With very little practical farming experience, Meghan and Aaron Spares took a chance on the lifestyle they had always dreamed about.
Not only are they first generation farmers, they are the only sheep dairy in Nova Scotia. Also, their farm has become home to the largest flock of purebred British milksheep in North America, a rare breed of sheep originating from Great Britain.
Starting from scratch
Meghan, an alumna of the agricultural college in Bible Hill, and Aaron own and operate Bazel’s Place in Avondale, Hants County, specializing in milking sheep. The milk produced is mainly sold to Blue Harbour Cheese in Halifax, with some also going to All Lathered Up Soap Company in Windsor. This year, the farm will milk nearly 70 ewes.
“Our breed is really quite special,” Meghan said. “The British milksheep was developed in the 1980s to provide crossing sires for commercial flocks to improve prolificacy without the burden of orphan lambs.”
Living up to the breed’s characteristics, Meghan and Aaron’s flock have a lambing rate of 280 per cent. The breed produces enough milk to raise multiple lambs, which makes them suitable dairy sheep. Although their flock is thriving, Meghan explains the breed was essentially extirpated in Britain during a foot and mouth viral outbreak in 2001. Fortunately, semen and embryos of British milksheep had been exported to Canada beforehand. These exported genetics became the foundation of the breed in North America. Today, there is only one small flock of British milksheep remaining in Britain.
After living in Britain for nearly a decade, Meghan returned to the Maritimes in 2013. Soon after, she met her now-husband Aaron, a nomadic biologist who had always loved animals. Looking to establish a permanent address and both possessing an undeniable passion for agriculture, the couple purchased their farm in 2014 when Meghan was expecting their first of two sons.
By September 2015, mere months after moving onto the property, Meghan and Aaron made the decision to buy some British milksheep. They renovated old horse stalls to prepare for their new arrivals. Not knowing quite what to expect, the ambitious duo purchased five ewes and one ram to go through the lambing process.
“Aaron and I chose to do this and when we started figuring it out, everything just fell into place.”
After a successful first lambing, Meghan prepared a business plan for the sheep dairy. Not long after their decision to expand their flock, Megan and Aaron were contacted by Eric and Elisabeth Bzikot of Best Baa Farms in Ontario, the couple who they had purchased their original six sheep from. Eric and Elisabeth were downsizing and looking to sell most of their flock. By October 2016, Bazel’s Place had added 32 ewes and two rams.
They aim to have a flock of 100 ewes by 2019.
Determination and perseverance
While the overwhelming success of Bazel’s Place is evident, the duo admits it wasn’t easy. The farming lifestyle is challenging, but worth it.
“I’m so proud to see my boys embrace farming. When they walk into a pen of lambs and start clapping their hands to get the sheep up, you can’t help feel there is something so right about this life,” said Meghan.