John & Kelsey Beasley have been involved in Agriculture their entire lives. John is a fourth-generation rancher from Patricia, Alberta. He grew up on an extensive family beef operation that encompassed five hundred purebred Angus cows, twenty-five hundred commercial cows and two small feedlots. He spent 2002 to 2009 in Manitoba managing an expansion of the family operation, converting a grain farm into a vertically integrated, nine hundred head cow calf ranch. This included backgrounding home raised calves and grassing the yearlings.
Purchasing their first Cheviot sheep to train stock dogs, they soon acknowledged the opportunity in a diversity of livestock and the value of raising lamb for land stewardship and as a recourse to support their young family in sustainable agriculture. They moved to the Youngstown-Bigstone area of Alberta and have been grass-based lamb producers for ten years, actively using sheep as a management tool for controlling invasive weeds, range improvement and enhanced soil fertility on croplands.
They raise lambs from a flock of 1000 ewes on grass, finishing all their lambs with grazing as much as possible. They raise a variety of different breads which serve different purposes. They raise purebred North Country Cheviots for seed stock, their commercial flock consists of a North Country Cheviot, Dorset, and Arcott cross, and they also use Suffolk rams in our program.
On the ranch, they care for a multitude of animals that help shepherd the sheep. Horses and ponies, for moving the flock to better pasture, as well as the dog team. This includes livestock guardian dogs and Border Collies. The support animals are an integral part of the operation and really “bring the awesome” to being a shepherd and raising lamb. Thy also keep a dairy cow that helps keep bottle lambs fed at lambing time and cream for John’s morning coffee.
The Beasley’s really enjoy the challenges of providing excellent animal care to produce a quality product. They love working the land and raising lamb, knowing their value in the ecosystem. They approach their livelihood with a sense of passion and respect, with goals to produce optimum food sources for people, livestock and wildlife.
As a family, they invest their life energy into raising food; it is the culture of their family and community. The Beasley’s also greatly value the opportunity raising lamb brings to create meaningful, local work. The entire immediate family and occasionally extended family participates on the ranch, with community participation during events such as lambing and shearing. They also have had the opportunity to bring in shepherds and provide experience and training for those who want to improve their skill.
The work load and daily chores on the ranch change with the seasons, but ultimately the Beasley’s are always shepherding first. Interestingly, the dogs are the first part of their morning chores as they are let out of the kennel to run and then we set out to the sheep.
John and Kelsey hope to see growth in the industry as the skill of shepherds and the consumer demand for quality local lamb increases. If the public would like to learn more about agriculture or experience it, the Beasley’s are advocates in their industry, hosting educational field days, internships and apprenticeships. If interested, they encourage you to contact them for more information.
Lamb Burgers with Brie and Prosciutto
(with VIDEO) Featuring SunGold’s Our Favourite Lamb Burger – Loaded with flavour, this gourmet lamb burger will be a hit at any barbecue party.