In 1993, Marg Steele and her husband bought their family farm near Auburn. Marg had grown up on a sheep farm and “it was all she knew how to do.” They started the farm in 1974 with a flock of 10 ewes which has now grown to 170. During that time they also raised three children – Matthew, Sarah and Eric. While her husband has another career off the farm Marg is home to run the farm full-time.
The Steele’s flock is mostly North Country Cheviot and Dorset. The Cheviots are very hardy animals. The baby lambs stand almost immediately although they do take a bit longer to reach maturity. The Dorset’s are a bit larger and are a bit better “mothering” breed.
Most of the Ewes on this farm are five to eight years old. Their teeth and udders are the “first to go” in aging animals. For genetic diversity the Steele’s bring in all the rams. Right now, Steele said, there are good sources although there had been challenges over the years to find rams that do well on grass farms. Twins and triplets are desired and at this farm they come in three waves starting with a small flock in March, followed by some in April and the largest flock in May. In this way, Marg told us, she can manage the lambing season by herself.
As soon as possible in the spring the animals are released outside to the fields where they are moved around the farm every day to ensure consistent renewal of the pasture. The Steele’s turned their farm into hay and pasture as their research indicated grass-fed animals are nutritionally the best. Marg believes “we are what we eat” so feeds her animals accordingly. While not certified organic they are classified natural.
At 5-6 months old the lambs are over 70 lbs and ready to harvest. Steele lamb products are available at Shanahan’s in Goderich, as well as direct from the farm, which is their biggest market. Animals are also marketed through the sales barn in Brussels. Marg told us how difficult it is to supply restaurants directly as most chefs prefer specific cuts of lamb.
Lamb for Supper …
Lamb is very easy to prepare. Stick a few cloves of garlic into a lamb roast, add onions, salt and pepper in a little water. Cook in your slow cooker all day for a nutritious family meal. Marg also enjoys a lamb chop of the barbeque – just sprinkle with a bit of sea salt – the meat is very tender and good and does not require a lot of condiment.
Marg wants consumer’s to know lamb is not only really good to taste, but grass-fed lamb is also very high in Vitamins A, E, CLA and is a good source of iron. It also contains the good fats required for healthy brain development. Marg loves watching the lambs frolic and play in the fields, and feels their stress-free environment leads to the high quality of meats they market.
EWE TRIVIA: Ewes have two sides to their udder.
Originally the Steele’s started their farm with one barn and about six acres fenced for their animals. Now, they have almost 100 acres fenced and two barns. The ewes are fed hay in the barn during the winter, and grain is added the last month or so during lambing.
In addition to sheep, the Steele’s have raised pastured poultry for seventeen years, now growing a flock of up to 300 birds. They arrive as day-old chick and when their large feathers appear they are transferred into protected pens. These pens get moved every day which is an enormous amount of work, so there is only one flock per year. They are marketed in late July at approximately 2.5 months old.
MORE EWE TRIVIA: There seems to be a built in hierarchy amongst sheep in a flock.
Marg Steele loves life on the farm. She’s passionate about her animals and her lifestyle. She loves the outdoors. She loves watching a storm approach across the fields. She enjoys the bees, the birds and the butterflies. And, watching the lambs frolicking and playing in the fields brings her great joy.
I asked her about the coyotes having heard they’re so plentiful they’re threatening animals in the region. She described how she hears them across the fields, but they have electric fences to help keep them at bay. She also described how a full flock can intimidate a coyote where a single lamb might be more apt to be attacked.
Steele Wool Farm
338689 Moncrieff Rd
Blyth, ON N0M 1H0