let's talk farm animals

Finding my voice

By Resi Walt, Communications Intern at Farm & Food Care and dairy farmer

When you’re young and growing up, it can be hard to grasp how big the world is. Where you live – your home, your yard and your neighborhood – is where your world begins and ends. As a child growing up on a farm, I felt that everything I would ever need was on the farm. That included the sandbox, the hay mow, and my bike.

As I got older and went elementary school, I had the occasional sleepover at a friend’s house, or stayed a night with my grandparents, and my world grew a little. Then I found myself in high school, and eventually got my driver’s license. The world really opens up when you can drive anywhere on your own!

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on August 19th, 2014 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,AgVocacy,Education and public awareness,Misconceptions
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Breakfast on the Farm Roundup

It’s been almost one week since our Breakfast on the Farm event at the Werts’ dairy farm in Avonmore, Ontario. Here’s a fun roundup of the day’s numbers.

Many, many thanks and shoutouts to those that make our Breakfast on the Farm event possible!

Presenting Sponsors: Egg Farmers of Ontario, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Gray Ridge Egg Farms, Dairy Farmers of Ontario

Additional sponsorship: EastGen, Farm Credit Canada, Grenville Mutual Insurance, National Bank, Ontario Plowmen’s Association, Ontario Veal Association, South Nation Conservation Area, Stormont Federation of Agriculture, and Turkey Farmers of Ontario.

Food is provided by: Avonmore Berry Farm, Conestoga Meat Packers, Morris & Donna Dusomos, Eastern Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association, Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Ltd., Gray Ridge Egg Farms, Warren & Trudy McIntosh, Ontario Apple Growers, P & H Milling Group, Rubicon Farms and Willowgrove Hill Farms.

(click image to enlarge)

BOTF Infographic_Final

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on August 12th, 2014 :: Filed under AgVocacy,Animal care,Breakfast on the Farm,farm tours,Uncategorized
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Conventional versus Organic Milk Production – Do you know the difference?

Organic Milk PIC

In the 2011/12 dairy year 1.19% of total Canadian dairy production was organic

Jean L Clavelle

This weekend an interesting conversation came up about organic milk production.  And it’s shameful to admit but I realized just how little I know about it!  So this started me on a quest to learn more about the differences between organic and conventional milk and thought I would share some of my findings with you.

As previously mentioned I am in support of organic food production even though I do not purchase organic products for myself or my family.  There is obviously a desire on the part of the consumer for organics and so it is important for Canadian producers to meet those needs.  I think there are pros and cons to both production streams and a fit for both in our society.  This post is not written to encourage you to support one or the other only to share information on both types.

For a little background on organic milk in Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada estimated that as of 2012 dairy made up 11% of all organic sales in Canada.  And in the 2011/12 dairy year 218 farms produced 937,137 hectolitres of organic milk which represents 1.19% of total Canadian dairy production.  Significant numbers for sure and one can only assume they will increase.

The first basic difference between organic and conventional production is that all organic dairies must meet the requirements of the Canadian Organic Standards.  Just as in conventional production organic dairies require a balanced feed ration which include substances that are necessary and essential for maintaining the cows’ health, including large amounts of high-quality roughage.  In organic production however all ingredients must also be certified as organic and approved for use by an accredited certifying body. Organic dairy rations can not include GMO feed sources, and must be free of any synthetic herbicides, pesticides fungicides or fertilizers.

No dairy is legally allowed to use artificial hormones to increase milk production in Canada regardless of whether it is organic or conventional.  Bovine somatotropin (bST) is a hormone that occurs naturally in cattle which regulates growth and lactation.  BST has no effect on humans.  Recombinant bST (rbST) is a commercially produced version of the natural hormone and it can increase milk production by 10% to 15% but it has also been related to an increase in the risk of mastitis and infertility and cause lameness in cows, which is why Health Canada has not approved it’s use.  It is important to note that rbST has not been shown to have a negative effect on human health and its use is permitted in other countries (such as the United States), where it is considered safe.

Antibiotics can be used only when a cow is sick. When a cow receives antibiotics, she must be clearly identified and her milk properly discarded for a mandatory withdrawal period (based on veterinary label instructions) until the medication has cleared the cow’s system.  In organic production cows given antibiotics are required to have a longer withdrawal time above that required in conventional production.  Its important to note that each load of milk is tested for the presence of antibiotics prior to it being added to the milk supply regardless of its production method and any violation to this would result in severe fines for both conventional and organic producers.  I would like to note that using antibiotics is important for the welfare of dairy cows regardless of whether it is a conventional or organic operation.  No matter how good the care, some animals will get sick and it is imperative they be treated.

Nutritionally, dieticians say organic milk is not significantly different than conventional milk.  Interestingly enough the nutritional profile of dairy products for both organic and conventional can vary with season, genetics and feed source however all Canadian milk will meet the minimum nutritional profile guaranteed on each carton.

So! I hope this info helps you to understand some of the differences in how organic milk is produced compared to conventional milk.  But whatever you decide to purchase just know that our Canadian milk supply is healthy safe and tasty.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on August 5th, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,antibiotics,Dairy cattle,milk,Organics,Uncategorized
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Opening the barn doors with ‘Breakfast on the Farm’

By Kim Waalderbos

Agriculture is one of Canada’s best kept secrets, say dairy farmers Jim and Nancy Wert – until now.

Reserve your FREE Breakfast on the Farm tickets: http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/ontarios-breakfast-on-the-farm-august-2014-tickets-11374855499

For full details, and to reserve your FREE Breakfast on the Farm tickets. visit:
http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/ontarios-breakfast-on-the-farm-august-2014-tickets-11374855499

The Werts along with their four university-age sons are spreading that great secret and opening their barn doors. On Saturday, August 2, 2014 the family will host more than 2,000 visitors at their Stanlee Farms Inc. in Avonmore, Ont. for ‘Breakfast on the Farm’.

“We’re really looking forward to welcoming everyone,” says Jim, noting “the really great part is consumers get to talk to farmers first hand and ask questions”.

For the Wert family, a fifth generation of family farmers, their animals are top priority. Farm visitors will see many special features they’ve incorporated to ensure “the ladies” are comfortable and healthy. Their 110 milking cows are housed in a freestall barn, which means they are able to roam about the barn on their own schedule for feed, water or lay down. The milking cows can groom themselves on cow brushes, and have access to fresh air circulating thanks to a special ‘Cyclone’ fan. Jim and Nancy milk their cows twice a day in their milking parlour. On average, each cow produces 32 Litres of milk daily at the Werts’ farm.

The Werts’ heifers (younger female animals) are group housed in a ‘pack’ barn, where they have a large bedded area (pack) to lay down comfortably. Along their feed bunk is a slatted floor area to walk on. This allows manure to fall through to a pit below and keeps the animals’ feet clean and dry.

The youngest calves are also housed in groups, which enables lots of social interaction. Last year the Werts installed a robotic milk feeder. This means the calves can drink warm, fresh milk as often as they like throughout the day. “We really noticed how the older calves teach the younger calves where to get their milk, grain, hay and water,” says Nancy. “The calves really flourish in this environment.”

Jim and Nancy Wert along with their four sons will welcome visitors for breakfast & a farm tour on August 2, 2014.

Jim and Nancy Wert along with their four sons will welcome visitors for a free breakfast & a farm tour on August 2, 2014.

The milking cows and oldest heifers are turned out on pasture in the warmer months. “It’s a psychological benefit for us, and we feel it helps keep the animals healthy,” says Jim. The Werts have 550 acres of land that they use for pasture, and to grow corn, soybeans, forages, barley for straw and specialty beans. “Most of what out animals eat is grown on farm,” Jim says.

The Werts feed a ‘Total Mixed Ration’ (TMR) to their animals. The TMR is a consistent mix of ingredients including corn silage (fermented corn), haylage (fermented grass), high moisture corn, minerals and sometimes soybeans. They work with a dairy nutritionist to make sure the TMR is balanced perfectly for animal needs.

For the past three years, the Werts’ milking cows have also been fed a special Omega-3 supplement. The cows are able to optimize this supplement in their four-compartment rumens (stomach) and produce milk with Omega-3 essential fatty acid benefits for consumers.

The Wert family raises Holsteins, a black and white breed of dairy animals. They’re also certified in the Canadian Quality Milk program.

At Breakfast on the Farm, the Wert family is keen to answer questions and show visitors around. “We feel we represent your typical Canadian dairy farm,” says Jim.

As a bonus, visitors at Breakfast on the Farm can meet farmers from other sectors including chickens, eggs, bees and apples. “It will give a real perspective of agriculture in Ontario,” Nancy says.

Of course, there will also be breakfast – Ontario eggs, sausage, pancakes, maple syrup, berries, chocolate milk and apple cider are just a few of the menu items.

What’s in a name?!

The Wert family has recently added a goat to their farm. Help them find the perfect name by entering your idea in the naming contest at Breakfast on the Farm.

 

For more details, and to reserve your FREE Breakfast on the Farm ticket, visit: http://www.eventbrite.ca/e/ontarios-breakfast-on-the-farm-august-2014-tickets-11374855499

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on July 31st, 2014 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,AgVocacy,Animal care,Breakfast on the Farm,Dairy cattle,Farm life,milk,Speaking out,Uncategorized
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Changing perspectives in a changing world

dairy cow PICJean L Clavelle

Interesting how perspective can change.

When I was studying large animal behaviour in college a lot of the focus of our discussion and research was centred not just around behaviour but on animal welfare.   It was a natural thought progression I guess. At the time however, the word “welfare” carried with it a negative connotation within the ag community. It was associated with something on the fringe or for people who were extreme and equated with animal rights groups and activists like the PETA members who got naked on the corner of a downtown city block to protest something or other.

Now let me be clear it’s not that agriculture didn’t care about animal welfare it’s just that they didn’t necessarily have a word for it. It was more a belief system of it being the ‘right thing to do’. I’m reminded of what a family member told me when I explained I was writing a paper on feedlot animal welfare. She explained that I had better be careful before I ruined my career before it started. When I let her read the paper she said something to the effect of “well yeah, that’s just common sense”. It was simply the label of Animal Welfare that was foreign, not the concept.

Seeing the now infamous dairy footage recently was disheartening to say the least. It was simply wrong, it was disgusting and it was unacceptable. It set back everything that I and other proponents of animal welfare are trying to do not to mention cast a black cloud over the rest of animal agriculture and the good work that the majority of producers in Canada do. I am encouraged though to see that the ag community has not battened down the hatches to defend the poor decisions of a few. The agriculture community has not circled the wagons to say to the public “no, you just don’t understand”.   As a group and as individuals they have stood up and condemned that behaviour publicly. Animal abuse is Not Ok. The ag community has seemed to embrace the terminology that you the consumer can relate to – Animal Welfare.

Ironically I feel like I’m now being reverse discriminated against for being involved in livestock. I have been called disgusting, moral-less and without ethics. I have been asked how I can be involved in a business so horrible and would I eat my dog or my horse? I’ve been told I only have my views because I live in Saskatchewan and that’s all I know. I have been told numerous times that agriculture is big business and big business is intrinsically unethical so how can animals really be cared for well. And it doesn’t seem to matter how many producers are introduced to the public or how open we are about what happens on farms the worst always seem to be believed. It used to feel like a noble profession, feeding the world. But that positivity seems to be stolen with every negative tweet.

My only hope is that the recent evolution in livestock agriculture has not come too late to keep up with the dynamic social media world. My request is that if you have questions about something that you’ve read or heard please find a producer and ask for the real answer and an honest response. Maybe hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth will change your perspective.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on July 21st, 2014 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Animal welfare,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Misconceptions,Social media
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Animals are animals, not people

H with Horses PIC

Jean L Clavelle

A few weeks ago we were sitting around watching a Disney cartoon with our two young children before bedtime activities started. One of the more senior members of our family who happened to be in the room with us (a recent retiree from farming) made a comment that went something like “Disney has ruined society’s perception of animal agriculture”. At first, I brushed it off with a laugh but have been thinking that perhaps that statement holds more truth than I first thought.

Animals are animals, not people. They are not secretly speaking our language when we are not around despite every hilarious Far Side cartoon in the Sunday paper. Cows do not wear aprons, pigs do not ride skate boards, dogs do not have problem solving skills of an adequate level to save the world from imminent disaster (although I will admit all of those concepts make terrific story lines for toddlers).  Even though animals do communicate, form social bonds, have mothering instincts and relationships, they are not humans.  They do not share our social structure, our language, our problem solving ability or our emotions.  They are animals.

So when faced with the overwhelming messages of Disney and other tv shows, movies, toys, and books that show animals as having human characteristics how do we raise our children to understand that this portrayal of animals is not real?

My first thought is that I will teach them the main principles of raising animals on the farm – whether that be a dog, cattle, chickens, a horse or a ginuea pig.  With livestock you quickly learn that their needs come before your own.  It doesn’t matter if you are tired or hungry or cold because you’ve been outside all day, if the animals need to be looked after you better get outside and make sure they are fed and watered and comfortable.  Raising animals means that you treat them when they are sick.  If an animal has an illness that can be treated with antibiotics then antibiotics are used so that animal does not suffer. Raising animals means that you have a responsibility to use the latest techniques that will benefit not just the animal but the environment because that is the right thing to do.

Above all it means that you treat them with respect.  Whether they are simply companions or whether they are giving us milk or eggs or will be butchered they are to be valued with kindness and empathy.  And this does not mean giving them a luxury stall at the most expensive equestrian center or the finest silk day bed to lounge on while you are at work.  We must truly understand what that animal needs as an individual of a particular species.  Just as animals are not humans, dogs are not cats, beef cattle are not goats, horses can not be treated like pigs.  It is up to us, the people who care for them, to understand what they need in terms of their environment, their social activities, their nutrition.  And that is part of the process of respect.

I want my children to know that we will use those that pig for bacon, that beef animal for steak, and that dairy cow will give us milk.  But what a better way to teach them gratitude for the food in their bellies than to show them where food comes from.  It does not come from a grocery store.  As an adult I am now more grateful than ever, each time I sit down to a beautiful bacon and egg breakfast that I am involved in raising the animals that gave it to me.  I hope my kids have that same appreciation.  Even if I to continue to let them watch Disney cartoons.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on July 14th, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Animal care,Education and public awareness,Farm life,Food,Uncategorized
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Faces of Farming – July

By Kelly Daynard

Deslippe familyFarming is one of the few careers that often spans generations of family members all sharing an unwavering commitment to the land and their livestock. Rochelle Deslippe of Amherstburg, in Essex County, is one such example.

Their family farm was started by her grandfather, Earl, in the 1930′s when he began a small hatchery raising turkeys. The farm was eventually taken over by Earl’s two sons, Jerome and Paul. Today, Jerome’s daughter Rochelle and her three children are the third and fourth generations of the family to be raising turkeys and crops on the farm, and Rochelle wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on July 7th, 2014 :: Filed under 4-H,Animal care,animal handling,Faces of Farming,Turkeys
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The Externship Project: Busy week with a fresh cow program

Each summer DVM students from the Ontario Veterinary College delve into that practical experience at veterinary clinics across Ontario and additional locales. These blog posts are an opportunity to tag along with the five of them this summer.

By Chelsea Allan

Week three has come and gone and for some reason this week it has seemed to be extra busy. I’ve been up and at er’ by 5 a.m. almost every morning. But nothing beats waking up early in the morning and driving the countryside. It may seem kind of silly, but I love watching as all of the crops emerge and grow from the ground. Nothing is quite as pleasing as seeing the rows upon rows of perfectly straight lines of wheat, corn and soybeans. And every time I see a sprayer on the road I get this tingling urge to see if I could drive under it.

John_Deere_4930_SprayerHere is a sprayer in relation to cars…see I think it is a definite possibility but for sincere safety concerns I would not recommend it to anyone!

This week I had an exciting, but also slightly nerve-wracking, venture to tackle. Navan started a Fresh Cow Program. This program consists of me visiting farms once or twice a week to look at their fresh cows. Holy cow, although I was nervous about making sure I did a good job, I think I was more worried about getting lost. I will fully admit that my sense of direction sucks. Anyway, fresh cows are cows that have recently calved and have started producing milk. During this freshening or transition period there are many potential causes of illness. It is an important time to make sure that they remain healthy because they have significant energy demands from the milk they are producing and they have a potentially decreased immune system because they have just recently given birth.

To read what Chelsea’s job entailed this week, continue reading here.

 

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on June 27th, 2014 :: Filed under AgVocacy,animal handling,Speaking out,Uncategorized
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Why I Think Dairy Supply Management is Important

Jean L Clavelle

Let me begin by saying that this is an incredibly complex issue. To be truthful I do not fully understand how supply management impacts international trade or even really the nuts and bolts of the supply manager system itself so I will not discuss that here (Dairy Farmers of Canada have produced some fantastic background information http://www.dairyfarmers.ca/content/download/1164/13161/version/2/file/Economic-Rationale2011_EN.pdf on the economics of supply management if you would like to know more). Despite my ignorance, I do think dairy supply management is incredibly important to dairy producers and Canadian consumers.  And I want to attempt an explanation of why from the perspective of a consumer not as someone with a dairy background (which I do not have).

Under this system producers are paid a fair price

Producers are paid a fair price

Many have critiqued this system but it seems they have oversimplified and under complicated the issue to the extreme.  It had been said that supply management isn’t good for the producer or for the consumer.  But I think ‘they’ are wrong.

So what is supply management?  Supply management controls the volume of milk produced on a provincial and annual basis. Provincial boards manage the milk supply to coincide with demand for their products.  By effectively controlling production, expensive and costly surpluses are avoided.  A price is then set by a federally managed board based on cost of production, consumer price index and multiple other factors.  Not just anyone can supply milk either, dairy producers purchase quota essentially for the right to sell milk. Without quota no one can legally sell milk.

So why do I think it’s important?  Well, the objective of supply management is two fold 1. to provide Canadian consumers with an adequate supply of the product at reasonable prices and 2. to provide efficient producers with fair returns.  And that is the crux of my argument.  Under this system producers are paid a fair price.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on June 25th, 2014 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Animal care,Consumers,Dairy cattle,Regulations,Uncategorized
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Inside Farming: Hormones Are Everywhere, Including In You

By: Chloe Gresel, CanACT member, University of Guelph

The beef with growth implants in cattle production

Many Canadians actively search for hormone-free beef for their next meal, but hormonal implants may not be the enemy. In reality, growth implants help beef animals convert feed more efficiently, which results in leaner meat and keeps the price of beef more reasonable for the consumer. In addition, the levels of horses in these animals not be as worrisome as some think. Photo by Rudolph Spruit

Many Canadians actively search for hormone-free beef for their next meal, but hormonal implants may not be the enemy. In reality, growth implants help beef animals convert feed more efficiently, which results in leaner meat and keeps the price of beef more reasonable for the consumer. In addition, the levels of horses in these animals not be as worrisome as some think. Photo by Rudolph Spruit

There is much buzz in today’s media about wanting hormone free meat. Can I let you in on a secret? There is no such thing. You see, just like humans, all animals have naturally occurring hormones in their bodies. What the consumer is actually trying to get when they ask for “hormone-free beef” is animals that are raised with no hormones outside of their own. Companies such as A&W are trying to scare consumers into thinking that their products are better because they are using beef that is raised without growth hormone implants.

Can I let you in on another secret? Implants are not the enemy. Growth implants are used to help beef animals convert feed more efficiently. This means the animals develop more lean meat and grow more on less feed. Beef animals that are implanted have increased weight gain from 5 to 23 per cent and convert feed to meat 3 to 11 per cent more efficiently than non-implanted cattle. By using less feed, costs are reduced for the farmer and beef is kept at a reasonable price for the consumer. There is also a smaller environmental impact when cattle are implanted, as farmers are using fewer resources to get them finished and ready for harvesting. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Animal Science stated that if we were to remove growth implants from our cattle production system, we would need 10 per cent more cattle, 10 per cent more land and feed, and 7 per cent more fuel and fertilizers to raise the same amount of beef.

You might be thinking that it’s great that implanted beef has a smaller environmental impact, but you still don’t want all those extra hormones in your own body. Well then, let me share this tidbit of information: 15 ml of soybean oil has over 28,700 nanograms of plant estrogen, while a 100 gram serving of beef raised with growth hormones has only 2.2 nanograms. Surprising, isn’t it? Studies have shown that there are greater differences in hormone levels between the different sexes of cattle then there are between cattle raised with growth hormones versus cattle raised without growth hormones.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on June 23rd, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Animal health,Beef cattle,Consumers,Feeding the world,Food,Food safety,Innovation and technology,Misconceptions,Regulations,Speaking out,Sustainability
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