NAPPAN- Beef and sheep farming was a hot topic Saturday morning during the annual Sheep and Beef Research Field Day at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Nappan Experimental Farm. Farmers were invited out to view presentations on how to increase beneficial fatty acids in lambs and what sort of effects different kinds of forage mixtures have on cattle.
Dr. Kathleen Glover, formerly a professor at the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus, gave a detailed presentation on the benefits of feeding sheep forage high in fatty acids.
“The primary purpose of the research was the try to improve the productivity and quality of lamb produced in the Maritimes,” she said. “In the Maritimes, we use pasture as our lamb production feed and so we really wanted to look at how pasture types would effect lamb quality and productivity but we also wanted to address the issue that lamb and meat products in general tend to be high in saturated fat.”
Glover said, for her experiment, they wanted to produce a more wholesome meat product. They grazed on two types of pastures: one high in red clover and the other high in tall fescue. After grazing for three months, they put the (sheep) in the barn and finished them on grain but gave them oil supplements during the last few weeks of finishing.
“We gave them fish oils, so that they could get the long chain omega-3 fatty acids, and we compared that to soy bean oil, and to safflower oil,” she said. “We found that certainly with the fish oil, that we could increase those long chain fatty acids but the animals didn’t grow as well.”
Although the size of the animal had a different outcome when grazed on red clover, Glover said it might not be a negative thing for farmers.
“It could mean that those animals are actually just leaner and that we have just as much carcass yield from that but it’s something we need to investigate further,” she said. “We were certainly able to increase EPA and DHA, which are two primary beneficial fatty acids that people are in encouraged to get by eating fish and if we can put that into these products, then we would be at an advantage.”
Glover said that by grazing with more red clover, the lamb meat would have more important fatty acids going to dinner tables.
David Barrett also provided a presentation about the benefits of feeding the animals red clover but his presentation focused mainly on the benefits to their reproduction.
“Red clover has been seen as this evil, nasty plant to be feeding your sheep,” said Barrett. “It seems like we need to rethink it because it looks like there aren’t any general negative effects to feeding red clover to our sheep. Most sheep farmers are very reluctant to put their sheep out to pasture where there’s red clover because they have this concern about infertility problems.”
Farmer Peter MacLeod was actually in Nappan for the cattle auction across the street but found out about the presentations and was interested in picking up a few tips for his beef farm.
“Any information a fellow can find about producer profitability is worth going after,” he said.
He said the presenters were more than knowledgeable about the topics they presented and MacLeod said he was looking to take some of the practices home.
“One thing that was particularly interesting was (Glover’s) presentation on omega-3’s and omega-6’s. I have a very keen interest in food quality and cost ability to the public,” said MacLeod. “The fact that you could use those numbers to maybe promote lamb or other products that have that in there, I’m very interested in getting a hold of her and getting that information so I too can use that in speeches or presentations to promote that to other commodity groups.”
The presentations were followed by a tour around the beef research farm to give farmers an insight into the projects at hand.