Farm Tour

Tamarack Lamb & Wool Welcome

Location and description

Tamarack Lamb & Wool is named for the tamarack bogs that occupy the wet land surrounding the farm. The home farm is 130 acres situated 90 miles north of Minneapolis/St Paul Minnesota, near the Minnesota/Wisconsin border. Another 200 acres is leased nearby. Only one third of the acreage is usable. Two thirds of the land area here are large wetlands, and 1/3 is dry 'upland'.

This area sustained a historic and devastating forest fire back in 1894, following the logging industry.

After the fire, the burned soil in the Hinckley area grew a bountiful cover of white clover and native prairie grasses. This is significant for two reasons. One is that despite the fact the area was old growth forest in the 1800'ds, the clover seed bank does suggest this area has supported grazing lands prior to European settlement (perhaps due to previous fires?) the other significance is that the clover drew European dairy farmers to the area primarily from Scandinavia and Czechoslovakia.

For a brief while, row cropping was attempted and for the most part failed in this specific location due to poor soil fertility and short growing season. Today as the modern dairy industry moves into confinement in the better farming areas, this region has seen a large decline in farming, and today many neighboring farms are reverting back into weeds and brush. This area is really a natural place for sheep and beef cattle which can convert these native plants into food, milk, and fiber while providing some needed brush and fire control in the neighborhood.

Livestock and Grazing Management

Both sheep and cattle birth in the early summer just as the grass begins to grow. Lambs and calves are reared on their dams following a managed grazing program of which is described in great detail under grazing management. Special attention is given to extend the grazing season as far into the fall as possible so as to achieve a lamb ready for market straight off of pasture alone. Calves are marketed as feeders in the fall, and lambs are sold either direct to customers or as ethnic lambs through an auction. A small number of lambs are retained for grain finishing to fill customer orders. Rotational grazing is used to maintain forages at optimum quality for good livestock nutrition. By keeping stock out on the pastures year round, soil fertility is enhanced and our organic matter of our soils has been increasing.

Summer is an incredibly busy time tending to newborns, moving livestock, fences, and water. Sheep and cattle graze as long as supplies and weather permit. Sheep are particularly expert at grazing in winter, and often reach December on pasture alone. The cattle are a bit more dependent upon stored feeds, and usually are fed hay as early as October. Turnips and other tilled grazing crops are used to provide extra energy to finishing lambs. Ewes and lambs are de wormed through the summer months with careful attention paid to withdrawal times. No hormones or antibiotics are fed to our sheep or cattle, and we do not use herbicides on the farm. The vast majority of our farming does not require the use of fertilizers beyond what the livestock provide.

Predator Management

When we first moved onto this farm in 1985 wild predators were a non issue. One livestock guard dog easily controlled the few fox and coyotes that lived in the area. Due to a decline in sport hunting and trapping, the coyote population has risen considerably during the 90's now requiring four guard dogs to keep coyote depredation under control. Also the gray wolf has been given special protection and rapidly expanded throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and beyond. Despite the fact that experts declared wolves would never inhabit this area, wolves proved them wrong and moved into our neighborhood in 1991. The largest documented wolf pack in Minnesota was observed about 10 miles from our farm in 1998.

"Minnesota's largest wolf pack was discovered only recently --- and far from the middle of the wilderness. John Stewart of Olgilvie, Minnesota, was bow hunting for deer between Hinckley and Highway 65 north of Mora during the fall of 1998. Perched in a tree stand, Stewart spotted a "wave of wolves" approaching.

"I started counting as accurately as I could under the circumstances. Three, seven, ten, to the front and sides; I turned --- 13, 17, 20!" he said. "As the main group moved on, three stragglers appeared." This unusual pack later sauntered up the driveway of nearby seasonal resident Shirley Kwapick some four and a half miles away, also in broad daylight.

Excerpt from L. David Mech's 2000 book "The Wolves of Minnesota...Howl in the Heartland" p 57.

We experienced devastating losses exceeding $10,000 the following spring.

Once again we needed to boost our dog numbers. Presently 8 livestock guard dogs seem to be able to dissuade packs of 3 to 5 wolves that check us out from time to time. Meet the guardians who are hard at work protecting the flock from predators.

Tamarack Lamb & Wool Products for Sale

Pasture raised and grain finished lamb

Ile de France crossbred rams and ewes for breeding stock

Working Norwegian Fjord Horses

We occasionally sell surplus livestock guard dog puppies from hard working parents

For more information or questions, please contact:

janet@tamaracksheep.com

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“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”

Proverb