Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Sheep & Maple Syrup

Sheep and Maple Syrup

Professor Cathy Dwyer has just returned from a few days in Ontario, Canada, where she was the guest speaker at the Ontario Sheep Convention, held in Alliston, Ontario. Cathy spoke to nearly 200 sheep farmers and delegates about the science of ewe-lamb bonding, and how management could work with the natural behaviour of the ewe to improve lamb survival. She explained the biological processes that govern the onset of maternal care in sheep, and how the ewe is driven by hormonal changes around birth to develop a bond with her own lambs, and to reject others. Knowing the biology of the relationships can help farmers ensure that ewes and lambs are given the best chance to develop a strong mother-young relationship, which is good for sheep welfare and for farmer morale. In particular she emphasised giving the ewe time and space to show maternal behaviour without excessive human intervention.

Cathy was the guest of the Ontario Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, who organised the convention with the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency. Following the convention she visited a number of sheep farms, to see how Canadian farmers were dealing with the challenges of producing sheep in areas where temperatures can reach -40°C and coyote predation is a significant threat to sheep welfare. She met many of the guardian dogs that North American sheep farmers use to protect their flocks, and was impressed by the innovative and enthusiastic approach to sheep farming shown by many of the farmers.

Of course, no trip to Canada in the autumn would really be complete without sampling some of the (many) maple sugar products on offer, being amazed by the autumn colours in the trees and stunned by the incredible Hallowe’en decorations! 

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