Small sheep breeder makes big splash

Several banners | Braebank Stock Farms breeds North Country Cheviot, Canadian Arcott and Ile de France sheep

Rolly Bateman thinks he might be the oldest rookie of the year ever.

At age 60, the sheep breeder from Pilger, Sask., won that honour at the Saskatchewan Sheep Breeders Association show and sale held during Canadian Western Agribition.

He, along with his sister and brother-in-law, has only been in the sheep business a short time.

Bateman is a well-known Shorthorn breeder who also had an embryo business. He dispersed his herd in 2008 for health reasons.

“I need something I can do and so, health-wise, I can still handle sheep where I can’t handle cows,” he said after his first Agribition sheep show.

Bateman, who has exhibited at Agribition since it began, remembers when a tent was set up where the current sheep barn now sits. The water hydrant inside would freeze by the second day, and exhibitors had to haul pails from the Prairie Building until the supply there froze, too.

The weather in the early years of the show was the worst, he said.

“There’s a picture of me bringing a Shorthorn bull from the race track (where tie-outs used to be located) and the drift was so high, we’d had so much snow, there was a little red car parked there and we walked over the top of it. Didn’t even realize it was there.”

At home, his purebred ewes are treated like commercial animals, which appeals to commercial buyers.

Bateman has 70 breeding ewes of three breeds: North Country Cheviot, Canadian Arcott and Ile de France. Canadian Arcott sheep were developed at the experimental farm in Ottawa.

He said he bought some commercial ewes as embryo recipients and liked them so much he bought purebreds.

“They lay down, they give you two or three robust big lambs, they get up, they nurse, they do their business,” he said. “I call them the no-nonsense breed.”

They also grow fast. His lambs are 130 pounds by the time they’re 100 days old. The heaviest has been 142 lb. at that age.

“It’s a breed that more and more commercial guys are going to because they can utilize them as a terminal sire or they can keep those half-blood daughters and they work really well in a good flock,” he said.

Ile de France sheep are relatively new to Canada. The breed was developed from a Merino cross in France and was first imported in 1995.

“They maintain really nice wool but are very much developed as a carcass breed,” Bateman said.

“I just thought we should have a challenge so I bought a few.”

He already has a waiting list for breeding stock of both breeds.

As well, he sells Canadian Arcott rams into intense commercial production flocks that want out-of-season lambing.

“As good a response and as good a year as we’ve had, I probably could have a flock of 300 ewes and be sold out, but that’s never going to happen,” he said.

His facilities only allow for lambing 20 ewes at a time, and the workload suits both him and his sister.

Bateman’s Braebank Stock Farm took several championship banners home from Agribition.

In the Canadian Arcott classes, Napkin 20T and Braebank Augusta Aster 29A were grand and reserve champion ewes, respectively. Junior exhibitor Tamara Knapp from Southey, Sask., showed the latter.

Medicine Ridge 514Z and Braebank Alpha 2A were the grand and reserve Canadian Arcott rams.

Braebank also won grand champion ewe, any other breed, with Baerental 3Z, and grand champion ram, any other breed, with Georgella 11Z.

Braebank Admiration 20A was the grand champion North Country Cheviot ewe.

In the sale, Braebank Alpha 2A sold for $550 to Terry Grajczyk of Zehner, Sask., which was one of the higher prices.

Topping the Nov. 16 sale was Westwood Zeller 16Z, a purebred Suffolk ram consigned by Westwood Suffolks and Texels of Elkhorn, Man., which sold for $825 to Frances Dyck of Swift Current, Sask.

The SSBA sale averaged nearly $300 a head on a $24,300 total, while the Katahdin sale averaged $550 on 10 lots.

The high seller in the Katahdin sale was a ram lamb, JJCM A384 from Mish Katahdins at Glenavon, Sask. He sold for $700 to Triple C Ranch of Arborfield, Sask.

Mish Katahdins nearly swept the show ring, showing the grand champion ewe, JJCM 521X, and grand and reserve champion rams, JJCM 2742 and JJCM A401, respectively. Triple C showed the reserve ewe, CCC73Z.

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