Vince and Nancy Pope raise Certified AWA sheep and beef cattle on a centennial family farm in the southern driftless region of Wisconsin. Vince was raised on a dairy farm and worked as a livestock nutrition specialist, and Nancy is a practicing veterinarian. Their skillsets are strong assets in their commitment to pasture-based management of their flock. “Essentially, we have a nutritionist and veterinarian on staff,” Nancy explains. Their combined skills allow Vince and Nancy to identify potential problems early, and make adjustments or provide treatment as needed.
The Popes chose AWA because it was an exercise in solidifying and improving their own farm practices. “This is a competitive market,” explains Nancy. “It’s important to us that we’re certified by an organization with strict standards and follow-up, so we can assure our customers we really do follow the highest welfare standards for our cattle and sheep.”
The Popes raise Katahdin sheep, which they selected for the breed’s strong flocking instinct, high fertility, ease of lambing on pasture, suitability for cold weather, and ability to shed their own coats. The Popes also raise Hereford cattle, chosen for their ability to thrive on pasture, calm demeanor, and excellent meat characteristics. The Herefords follow behind the sheep in the grazing rotation. Because cattle tend to tear grass, rather than nibble it like sheep, this mixed sheep and cattle grazing strategy optimizes forage utilization from the pastures. “This system of multi-species rotational grazing also acts as a natural parasite management program,” explains Vince. “As the cattle graze, they act as “dead-end hosts” for internal parasites that can infect sheep, harmlessly ingesting the sheep-specific larvae and ending its life-cycle.”
Situated in the Wisconsin River Valley, the farm has been in the Pope family for over 100 years, and Vince’s parents, Dale and Lily, still help out in every way they can on the farm. Despite the reputation sheep receive for their flight response, Nancy says she is amazed by the intelligence and long memories of the sheep: “After lambs are weaned and reintroduced, mothers and daughters reunite and graze or bed down side by side. In spring, mothers, daughters, and aunts graze as ‘extended families’ with their new lambs.”
In addition to the pasture-based management of their flock, Vince and Nancy work with the USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) to prevent over-grazing of existing plants, improve biodiversity and soil fertility, and decrease soil erosion. The NRCS assists with implementation of a managed grazing plan and sends representatives on a regular basis to make sure Double Ewe Farm is working to achieve the identified goals. The Popes also use techniques like planting crops for fall, such as turnips and radishes, to extend the grazing season. The varied diet they offer their animals helps to produce a superior quality product, too.
Double Ewe Farm lamb is available for purchase direct from the farm. To contact Vince or Nancy, call (608) 753-2659 or visit DoubleEweFarm.com.