let's talk farm animals

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.

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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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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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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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The Intentions Behind PETA Attack Ads

Jean L Clavelle

You may have seen the DairyCarrie post recently regarding the PETA video which told a story of cows slogging through deep mud, living in deplorable conditions, emaciated, and generally uncared for. However, upon further investigation DairyCarrie identified several questionable points about the statements and images in the video and that perhaps the story was not all it was shown to be. The video stated that cows were emaciated and generally uncared for however upon closer look the cows had shiny glossy clean coats, were bright and alert and actually in good condition. To the uneducated eye and in comparison to say a sow with large rounded hips dairy cows may look emaciated but that is really just their anatomy - this is normal. It was said that cows were forced to live sleep and eat in mud and manure but if cows actually lived in the conditions shown their bodies hips and tails (not to mention the walls and every other surface in the barn!) would be covered in mud but they were sparkly clean above their legs. (See DairyCarrie.com for the full article).

This one small blog stirred up a virtual hornets nest on social media. By the next day DairyCarrie had 1.2 million views on Facebook and 160,000 people reading the article. Harris Teeter (the grocery food store chain), implicated in the video by PETA as purchasing directly from the farm, denied ever having any relationship with it and PETA was forced to retract their statements.  Upon investigating PETA’s allegations, local county inspectors determined they were unfounded, the cows were actually well cared for and there were no (zero nada zip) welfare concerns.

So why would a group like PETA set out to defame a small dairy farm like this and the dairy industry as a whole? What could possibly be the objective of such a stunt if there was in fact no animal welfare issues? PETA, Humane Society of the United States, Mercy for Animals and others believe in animal rights. Simply put they do not wish for anyone to use, own, have animals of any kind whether that be for food, for entertainment or for pleasure. Including companion animals. They often implicate poor animal welfare as the reason for investigating farms or organizations that involve animals. And let’s be honest occasionally there are poor animal welfare conditions that are beyond ideal and downright negative. However as shown by the DairyCarrie post sometimes (and perhaps more often than you realize) it has more to do with the fact that people are simply using animals (regardless of animal welfare) and the posts and videos distributed by these extreme animal rights groups have nothing to do with animal welfare. And because the general public doesn’t understand the normal anatomy, physiology and animal management of a particular species PETA and other groups spins false truths playing on our emotions. For example in the PETA video it was noted that cows were referred to by number and that implied uncaring conditions. However what an excellent management practice for producers to know an animals complete history from birthday to health issues to production. So even though they do have numbers it’s a practical way to provide the very best health management and individual care for each animal based on what each cow requires.  And as I mentioned earlier to the untrained eye, it might appear that dairy cows are emaciated however obvious hip bones are normal for cows in good condition or even overweight cows.

The Animal rights belief system is certainly a valid one.  It’s unfortunate that these groups behave so badly and devalue that perspective by lying and marketing false truths. I ask each one of you to ask more questions before you believe on face value everything that is published by one of these extremists groups. Contact your local agriculture office, or any of the provincial industry associations who can help you answer your livestock questions or to visit a farm and find out what really happens.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on September 2nd, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Animal care,Animal welfare,Dairy cattle,Education and public awareness,HSUS,PETA,Uncategorized
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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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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, 2021 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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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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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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Scrub-a-dub-dub

by Kim Waalderbos

These days it looks like some of our cows are dancing the hokey pokey. There sure is a lot of wiggling and shaking happening in one particular corner of our barn. A closer look reveals the source of the movement – a new cow brush (see picture).

Since this stationary, two-brush device was installed last weekend the cows have been lined up for their turn to brush off and get spiffed up. The timing couldn’t be better as the cows discover this helpful tool to help scrub away at the long hairs that were part of their winter ‘coats’ and now fall to the floor below in heaps.

Cow brushes can commonly be found on dairy farms across Canada. They can look like our stationary brush that the cows move against or they can be fancier motorized brushes that are motion activated and when pushed, spin against the cows to brush away dirt, dust and hair. The goal is the same – to help cows keep clean and comfortable.

It sure is a popular thing to play with on our farm. And I think the cows look shiner and more content because of it.

 

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on May 12th, 2014 :: Filed under Animal care,animal handling,Dairy cattle,Uncategorized