Bob and Penny Leder purchased 40 acres of tillable land located in NE Waupaca County in 1987. They converted the parcel of highly erodible land, which had previously been row cropped, into permanent pastures the following year. Over 30 years of operation expanded to 80 acres.
Leder's approach to land and resource management has been steadfast and consistent in prioritizing the preservation and improvement of the soil and landscape for the benefit of agriculture and wildlife. It has always been their goal to convert the natural resources on their farm into a marketable product; in this case using intensively managed grazing of sheep to produce commercial market lambs.
The pastures have been improved using a combination of no-till, frost and trample seeding; incorporating improved grasses and legumes. The Leders refrain from plowing the soil in order to minimize erosion, increase plant density, and maintain plant diversity.
The Leder's production cycle has been defined by the grass growth cycle in Wisconsin. Lambing occurs in April for lactating ewes to take advantage of the grass growth spurt in early May. Lactating ewe feed costs are the single largest expense for commercial lamb production. By synchronizing birthing with the natural resource of grass growth, the Leders significantly reduce production costs and improved profitability.
Furthermore, the Leders recognized the value of maximizing individual ewe productivity as a means to reduce winter fixed feed costs. To accomplish this they introduced the Booroola F+ gene as a means to boost the lamb crop. Additionally, Leders have recently introduced fine wooled genetics (South African Meat Merino and Corriedale) into the flock in order to capture the hand spinner and finer art markets.
The sheep are grazed for up to eight months by utilizing fall stock piled forage for grazing October through December. The sheep are then out-wintered by feeding baled hay at strategically placed hay stations until mid March. Low organic matter sandy areas are selected for winter forage feeding stations as a means to improve soil fertility. This distributes manure and urine directly into the pastures without using fossil fuels. The one month that the animals are housed in the barn for lambing, the manure is then composted for a year and returned to the field as organic fertilizer.