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Farm Saves Orphan Lambs By Charging People To Adopt
Topsy Farms in Ontario, Canada sells a variety of wool and meat products from their sheep flock (featured in Vol. 45, No. 3). But one of its more unique “products” is a lamb adoption program that helps cover the costs of orphaned lambs that need bottle feeding.
“We started the adoption program about 6 years ago,” explains Murray. “We raised the price each year, but left it at $75 this year. Our first 25 sold out in the first 6 hrs., and we had another 20 on the waiting list.”
Foster “parents” are encouraged to come to the farm for lamb cuddling and feeding. “We set up half hour times for people to come and hang out with their lamb,” says Murray. “Some came 4 or 5 times a year.”
They also have a program to allow those without a foster lamb of their own to spend a half hour cuddling and playing with the lambs. The cost is $20 and they’re allowed to bring family and friends.
“People love to get out of the city and spend time on the farm,” says Murray. “There is something about the degree of calmness required when sitting with lambs that is special.”
The farm received letters from visitors describing their time with lambs as transformational.
Ironically, the pandemic may prove to be lifesaving for the farm’s lambs. The lack of visitors for the past year (all adoptions were “virtual”) has improved the health of the flock. As a result, the rules of engagement will be different when stay-at-home orders are lifted.
“With regular feeding times, we had very few cases of scours,” says Murray. “In the future there will be specific time slots for feeding.”
Visitors are asked to not wear shoes worn on other farms. Lamb cuddling and feeding areas are separate from the larger flock to reduce disease transmission concerns.
“We consider biosecurity to be the number one concern and not just for the animals,” says Murray. “We had a run of contagious pustular dermatitis in the flock. The blisters around the mouth area are ugly and gross, but run their course in about 10 days. However, pregnant women can pick it up from the amniotic fluid with negative consequences. With farm visitors, you have to stay on top of whatever disease might be transmissible to people, as well as what they might track onto the farm.”
Labor is another concern with agritourism, adds Murray. “Be sure you have enough staff, so everything runs smoothly,” she says. “On days that are fully booked, we have one staff person with people and lambs at all times, as well as a traffic control person to greet people and take care of those just dropping in.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Topsy Farms, 14775 Front Rd., Stella, Ont. Canada K0H 2S0 (ph 613 389-3444, toll-free 888 287-3157; info@topsyfarms.com; www.topsyfarms.com).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #4