local Ontario lamb farm

A “New” Haybine for the sheep farm

We decided we needed an upgraded haybine for cutting hay, as our oldies had been patched again and again, and just were not up to the job. We use them constantly during haying to feed a growing flock, and also to keep pastures trimmed.

(New for us means anything made after 1950.)

Our farm reuses and recycles equipment.

Christopher found a New Holland Hydraswing haybine that was only 15 or 20 years old and bought it. This style (which we term “Gooseneck”) can cut on either side of the tractor, enabling the operator to work up and down each row, and in 12 foot swaths instead of the previous 9 foot. The longer windrows make the raking and baling more efficient too. The challenge was to get it home, considering the dealer delivered to a site relatively near our ferry on the mainland.

Men and machines assembled on mainland, preparing to lift haybine onto wagon

Men and machines assembled on mainland, preparing to lift haybine onto wagon

Men and machines assembled on mainland, preparing to lift the machinery onto wagon for transport.

Chris and Ian rolling wagon underneath

Chris and Ian rolling wagon underneath

Chris heading to the ferry, towing wagon with haybine chained firmly

Chris heading to the ferry, towing wagon with haybine chained firmly

Christopher crossed with one tractor on the 9 am Amherst Island ferry, traveled to the site and towing our new purchase along the road to a large township space to meet Ian and Don. They had crossed on the 10 am ferry with two more tractors, one towing an empty wagon. The haybine is too large to tow onto the ferry; it had to be loaded on its side with the swing arm out of the way onto the wagon to be towed home.

Chris, directing 2 tractors as they lift haybine.

Chris, directing 2 tractors as they lift haybine.

Chris, pulling wagon out from under haybine

Chris, pulling wagon out from under haybine

The photos show some of the steps involved in unloading. Three men, 3 tractors, one wagon and ingenuity, but our new haybine was home by 2 pm.

Christopher, Don and Ian under the swing arm of the ‘new’ haybine

Christopher, Don and Ian under the swing arm of the ‘new’ haybine

Welcome to our newest Topsy addition. May it last into the next generation.

Lifting, transporting two hay bales at a time

Topsy Farms was able to make about 1750 large round hay bales this year, each weighing between 800 to 1000 lbs. Each one is plopped in the field where the baler rolled it out, so they are scattered over about 40 fields, varying from 3 to almost 70 acres.

All the bales have to come home.

Ian takes two wagons, hitched in tandem behind the tractor, to the field he’s about to clear.

His tractor, the Allis-Chalmers 185 cab loader, now with decent tires on the rear wheels, has two spikes in the front and tines in the rear, enabling him to pick up two hay bales at a time. First he reverses, lowering the tines, to pick up a hay bale in the back. Then he shifts to forward gear, raising the rear hydraulics. It is difficult (until one has done thousands) to line up the top spike centrally, at reasonable speed, aiming for the mid-point on the bale that can not be seen from the driver’s seat. The second smaller spike keeps the bale from spinning as the hydraulic arms lift the bale. The tractor then takes the two hay bales to the wagons, parked centrally in the field to minimize travel distance.

Gathering 2 bales

In position

Wagons almost loaded


The picture below shows that all fields are not conveniently flat.  The low swale Ian is travelling through, would bog him down in wet weather, so this field is high on the list for early clearance.


Herding the Weaned Lambs

The lambs have been weaned from the ewes. They no longer need the milk and they can be rough on the mamas.

The ewes need a break.

They need to have some peaceful grazing, to rebuild their strength before starting the cycle again.

This way we ensure we can maintain a healthy happy flock, producing quality lamb and wool products, both on-line at at our Wool Shed store.

Lambs being driven from the Grey Barn to west of the New Barn to get them as far from their mothers as we can so as few as possible drift back.


Guardian Dogs at Topsy Farms

We need our guardian dogs at Topsy.  There’s a bumper sticker that says ‘Eat Canadian Lamb: 10,000 coyotes can’t be wrong.” Some seasons it feels as though most of those coyotes have found their way, over the winter ice to Amherst Island. We have three significantly large sheep farms here, and lamb is a favorite food.

When sheep are not stressed and fearful, they are far more healthy and calm. This results in the production of quality lamb and wool for our products, offered on-line and at the farm’s Wool Shed.

We have a variety of methods to try to counteract predation.

Our guardian dogs help keep coyote predation losses down.

We tried donkeys some years ago. We gather they are useful for very small flocks that don’t move often. For us, Golda (named after G. Meir) was harder to herd than the entire flock and a huge hassle when she needed her hooves trimmed.

After trying one very large Komondor dog, Bear, we decided that the long dredlocks were just not suitable for fields with burrs and brambles. Until his old age, he wanted to be a lap dog – not always convenient during picnics. He smelled in his old age.

We’ve tried Akbash and Maremma breeds, liking their general attitude of defensiveness, rather than aggression. There’s lots of variation within each breed of course – lots of individuality. We’re now moving mainly to Akbash, as their coats are shorter, and have less knots and burrs. They live with the sheep year ’round, being fed and patted once a day.

At the moment we have 10 Guardian dogs:

Lucy was given to us, as she was rough on cats in the suburban area where she was first raised. She’s an older dog, somewhat skittish and matronly. She chums with…

Pollux. According to Christopher our shepherd, he’s a ‘portly old gent’. He’s stable and enjoys Lucy’s company.

Marcus is a lovely big, handsome, affectionate dog. We’ll have to watch his food intake as he’ll have a tendency to get too large.

Marcus and Michael

Nichola spends time with Marcus – her brother. She’s much more skittish. We bought both from another sheep farmer. She raised one litter which included Mr. Purple. Don has seen her jump the perimeter fence (over 5 feet).

Leo is an older, quietly affectionate dog – Chris considers him our most useful dog.

Blackie is a much younger dog, bred here on our farm. He’s already reliable at not yet 2 years old, spending lots of time with Leo.

Trixie birthed 2 litters for us, before we decided she should be spayed. She’s the mother of Blackie and Tweedledum.

Tweedledum is a promising young dog who has been slowed somewhat an unfortunate injury last year, breaking a back leg badly, when jumping a fence. The vet bills were impressive.

Jack is Trixie’s brother. He is now top dog. Despite his size, it took quite q while to assume that roll from Marcus.

Mr. Purple is our youngest pup-in-training. He used to sneak bites of food from the older dogs who tolerated it until just recently, when they gave him a sound lesson in manners.

Young pups are patted regularly, though we are cautious to ensure they are more attached to sheep than people. They spend time first with rams who teach them basic manners. Each dog in the field is patted daily when fed, though most are somewhat shy. Their greatest dread is the annual trip to the vet clinic. They are also somewhat uneasy when we move the flock to different pastures. Their ‘backyard’ is now the 250 fenced acres of the home farm.

Our guardian dogs are important workers on Topsy Farms, doing their best to help protect our flock from the coyote predators.

Nous vous invitons à communiquer avec nous en français à info@topsyfarms.com, ou par téléphone: 1-888-287-3157. Demandez à parler à Sally.