For over three decades, sheep have grazed the pastures on Shady Lane Farms, located in Canby, Minnesota. Mark Giese originally incorporated sheep into his operation as a way to diversify and add additional cash flow to the farm.

But the wool covered creatures quickly stole his daughters’ hearts. So much so, that his daughter, Nicole Jessen, started a flock of her very own.

The perfect breed

Hampshire sheep were the first breed brought onto Shady Lane Farms, but quickly Giese made the decision to switch over to a different breed, polypays. Polypays offered Shady Lane a unique opportunity to increase the amount of lambing that goes on in their operation throughout the year.

Mark Giese originally incorporated sheep into his farming operation as a way to diversify and add in some extra cash flow. Photo taken November 8, 2021 in Canby, Minnesota. 
Emily Beal / Agweek
Mark Giese originally incorporated sheep into his farming operation as a way to diversify and add in some extra cash flow. Photo taken November 8, 2021 in Canby, Minnesota. Emily Beal / Agweek
While typically sheep operations lamb out once a year in the spring, polypays have allowed Shady Lane to lamb out three times in the matter of two years. hence accelerating their breeding program. The breed is also known for having more than one offspring each lambing season.

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“Poly means many, so we usually get multiples. Twins and triplets are very common with a polypay,” Jessen said.

The polypays have naturally adapted to lambing out more than once a year, and according to Jessen thrive while doing so. Due to this, their herds are bred naturally. There is no utilization of breeding technology, such as CIDRS or hormonal drugs.

They see the additional lambings as a great marketing tool, allowing them to sell their herd during times where the market is less populated with sheep.

Shady Lane Farms runs an accelerated lambing program which allows them to have three lambing seasons within a two year period. Photo taken Nov. 8, 2021 in Canby, Minnesota. 
Emily Beal / Agweek
Shady Lane Farms runs an accelerated lambing program which allows them to have three lambing seasons within a two year period. Photo taken Nov. 8, 2021 in Canby, Minnesota. Emily Beal / Agweek
“It’s been a very good marketing tool. The fall lambs are in very high demand,” Jessen said.

Across the map

When Jessen moved to South Dakota with her husband Chad, she knew she wanted to bring a little piece of Canby, Minnesota with her. After some persuasion on her part, the couple welcomed five head of polypays to their operation in Redfield, South Dakota. The five polypays were purchased from her father’s herd.

“It took me about five years to talk my husband into getting sheep,” Jessen said.

The couple now houses 150 polypays, with 80 head being registered polypays. Jessen jokes that her husband has taken to the sheep, as he now completes the early morning chores while she leaves to go to work at the local vet clinic.

Mark Giese and Nicole Jessen find that polypays are an ideal breed for their operation due to their nature of having multiples when they lamb. Photo taken Nov. 8, 2021 in Canby, Minnesota. 
Emily Beal / Agweek
Mark Giese and Nicole Jessen find that polypays are an ideal breed for their operation due to their nature of having multiples when they lamb. Photo taken Nov. 8, 2021 in Canby, Minnesota. Emily Beal / Agweek
Jessen moving to South Dakota from Minnesota helped with the expansion of Shady Lane Farms. The move allowed their sheep to be marketed in two different areas of the region and presented great opportunities in terms of marketing.

In addition to selling their offspring off the farm, Shady Lane Farms also does their fair share of traveling to lamb sales across the country. Shady Lane Farms made the trek to Spencer, Iowa, to sell in the National Sheep Improvement Program sale. Their solid genetics were undeniable at the sale and helped them snag the highest selling ram title at the event. Shady Lane Farms also sold the top ewes at the South Dakota Sheep Grower Association Premium Ewe Sale that was held in Huron, South Dakota.

Family tradition

Having two locations of Shady Lane Farms lambs in the region has allowed the operation to reach a wider audience and expand their marketing reach. Photo taken Nov. 8, 2021 in Canby, Minnesota. 
Emily Beal / Agweek
Having two locations of Shady Lane Farms lambs in the region has allowed the operation to reach a wider audience and expand their marketing reach. Photo taken Nov. 8, 2021 in Canby, Minnesota. Emily Beal / Agweek
When Giese incorporated sheep into his family’s farming operation, he had no idea what a long lasting impact it would have on his family and the generations to come. His main concern was for his daughters’ safety in the barn, and he wanted an animal that he knew would be safe. The extra cash flow to the farm was a positive as well, as Shady Lane Farms focused on feeding out cows.

“I had two girls and they both helped in the barn with the sheep and I didn't have to worry about them getting hurt,” Giese said.

Jessen loved every moment she spent in the barn with the herd. Her own childhood memories in the barn and show ring with the sheep led her to wanting her own herd for her family to enjoy as well.

Nicole Jessen has fond memories in the barn surrounding sheep as a child, which is what made her want to have a herd of her own when she made the move to South Dakota. Photo taken Nov.r 8, 2021 in Canby, Minnesota. 
Emily Beal / Agweek
Nicole Jessen has fond memories in the barn surrounding sheep as a child, which is what made her want to have a herd of her own when she made the move to South Dakota. Photo taken Nov.r 8, 2021 in Canby, Minnesota. Emily Beal / Agweek
“It’s something I enjoy and it’s something that I grew up with my dad here in Canby. It’s for me and my young family to get our hands on and the kids can be in the barn and get dirty, do chores and help out. It’s just a family affair,” Jessen said.

Jessen’s son has begun showing his own lambs and carries on the family tradition.

“If he gets drug around with a lamb he’s gonna be okay, get up and do it again. It’s a great experience for him,” Jessen said.

A growing voice

Mark Giese enjoyed watching his daughters complete their chores in the sheep barn and the peace of mind the sheep brought him when it came to his young children. Photo taken Nov. 8, 2021 in Canby, Minnesota. 
Emily Beal / Agweek
Mark Giese enjoyed watching his daughters complete their chores in the sheep barn and the peace of mind the sheep brought him when it came to his young children. Photo taken Nov. 8, 2021 in Canby, Minnesota. Emily Beal / Agweek
Jessen has held various leadership positions within sheep organizations, such as being on the board for the Polypay Association. She is also a member of the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association and is becoming a budding voice within the sheep industry.

Shady Lane Farms was recently awarded Master Lamb Producer in the purebred division at the 84th South Dakota Sheep Growers Annual Convention in Pierre, South Dakota.

“It was a great honor,” Jessen said. “It was an exciting thing.”

With over three decades of sheep, Shady Lane Farms has made a name for itself by offering premium polypay genetics. Photo taken Nov. 8, 2021 in Canby, Minnesota. 
Emily Beal / Agweek
With over three decades of sheep, Shady Lane Farms has made a name for itself by offering premium polypay genetics. Photo taken Nov. 8, 2021 in Canby, Minnesota. Emily Beal / Agweek