After reading of the upgrading program in the USA of breeding Wensleydale Sheep, Delia Burge of Cobweb Woolies in Nova Scotia, Canada became interested in finding out how to get the breed into Canada. The Wensleydale was a breed of sheep that she had always wanted since learning to spin in the 1960’s in Vancouver and as a sheep producer since 1979. Delia’s primary focus has always been wool but at times with a flock of 90, mostly Romney’s, good freezer lamb must be considered. As the Wensleydale was used mainly as a crossing ram on UK hill sheep to form the Masham maternal dam, this breed seemed to fit two purposes for Delia – luscious curls, lustrous, heavy fleeces, and large, lean meaty carcasses.
So, the next step was to learn the rules for importing sheep into Canada. Semen and embryos are not allowed into Canada, but live animals, providing they meet stringent criteria are permitted. The advantage of importing the live Wensleydale sheep is that the rams are genotyped for scrapie before they can be registered because US producers start out by enrolling in the USDA scrapie eradication program. RR genotype is a requirement for importing animals into Canada. Delia contacted Virginia Scholomiti of the Yellow Farm in Delanson, NY about animals in 2011. Virginia was registered to export due to the fact that her sheep were being export monitored in the scrapie program for a minimum of five years. Importation rules are not as strict when import rams as they are for ewes. Many emails later, Delia chose two ram lambs who were both over 90% and she was able to apply for an import permit.
Although there was a lot of paperwork and organization required on the import side, there was also a great deal of requirements on the side of the exporter. The exporters had to be inspected by a state veterinarian within 30 days preceding the date of export and obtain a health certificate from the vet, which is only valid for 30 days. As Delia is located in Nova Scotia, on the East Coast of Canada, and Virginia resides in upstate New York, the two had to pick out animals and get them across the border within the 30 day period. The animals were required to have permanent identification system tags for traceability. Also, the letters USA were required to be tattooed in the right ear and noted within pages of paperwork. The import permit was through the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency). Beyond the permit paperwork, Delia was also required to contact the border patrol and make sure that a CFIA veterinary inspector would meet them upon crossing the border. Delia had driven to Virginia’s farm which was a two-day journey. They bonded immediately and they could have talked woolly, sheepy things for days. Having stayed the night, they left the next morning with two beautiful ram lambs in the back of the pickup truck. They drove to Maine and took a break overnight with the rams very content and causing no problems. Arriving at the border crossing on the specified day and time was the most stressful part of the journey. However, all went well with the paperwork and Delia breathed a sigh of relief to have made it into Canada with her new sheep.
In 2012, Delia imported two ewes from Sheryl Meacham of Gwenyth Glynn Longwools in Indiana, and one ewe from Virginia Scholomiti. The paperwork was much more intense this time and Delia was nearly stopped from bringing the black lamb through inspection because the USA tattoo in the ear was barely visible – thankfully a flashlight remedied the situation.
Since that time, Delia has sold registered animals to Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, which is makes for a good distribution of animals across Canada. Delia is very pleased with the wool, which she finds similar in appearance to mohair but with the better properties of wool. Delia raised Angora Goats for 20 years. She also finds that the lambs have more meaty, leaner, and heavier carcasses in a shorter time period as compared to her Romney’s. She also finds the sheep to be very personable and friendly but not for the faint of heart because they are big, strong willed sheep. The one minus point that Delia sees is their indignation at being turned up to trim feet as they can give a good kick!
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