Norfolk County sheep farm recognized for reducing their carbon footprint
A sheep farm in Norfolk County has been recognized with an international award for its work to reduce its carbon footprint.
Woolley's Lamb recently received the United Nations Food Systems Award for Best Small Business, one of 50 winners globally.
"The whole system here is such a low environmental carbon footprint it’s the overall theme here that makes it pretty special," Woolley said.
The farm manages forest and pasture together on the property. Carrie Woolley, the farm's livestock manager, said the practice is fairly unique to Ontario and Canada, especially on a larger scale.
"Woolley’s Lamb is part of a bigger farm operation, which is Schuyler Farms Ltd.," she said. "So we grow grains, we have corn and soybeans and we also grow the apples and the sour cherries. And that is how the sheep operation started."
Woolley said a friend from New Zealand suggested grazing sheep in the orchards. The farm has about 5,000 acres of land, and the sheep are on 2,000 of those acres.
"You’re managing the tree production, the animal production and the forage production all on the same piece of land," Woolley said. "You’re working on a goal of having a positive impact on the trees that are growing there but also trying to grow forages on that land to graze livestock."
When done right, Woolley said it can have large benefits.
"There’s this real sense that livestock will ruin a bush - which is very true if mismanaged," she said. "So when you are doing silvopasture it’s with a real intention and managing it intensively. The key is basically rotational grazing so the animals don’t spend too much time in one area. They are on an area for a small amount of time and then that area has a large rest and recovery period."
The farm uses electric fencing to rotate pastures. The sheep also help reduce the orchard's mowing costs.
The livestock are outside 24/7, all year long. They switch to hay over the winter months.
"Overall it allows us to produce meat and wool with a very low carbon footprint, because our animals are coming out and grazing the feed we aren’t having to harvest the feed and bring it to them or bed them in a barn and spread manure," Woolley said.