let's talk farm animals

Learning more about a family farm champion

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Thanks to veteran American food-industry journalist and commentator Dan Murphy for this profile on a young, Canadian hog farmer. As a side note, Stewart has just been named outstanding pork producer of the year in his county. Well deserved, we’d say! - by the Ontario Farm Animal Council

Field Report: Canada’s Stewart Skinner

by Dan Murphy (www.agnetwork.com)

 We often hear about the aging of today’s farmers and the threat that creates for future food production. What we don’t hear about often enough is today’s young farmers, many of whom are not only tech savvy but media friendly, as well.

One such farmer is livestock producer, blogger and family farm champion Stewart Skinner, a pig farmer in Ontario, Canada, who raises some 400 sows on a family-owned farm in central region of Canada’s most populous province.

Stewart Skinner

“Our acreage has been in the family and in production before Canada was a country,” Skinner noted. “We have been farming here since 1859.” (For any Canadian history-challenged readers, Canada became a confederated dominion in 1867 and an independent nation in 1882).


Posted by FFC on January 31st, 2011 :: Filed under Canada,Family vs factory farming,Farm life,Pigs,Pork,Sustainability of the family farm

Why do many farm animals live indoors?

 By Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

I have heard a lot of questions about why farm animals are housed indoors, and mention that it would be more natural for them to be housed outside.  There are a lot of reasons why animals are housed indoors, and all have welfare implications.

Barns provide a controlled climate for animals and birds.  There are significant weather variations in Canada from one season to the next, and not all animals will thrive at all temperatures.  Beef cows can be quite content outdoors in the middle of winter, provided they have a windbreak and shelter to use during storms, and a food source available. 

Pigs, on the other hand, would not do well outside at these temperatures.  Even in the hardiest species, piglets born outdoors during the winter would be at high risk for injuries due to cold such as frostbite.  The high summer temperatures some regions of Canada experience are also uncomfortable for many animals.

Barns protect farm animals during extreme cold or warm weather conditions.


Posted by FFC on January 25th, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Beef cattle,Canada,Chickens,Farm life,Pigs,Uncategorized,Weather

A day in the life of a tie-stall dairy farmer

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by Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

 In Canada, there are two main types of dairy farms – called tie stall or free stall farms. In a tie-stall barn, the cows live in stalls next to each other where they have constant access to water and are fed in a manger in front of them. They are also milked in their stalls. In a free-stall barn, cows are housed in large group pens or individual stalls. They get milked by walking to a milking parlour or sometimes a milking robot. You can actually tour both types of farms on the virtual farm tour website at www.virtualfarmtours.ca  Click on the “Dairy Cow Farm” button when you get there.

Our third generation family farm is a small, family-run tie-stall dairy operation.  As with any dairy farm, all plans are made around the two milking times.


Posted by FFC on January 19th, 2011 :: Filed under Dairy cattle,Farm life,Sustainability of the family farm

Udders on bulls?

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By Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Udders on bulls?

Barnyard is a cute movie, but one key part of the movie leaves me shaking my head.  Not all cattle have udders.  With small children at home, we seem to have a lot of farm-themed children’s books and movies, and my husband and I are surprised at how often the bulls or calves have udders in the pictures.


Posted by FFC on January 14th, 2011 :: Filed under Dairy cattle,Education and public awareness

So - can cows really be tipped?

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by Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural enthusiast

January 7, 2021 - Growing up on a farm, I was one of the only farm kids in my class at school.  For years I heard from people asking me about cow tipping and claiming to have gone cow tipping. 

As hard as I tried, I know some of them didn’t believe me when I said it simply was not possible.  Everyone seemed to know someone who knew someone who claimed to have done it.

The theory is that cattle sleep standing up, so when they are sleeping they are unsteady.  All it takes is someone walking up and pushing on them to tip them over!


Posted by FFC on January 7th, 2011 :: Filed under animal handling,Beef cattle,Dairy cattle,Education and public awareness

Caring for the Land

 By Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural enthusiast

January 4, 2021 - It is common for consumers to have questions about farming practices and a farmer’s care for the environment.  With an industry as diverse as agriculture, no one (not even those who work in it) can be expected to understand all aspects of it completely.  In addition, there are so many different ways to farm that no two farms are ever alike.

The vast majority of farms do have some commonalities.  Aside from managing large amounts of work with limited resources and always being expected to produce more from less, the most noticeable similarity is a farmer’s genuine care for his or her animals and for the environment.


Posted by FFC on January 4th, 2011 :: Filed under Environmental Farm Plan,Farm life,Regulations,Research,Sustainability of the family farm