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Immigration spurs demand for lamb

Immigration spurs demand for lamb

Technology is pushed as key in helping the Ontario sheep community grow its business.

By Andrew Joseph,; Image by Couleur from Pixabay

At the Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week—held this past week—the Ontario Sheep Farmers (OSF) on January 7, 2023, acknowledged that immigration appears to be key to future growth of its meat sector.

“In many ways, the future of our sector has not arrived in Canada yet. We are the people who will provide for a growing number of new Canadians who value our product and enjoy it in new and different ways,” stated Erin Morgan, the Executive Director of the Ontario Sheep Farmers, a producer-run organization representing all aspects of the sheep, lamb, and wool industry in the province. “Our future will be shaped by the needs and wants of these customers.”

Morgan noted that the rise in demand for lamb has been fueled by new Canadians, with no sign of it slowing down in the near future. The demand now has Ontario sheep farmers looking to both expand their herd and diversifying their base of producers.

According to the 2021 Statistics Canada Census of Agriculture, there were 1,309 sheep and goat farms in Ontario—which is about 37 percent of the Canadian producers.

Morgan described how the OSF had recently conducted its Crossroads Challenge to recognize the changing dynamics in Ontario agriculture, the maturing of the sheep sector and the need to update the OSF strategic plan. IE, how do we grow?  
“The Crossroads Challenge revealed the work ahead of us is to engage and invest in the next generation of farmers,” Morgan explained. “It’s to engage and learn about our consumers and the value chain, and improve our relationship with technology in order to find efficiencies.”

Partnering with Scotiabank, the new Yield More Financing program allows OSF members with a minimum of two years of experience to apply for up to $50,000 in funding to purchase ewes and feeder lambs.

Morgan added that by hook or by crook, the sheep sector needs to modernize—to utilize new technology to track genetic progress, provide market information, implement traceability, improve on-farm efficiencies and processing.

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