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Couple opts for hardy animals

When Ruth and Marcel Gosselin moved to their acreage south of Saskatoon in the early 1980s, they both had full-time jobs in the city, but their farm backgrounds soon had them thinking about purchasing some livestock.

The Gosselins felt it was important to acquire animals that were tough — the kind that could take care of themselves. “I began to do some research, looking into different breeds of cattle and settled on Longhorns because they’d be the easiest to care for while we both worked. That has turned out really well. Although they’re a little slower growing, they calve easily. In the spring, we take them out to pasture and they’re pretty much on their own. Also, the meat is quite lean,” Ruth said.

As an animal lover, Ruth couldn’t settle for just cattle. She purchased some Welsh mountain sheep. They are small, but sturdy black animals, naturally resistant to disease. They are also quiet and self-reliant. “Their history goes back to the mountains of Wales. I’ve crossed them with the Canadian Arcott, a good, solid Canadian breed. I also have some North Country Cheviot, a hill breed originally from the rugged Scottish highlands. These sheep will thrive in adverse conditions and are healthy and long lived,” she said.

Ruth also raises Spanish meat goats which have a cashmere fibre as an undercoat that can be combed out. The money is in the meat, however. Due to the rise of the ethnic population in Saskatchewan, there is demand for goat meat. “I work with different Muslim groups. I sell them a live animal and they do the slaughtering right here,” she says.

Ruth and Marcel butcher their beef on site. Customers are increasingly interested in acquiring beef that is grass fed and not stressed by a long trip to the slaughterhouse.

There is also an increasing demand for raw dog food, Ruth said. When they butcher their beef animals, Ruth advertises the bones, and this saves having to dispose of waste which attracts coyotes.

The Gosselins’ two sons, Aaron and Jesse also raise ducks, geese and heritage chickens. “We raise the chickens mostly for eggs. Our sons aren’t keen on eating their friends,” Ruth says. She and the boys go thirds on the sheep and goats. It’s an opportunity for the boys to earn some spending money and learn to pitch in with chores. “Having grown up on a farm, I’m not sure how we would have raised them in the city where you don’t have a chance to experience life in this manner. It gives them empathy taking care of animals and watching them being born and die.”

Occasionally the animals can also be a source of enjoyment for the residents of the seniors’ home where Ruth works. One morning just before Ruth had to go to work, a mother goat gave birth to twins but rejected the smallest female. Ruth quickly tube fed the shivering baby, and brought it into the house. Having to rush to work, she bundled it into the car, along with a bottle of milk and headed to the home.

“I got to the home and hustled Olivia (as she came to be known) over to one of the elders, a lady who had grown up on a farm and always loved to hear my stories. I took Olivia to her, placed her on her chest and said, ‘warm her up,’ and left. When I came back an hour later, they were both sound asleep and doing well.

“Olivia has never looked back. She’s been up and active and busy. She’s a bit of a mascot at the home now,” Ruth said.

Ruth and her family enjoy the animals, which keep them busy. “I like producing our own food; seeing things grow. It’s a healthy lifestyle.

“Marcel and I are a great team. He’s good at inventing, designing and building things and I take care of the animals, the garden and the yard.”

Ruth and Marcel Gosselin can be reached at Hidden Spring Ranch, (306) 374-2416. †

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