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Sheep take flight for overseas connection

Huge opportunity in exporting across the world

By Carrie Davenport,   University of Guelph Agricultural Communications Student, for Farms.com

Two Ontario sheep producers have taken a huge leap forward for the Canadian sheep industry, by making an important connection abroad.

Don and Jay Lewis of Holstein, ON, couldn’t say no when Canada's trade commissioner approached them to fill an order of 500 live sheep to Singapore. The father-son pair is recognized as one of the largest sheep producers in Canada, finishing about 20,000 sheep a year and dropping 700 lambs in the spring. So they had almost all of the requirements they needed to complete this large task.

“When trying something others haven’t done before, there is always more risk involved. It was something we wanted to do though,” says Don.

A Muslim group in Singapore were prepared to pay a hefty $750 a head for lambs, to conclude a festival where the animals are slaughtered and shared with family and friends. The challenge to the Lewis's wasn’t providing top quality lambs, but rather, how to get them there.

Fortunately, the stars were aligned to make it happen. Lewis Farms rented a cargo jet with a company from the United States that needed to ship live eels to Singapore as well. They followed due process, with several health and condition checks taking place on the lambs over a three-month period.

The efforts of all on the farm were vital to the success and the final completion.

“All of our workers wanted to be a part of it, it was something new and exciting that no one has done before," he says. "It was a real team effort.”

Alongside Don and the flight crew, a veterinarian was hired to oversee the lambs' health. But while in the air, the unforeseen happened flying overseas: the plane’s smoke detectors went off and the plane was forced to land in Japan. This country doesn’t approve of live animals entering its borders, and the plane crew was arrested.

But the smoke alarm warning turned out to be false, and after a three-hour wait for a new pilot, the lambs were finally transported to their final location.

Don Lewis says they would do this kind of shipment again, but rent the entire cargo plane alone. They would then be able to more fully manage the process. They see a huge opportunity in exporting across the world. Having seen the ups and downs of this high demand industry, the two have made themselves known to be ambitious and innovative.

This article is part of Carrie Davenport’s course work for the University of Guelph agricultural communications course, instructed by Prof. Owen Roberts.


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