace Country Sheep Sale moved to the auction mart in Dawson Creek for its fifth anniversary sale and sold 5,200 head making it the largest sheep sale in western Canada. The sale is now drawing the main buyers of sheep in western Canada from Manitoba to Vancouver Island and getting a fair market price on our doorstep. It also offers the opportunity for purchase of commercial and registered breeding stock, handling dogs, guardian dogs, guardian llamas, and used sheep equipment.
There are three sheep producer organizations in the area — the Dawson Creek Sheep Producers and the North Peace Sheep Producers (Fort St. John area) as well as the Peace River Lamb Association which serves both the Alberta and BC Peace River area. For information call Nancy Peterson at (250) 789-3135.