Dunvegan sheep farmers lament Canada’s declining wool production as they look to retire in 2019

While French settlers first brought sheep to Canada around 1650, their population has varied greatly over the centuries. Known for its excellent high-quality fleece, Canada’s three million pounds of wool is only a fraction of the world’s annual production (wool.ca).  “The wool volume in our country is sadly decreasing due to the costs of production,’ says local sheep farmer Laurie Maus.  “High-end fleeces we would see from specialty breeds are only getting about a third of their return if they go through wool growers. The only ones surviving now, are the small cottage-type processors,” says Maus.  According to wool.ca, the decline is also attributed to lower sheep numbers, which may be mainly due to drought conditions and expensive feed in some provinces.

On a local note, Robert Garner and Laurie Maus are ready to pass the baton after raising sheep for more than a decade.

It was in 1997 that the couple moved from the city to their Dunvegan home. There was never a dull moment living on a farm decorated with animals ranging from chickens, cattle and even up to 17 Canadian horses at one time. Having worked with livestock most of her life Laurie’s curiosity was sparked after she attended a show in Barrie, Ontario. She wanted to start a sheep hobby farm.

Their herd was a blend of North Country and Tunisian breeds until the last two to three years. Today, they focus solely on 30 Tunis because of specific characteristics that sets this breed apart from the rest.

This fall, the sheep were scheduled to be be moving to a new female owner from the Ottawa area.

“Don’t worry! I’ll still be a back-seat breeder and coach her along” Laurie said. Once retired, the couple will continue to actively promote, support and educate the public on livestock rearing.

Tunis were first imported into the U.S. in 1799 from Tunisia and almost became extinct after the U.S. Civil War due to food shortages. In recent years they have been on the rebound in the States and more specifically in Canada in the last four years.

Sheep fun facts — according to thatsfarming.com:

1-Sheep have rectangular pupils that allow them to see almost 360 degrees.

2-They have a memory that allows them to remember other sheep and humans for years.

3-Just like you and me, they have an ability to bond with one another.



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Melanie Willard

Melanie is a speaker and author who helps organizations grow in resilience while breaking the silence and stigma to human suffering. In 2016 she wrote her first book Dare to be Raw, which is her true story of triumph over tragedy. Willard's book is available at The Review or through her website.

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