let's talk farm animals

Idle hands are hard to find for this young farmer

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(Winterbourne) - Ninety-eight percent of Canadian farms continue to be family owned and operated, but if you are looking for the definition of a family farm,  just look to Scott Snyder and his family.

Scott is a sixth generation farmer in Waterloo Region, working with his father, grandfather and uncle doing everything from producing eggs and grains to feeding beef cattle and boiling maple sap for syrup. “Idle hands isn’t something my family believes in,” says Scott.

Scott Snyder farms with his family in Waterloo Region.

Scott Snyder farms with his family in Waterloo Region.

Like a lot of Ontario farm kids, Snyder enjoyed growing up in an environment where he learned from his family to care for the cattle and chickens or help drive a tractor that was being used to plant a crop. “Growing up with it, being surrounded by it, meant I could appreciate it,” as Snyder thinks back to his childhood. “I had friends who didn’t grow up on a farm, but always wanted to come out to help. That helped me realize how lucky I was to grow up the way I did.”

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on February 25th, 2014 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Beef cattle,Crops,eggs,Farm life,Future of Farming
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Lets Get Talking!

Jean L Clavelle

Alright.  I believe it is time to dust off the old soap box and step back on.

Many organizations reporters and marketing programs recently have expressed opinions about what is the “ideal” regarding animal production in Canada.  “Better Beef” from A&W, the W5 report regarding egg layer operations, PETA, HSUS throw around ideas and words intended to pluck at the strings of the consumer’s heart to show that they are better, that they care, that they are not the enemy while big business – agriculture – is trying to simply make an extra buck.  Phrases such as environmentally friendly, sustainable, humane, antibiotic free are tossed around like so much feed in a pig barn.

Although I group these organizations together, their underlining intent is often not the same.  PETA and HSUS want to eliminate the use of animals altogether, A&W wants to drive sales, W5 well I’m not entirely sure why a “news” organization would publish such a one-sided sensationalized commentary other than to increase viewers.  The common denominator is that they are all focused on currying the favour of society and the consumer at the expense of producers and livestock.

Deep down my dirty little secret is that I truly don’t have a problem with a company creating a marketing campaign that targets the needs and wants of the consumer or when a news article provides a balanced article detailing the pitfalls of a production system.  Where I do draw the line is when an organization does not support the Canadian producers that are purchasing their product, the people that have reliably supplied them with a safe healthy food product for decades.  For example the A&W campaign that openly sourced product from suppliers outside of Canada.  I suspect that had the lines of communication been open, Canadian beef producers would have happily agreed to provide whatever beef product A&W requested.  However to imply that the beef industry is not willing to adapt or evolve or cannot supply what is needed is simply erroneous.

Now, that brings me to the point of this story.  Why are the lines of communication not open?  Why are we not telling our story?  Why are we not working with our consumers to identify new trends and supply that product?

I am at a loss as to why livestock agriculture is so afraid to seek out the needs and opinions of its consumers.  Is it because we are afraid that we will not stand up under scrutiny?  Is it because we are afraid we will have to eat humble pie and acknowledge maybe we might have to change?  Agriculture by its very nature is the epitomy of adaption and evolution.  This should be something we in livestock agriculture are excitedly engaged in!

So come on agriculture.  Step up.  Let’s figure out what consumers and society wants.  If that means seeking out consumer’s opinions, and asking questions well then lets get asking!  If that means changing then we may just have to change to meet their needs.  I fear that if we do not, we (and therefore animals and society in general) are going to lose out because the misguided and misinformed may force us to go down the wrong path.

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Posted by FACS on February 17th, 2014 :: Filed under Activism,Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Animal care,Canada,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Future of Farming,Misconceptions,Speaking out
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Grieving in the barn

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Guest blog by Kaitlyn Gisler, British Columbia

DSCF2141

Kaitlyn Gisler

Yesterday morning a terrible tragedy took an unforgiving swipe at our neighbours, also a farming family. Today and for the rest of their lives this young couple must learn how to cope, and eventually live, with one child less. It isn’t fair and it’s even harder to believe.

And if that isn’t already a cruel twist, Life does something even worse: it goes on. Life continues forward when all you want to do is hit rewind, or at the very least press pause and try to pick up all the pieces.

This is where farming is a blessing and a curse. There will always be chores to do. The cows don’t hold their milk in sympathy, the calves won’t crack the seal on the milk tank and feed themselves. The barn cats can feed themselves, but they’ll still expect their bagged cat food. New feed must be mixed and the old feed pushed away. Pens have to be forked clean and gates repaired. If there is any place more evident that life must go on it’s in the barn.

Farmers can’t take a break—not indefinitely—and that’s a career and life choice. Not on Christmas Day, or Easter, or after the loss of a loved one. There are family, friends and employees who can do a job, take on an extra chore, but eventually we’ll have to wrap our fingers around the familiar handles of the wheelbarrow and lift.

When we want to stay in bed, in the dark, and try not to hurt so much we can’t. We have to get up at four, maybe five, or six in the morning and go to the barn. There’s a routine. We witness the sun rise and realize that it is another day, and we see the sun set knowing we’ve endured another day.

In the barn we can still work alongside our cows and although everything has changed they don’t push the point. They don’t ask questions, or apologize profusely for something that was out of their control (even if we are mad). They offer a sturdy shoulder to lean or cry on but otherwise don’t treat us any different.

In the barn we don’t have to explain to our boss why we’re quiet and slower than usual—we are the boss and are trying very hard to understand.

In the barn there are plenty of places to sit when we’ve become emotionally and physically exhausted but can’t sleep. A hay bale, the milking parlour steps, a tractor seat. Sometimes these spots can seem as sacred as a pew.

Then one day, while in the barn, we’ll feel the morning sun on our back, or be able to marvel at the green fields outside, or scratch our favourite cow behind the ear and begin to feel okay.

But that isn’t today—not yet—and we must still go to the barn.

About the Author:

Kaitlyn Gisler

I first started writing on my parent’s dairy farm when I was a kid. I would sit on the milking parlour steps, and between bringing in sets of our Holstein cows to be milked, would scribble stories onto the paper towels we used in the parlour. These tales, usually mirroring whatever I was reading at the time, weren’t worthy of recognition. However, my finished stories would garner outstanding reviews from our cows, although their written accolades looked suspiciously like my own handwriting.

Years later things have changed: I’ve grown up, we now have a robotic milking system that milks the cows whenever they feel like it (no more rising at four a.m!), and my writing is being printed in local agricultural publications. The cows might not be reading these articles but instead I’m getting positive feedback from the industry.

What hasn’t changed since those paper towel days? The rewarding career of farming and the joy I find in writing. I continue to work on my parent’s dairy farm, after attending post-secondary, and write feverishly on the side. Farming and writing are hard work but we are creating something. Farmers fill our supermarket shelves with high-quality locally grown products. Writers fill our library shelves and newspapers with ideas and imagination and what I’ve found is that both careers nourish the soul.

 

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Posted by BCFACC on February 14th, 2014 :: Filed under Animal care,Dairy cattle,Farm life

Young farmers confident about future in the veal industry

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By Lilian Schaer

(Auburn) They’re young, they’re educated and they’re passionate about their future as veal farmers in Ontario.

Tom Oudshoorn and his brother Paul raise about 2,000 grain-fed veal calves on their home farm in the Auburn area near Goderich and on a second farm near Kincardine, where Paul now lives. They were still in high school – Tom, age 14, and Paul, age 16, – when they started raising their first 20 calves after a barn had become empty on their family’s farm.

Both have since graduated from the agriculture program at the University of Guelph-Ridgetown Campus, with Tom finishing his diploma in June 2012, and are now full-time farmers keen to continue to expand their farming business.

Tom (left) and Paul Oudshoorn (Photo courtesy of the Ontario Veal Association).

Tom (left) and Paul Oudshoorn (Photo courtesy of the Ontario Veal Association).

“Every day is a bit different when you’re farming and I really like being my own boss,” explains Tom, adding both he and Paul enjoy making their own decisions, a benefit that comes with being self-employed. “As well, there are always ways you can improve and get better.”

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on February 10th, 2014 :: Filed under Animal care,Animal welfare,Farm life,Veal
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Meet the men of February in the Faces of Farming calendar

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by Kelly Daynard

St. Marys - Farmers, by their very natures, are entrepreneurs, always looking for innovative new products to try on their farms or looking at new research to find better ways to care for their livestock and crops.

The Rankin family of St. Marys is a great example of that. In the 1920’s, Dow Rankin was a cheese maker who watched as his cousin became one of the first in Canada to farm mink. At the time, farm or ranch-raised mink was unheard-of. The demand, at the time, was for pelts from mink raised in the wild.

But the Depression brought with it a change in the market and ranch-raised mink began to increase in popularity. Dow started by buying three females (at a time when there were only 600 breeding female animals in all of Canada). By the time Dow’s son, Jim, returned home from college to farm in 1949, he had increased to a herd of 40 females with the herd size increasing significantly in the decades since.

The Rankins are proud Ontario farmers, raising mink.

The Rankins are proud Ontario farmers, raising mink.

 

Today, Jim is retired from the farm that is now managed by the third and fourth generations of his family to live and work there.

Jim’s son, Kirk, said that the path to a career as a third generation mink farmer was, for him, an indirect one. After high school, he pursued a career in forestry with a desire to be a game warden. Yet, when he met his future wife and farm girl Judi, he knew that he’d rather have a life with her in southern Ontario than one on his own in the north. He returned home to farm with his dad and is now thrilled to have sons Jamie and Curtis and nephew Steve working alongside him.

Farm responsibilities have been divided up according to the passions of each of the four.  Jamie enjoys managing the intricate art of creating feed rations which have to be changed and balanced depending on the animals’ age. Curtis studied mechanical engineering and spent a short time working at a car plant before his rural roots drew him home. Today’s he has a lot of responsibility for the care of their animals. Steve also tried an off-farm career before returning to the farm in 2004. He especially enjoys maintaining and operating the farm’s equipment.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on February 7th, 2014 :: Filed under Animal care,animal handling,Faces of Farming,Fur farming
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Calving: when and how to help

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The following is a CattleFACS brochure reprinted with the permission of the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan.  (FACS represents the Saskatchewan livestock industry in advancing responsible animal care and handling practices in agriculture.)

Jean L Clavelle

CALVING: WHEN AND HOW TO HELP

The basis of a cow–calf enterprise is a healthy cow with a healthy nursing calf.  Knowing when and how to help is an important part of responsible calving management.winter calving PIC

A cow or heifer is having difficulty when:
• the cow actively strains for 40 minutes with no progress
• 90 minutes have passed since the waterbag first appeared
• the legs emerge with the surface of the hooves pointing up
• only the head or tail emerges
• an uncalved cow is mothering another calf
• a cow has demonstrated greater than 5–6 hours of anxiety, e.g. walking about, tail extended, apparently looking for something

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Posted by FACS on February 3rd, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Animal health,Beef cattle,Canada,Uncategorized,winter
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