let's talk farm animals

Please welcome Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan to the Table!

Jean L Clavelle

Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan

As of December 10 2014 our province will see the launch of a new organization called Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan (FFCSK). FFCSK represents the wide range of producers established here in Saskatchewan, from livestock to crops to horticulture as well as government and related businesses with a common goal to provide credible information on food and farming within the province. It is FFCSK’s mandate to cultivate awareness and appreciation of agriculture in consumers with the belief that getting to know farmers equals getting to know food.

Previously called the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan or FACS, the group began investigating the potential of a move to FFCSK in 2011. FACS currently represents the livestock and poultry industries to advance responsible animal care within the province. However Adele Buettner, FACS Executive Director noted that “…the general public does not understand how their food is grown or how agriculture has changed over the years, neither is there currently one central location in Saskatchewan where consumers can readily access reliable information on food production.” It was recognized a wider need was not being met so FFCSK was created to represent the people who are passionate about food and farming in Saskatchewan and provide a coordinated effort, expertise and a unified voice on behalf of the whole agri-food sector.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on November 12th, 2014 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Speaking out
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Proud to have “farmer’s hands”

By Patricia Grotenhuis

"Hands" was the theme of the 2015 #facesoffarming calendar

“Hands” was the theme of the 2015 #facesoffarming calendar

“Where do you work?” the nurse asked, looking at my hands.

“I work at home,” I said, “on a farm.”

“I knew it!” she exclaimed. “It’s a dairy farm, isn’t it? I could tell by your hands. I would know a dairy farmer’s hands anywhere – I used to live on a dairy farm.”

The other nurse in the room seemed surprised by the exchange, so my nurse called her over to show her my hands.

“See,” she explained, “they’re soft in some spots, calloused in others, and stained.”

It was the most accurate description of my hands I’ve ever received. Washing the cows’ udders leads to the soft patches, while forking all of the feed and bedding leads to the calluses. It depends on the day what the stains are from. Sometimes they come from the teat dip we use on the cows after milking to maintain udder health. If I’ve been helping my husband fix something, the stains could be from grease or oil. I enjoy canning when I can find time, so in this particular case, they were stained from pitting cherries.

My hands have never had a manicure, and will never be described as “pretty” or “well looked after”. I’m okay with that, though. I’ve had farmer’s hands most of my life, and to me, it means I spend my time caring for our animals and land, no matter what toll it takes on my body or skin.

The 2015 Faces of Farming calendar

The 2015 Faces of Farming calendar

Soon, winter will be here, and with it will come chapped, cracked skin from my hands being exposed to the elements while I work. It means my hands will catch on fabrics, and sometime they will crack deep enough to bleed. I’m still okay with it, though. It will just be yet another way of showing people I am proud of what I do, and proud to take the best possible care of our animals and land.

“Hands” was the theme of Farm & Food Care Ontario’s 10th Anniversary Faces of Farming calendar. Meet the farmer models in our 2015 calendar here: http://farmfoodcare.org/news/2015-faces-of-farming-calendar

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on November 7th, 2014 :: Filed under Faces of Farming,Farm life,Uncategorized
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Dairy farmer sisters from Hagersville in 2014 Faces of Farming calendar

By Patricia Grotenhuis

Hagersville – Milking cows and growing crops are two passions that Heather and Jennifer Peart of Hagersville have

Heather (l) and Jennifer (r) are dairy farmer sisters near Hagersville, Ont.

Heather (l) and Jennifer (r) are dairy farmer sisters near Hagersville, Ont.

always shared.

The sisters, fourth generation farmers, decided to turn their love of farming into a lifelong career when they bought their first 50 acre farm in 2005. At the time, they were only 18 and 20 years of age. Jennifer was studying for her Agricultural Business degree and Heather was studying for her Animal Science degree, both at the University of Guelph.

Since then, they’ve gradually increased the amount of cattle and land they own. Today, they each own 25 cows and together, have increased their land base to 200 acres growing corn, hay, wheat and rye to feed their livestock.

Currently, Jennifer milks cows in the morning before heading to her off-farm job. Heather is the full time herd manager at their family farm, Peartome Holsteins, and farms full time with parents, Doug and Mary-Ann.

Both sisters are enthusiastic agricultural advocates. When they showed their cows at the annual Simcoe fair recently, they estimate that they answered about 400 questions from visitors about their cows on a whole variety of topics. And, when they milked their cows at the end of the day at the fair, an audience of about 100 circled around to watch. “We really enjoy answering questions about our animals,” said Jennifer. “It’s fun when a routine milking can turn into an impromptu agricultural education session.” Jennifer also sits on the Haldimand County Agricultural Awareness Committee.

Their commitment and passion for farming has attracted some attention. In 2014, they are being featured as the faces of November in the 2014 Faces of Farming Calendar produced by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Their page is sponsored by AdFarm.

“It’s nice to be able to change the face of farming by being a young female in agriculture,” says Jennifer.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on November 3rd, 2014 :: Filed under Animal care,Dairy cattle,Education and public awareness,Faces of Farming,Farm life,Uncategorized
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Wondering about antibiotics in cattle feed?

 

Jean L Clavelle

Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan

 

There has been much discussion on antibiotics that go into livestock production and their influence on antibiotic resistance.  Antibiotic resistance is so incredibly complex that not even the scientific community fully understands all of the causative factors.  We don’t have the space to tackle that topic here but I would like to chat about antimicrobial use in cattle production – in particular a group of medications called ionophores – as they are a widely used tool by cattle producers and wildly misunderstood by the general public.

Rumen diagram

The rumen is the main digestive center.

So let’s start from the beginning.  Cattle are considered “ruminants”, a class of animals which have not just one stomach but four (yes you read that right – 4 stomachs!).  Of the four compartments, the Rumen is the first and largest, and the main digestive centre.  The rumen is filled with billions of bacteria that are able to break down grass and other coarse fibrous materials (such as hay and straw) that animals with only one stomach (including humans, chickens and pigs) simply cannot digest.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on October 29th, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,antibiotics,Beef cattle,Education and public awareness
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Meeker’s Magic Mix turns fish byproduct into premium compost

By Kelly Daynard, Farm & Food Care Ontario

(Evansville) – To anyone who knew Mike Meeker as a child, there’s no surprise that he’s now a fish farmer, raising

Mike Meeker and his dog Rosco stand on the dock of his rainbow trout fish farm near Evansville on Manitoulin Island.

Mike Meeker and his dog Rosco stand on the dock of his rainbow trout fish farm near Evansville on Manitoulin Island.

rainbow trout on a pristine lakefront property on Manitoulin Island. “If there was water anywhere, I was in it,” Meeker says of his early years. “There was never any doubt in my mind as to what I wanted to do.”

After attending the University of Wisconsin where he studied Zoology, Meeker played hockey for a few years before settling on the west side of Manitoulin Island in 1984 with his family. At that time, Meeker said that there weren’t any other fish farms on the island so his plans were met with a great deal of skepticism. But, his perseverance and enthusiasm paid off and he is now one of five growers successfully raising trout in the area.

When an average rainbow trout reaches market size, it weighs between 2.5 and three pounds. Of that, though, only about half of the fish is used for human consumption. Until a few years ago, the remaining byproducts (called offal) were sent to a landfill site and farmers were required to pay a fee to dispose of it. Meeker found this frustrating. Not only was he not being paid for the entire fish but he was facing significant costs to dispose of parts of it. “It really added insult to injury,” he recalled. “I didn’t see it as a waste but as a resource.” Utilizing the fish byproducts in a product is much more environmentally responsible that adding to the pile of waste at the local landfill sites.

Meeker’s developed a reputation in his industry as being an inventor and an entrepreneur. Like many farmers, he’s determined to keep overhead expenses low and is always seeking ways to make his farming operation more efficient.

Reflecting on the costs and perceived waste of disposing of the offal, Meeker began experimenting. He sourced and retrofitted an old cement truck and used it to churn a mixture of fish byproducts with sawdust (a byproduct of the forestry industry). He then composted the material. Over a few years, he’s perfected the three-month process, studying the optimum airflow, moisture content and temperature of the mixture. A retrofitted snow blower has also been put into use to further grind up the material and lays it in wind rows for composting.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on October 21st, 2014 :: Filed under animal by-products,Environment,Innovation and technology,Uncategorized
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Giving Thanks

Jean L Clavelle

Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan

 

On this Thanksgiving weekend I was surrounded by my children, my family, good and plentiful food and a warm home. I was reflecting on all of the beautiful parts of my life that I am thankful for and felt truly blessed by my fortune to live in Canada and yes, even my good fortune to live in Saskatchewan.

In 1931 one in three people lived on a farm. Today's it's one in 46

In 1931 one in three people lived on a farm. Today’s it’s one in 46

I thought back to a few days ago when I participated in a wonderful event called AgEXperience. School children from in

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on October 14th, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Canada,Farm life,Uncategorized
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Recalling one barn fire story during Fire Prevention Week

By Patricia Grotenhuis, 6th generation farmer

The heifer barn before the fire.

The heifer barn before the fire.

Waking to pounding at the door at 1:45 a.m. one June morning, we struggled to open our eyes. Nothing could have prepared us for the sight of flames shooting out of our barn. As my husband raced outside yelling a thank you to the girls who were at the door, I rushed for the phone to call for help. We already knew the barn could not be saved, but were immediately aware that the other buildings were in danger if the flames spread.
We had no idea if all of the heifers were outside on pasture. With our setup, they have the freedom to move back and forth between the barn and pasture as they please. We had to make sure the ones who were on pasture did not return to the barn, though.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on October 8th, 2014 :: Filed under Animal care,animal handling,Barn fires
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I think we need to talk…

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Jean L Clavelle
Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan

Growth hormones.  Dirty nasty words aren’t they?   I’m sorry to bring this up but I think it’s something we need to talk about.

Many of us in Canada, well North America, are so extremely fortunate we live in a place where getting enough to eat is not generally a problem and where we have the choice to make decisions on what we consume.  We have the opportunity to choose where our food comes from and how it’s produced regardless of cost.  Fortunate indeed.

And with this providence, it seems to have become almost admirable to deride those who do not choose foods of a certain variety ie “natural” “ethically raised” “antibiotic free” and  “hormone free”.   Now I would like to assure those of you who can’t or don’t make these food choices despite pressure from your peers or social media, that the food grown in Canada is safe and healthy including beef produced with the use of hormones.  Here’s my attempt at explaining why.

Beef cattle feedlot in western Canada

Beef cattle feedlot in western Canada

First what are growth hormones and how do they work?  Growth hormones are tiny pellets inserted into the back of the ear of a beef animal which slowly releases synthetic hormones over a period of several months.  These hormones mimic the natural reproductive hormones manufactured by the animal.  To make a long physiology discussion short, they encourage protein deposition and discourage fat deposition. This improves both weight gain and feed conversion (the amount of feed required to deposit muscle). Fat deposition requires more than twice as much feed as protein deposition does.  Muscle tissue contains about 70% water while fat contains less than 30% water.  This means that for every ten pounds of muscle gained, about three pounds comes from dry feed and seven pounds comes from water. This ratio is the reversed for fat growth – roughly seven pounds from dry feed and three pounds from water.   So you can see, that with slight increases in protein deposition and slight decreases in fat deposition that there are pretty big differences in the amount of feed required.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on September 30th, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Beef cattle,Canada,Education and public awareness,Food safety,growth hormone
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A day with 6,000 chicks

By Kristen Kelderman

A day old chick - they are very curious and energetic.

A day old chick – they are very curious and energetic.

Nope, you didn’t read the title wrong. This spring, a university friend of mine called me up and asked if I wanted to plan a date with him and 6,000 chicks. An odd request you might say. And no, it isn’t a spinoff dating show from the Bachelor. Those of you familiar with farming have probably already figured out my cheeky attempt at a play on words. My friend Ryan is a broiler breeder farmer and yes, his chicks are yellow, fuzzy and fit in the palm of your hand.

I was very excited to get the call from Ryan. This was my first time going to help out on a chicken farm with the delivery of new chicks. Being the farm kid that I am, I asked what I needed to bring with me – the obvious stuff like work boots, and layers of old clothes to pile under my coveralls. To my surprise, Ryan said all I needed was a t-shirt and jeans. With the cold spring we’d been having I was still wearing my winter coat. I thought I would freeze!

With my dairy farm experience I’m fairly used to working in a cold barn and piling on the layers during chores. But Ryan’s barn is much different than my parents. It was like summer in there! The temperature was quite warm compared to the chilly April morning that was outside.

The inside of the barn was heated by propane to a balmy 30 degrees C on the third floor. I could get used to farming like this! I almost considered calling up my Dad to say that he need to sell the cows and get some chickens.

This is Ryan’s chicken barn. It is three floors high. The new chicks would move into the top floor.

This is Ryan’s chicken barn. It is three floors high. The new chicks would move into the top floor.

So why does the barn feel like you’re on a beach in Jamaica? It’s not for the people who work in the barn, it’s for the chicks that would soon call it home.

One of the most important and laborious jobs that a farmer prepares for when getting new chicks is the work before they arrive. The barn needs to be freshly clean and disinfected from floor to ceiling, new shavings spread out, the feeders and drinkers working properly and set to the right height for the chicks, and the barn needs to be the right temperature- nice and warm.

This is important so that the chicks can settle into their new home a quickly as possible. Young farm animals notice small changes in their environment much more than older mature farm animals, especially with temperature. Getting this right is vital to the health of the chicks. You want them to adjust to their new home right away.

On chick day Ryan had all of the hard work done. All we had to do was unload them from the truck. The new chicks traveled all the way from Kentucky and would have been about 12-15 hours old. They rode up in a climate controlled truck, where they were kept warm and dry.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on September 22nd, 2014 :: Filed under Animal care,Chickens,Farm life,Poultry,Uncategorized
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Another perspective of intensively raised livestock

Jean L Clavelle

Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan

I’ve spent a bit of time over the last few weeks investigating the concept of a “factory farm”. It’s an interesting label because it seems to come with inherent biases of agriculture and food production – the name itself implies a 1930’s concept of human exploitation. I’ve also been surprised how commonly and in a generally flippant manner it used when discussing agriculture on social media or in person.

Broiler chicken barn

Broiler chicken barn

During my investigation it became quite evident that when people refer to factory farms they are generally referring to large scale intensive livestock operations. And these references are overwhelming negative. My first impression is that big equals bad. And it is not an outrageous jump to make – I can imagine how any non Ag person would react when walking into a broiler barn with 15,000 chicks or onto an Alberta feedlot with 20,000 head or upon hearing the words ‘robotic milkers’ for dairy production. Big equals anonymous care where staff simply do not care, that technology has replaced individual attention, and where health and welfare are of little concern.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on September 16th, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Animal welfare,Education and public awareness,Uncategorized
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