let's talk farm animals

Hot enough for ya?

In this blog post, Eastern Ontario egg farmer Stephanie Campbell talks about the challenges of keeping farm animals cool and comfortable during the heat of summer months. Watch www.dinnerstartshere.ca for more blogs from some young Ontario farmers.

By Stephanie Campbell

Is it hot enough for ya? I’m sure you’ve heard this saying many times this summer, but did you ever think that it could apply to farm animals as well? For most farmers, when the weather is very hot, it not only means that is can be uncomfortable for them to work in (especially if they have hay to do), but they also have the task of making sure their animals stay cool as well. This is why most barns have very good ventilation systems.

Fans on the side of an egg barn

Fans on the side of an egg barn

In my barn, we have an air exchange system with big fans and vents that turn on and off automatically based on the temperature of the barn. This ensures that the temperature remains as steady as possible to ensure the hens stay happy and comfortable. The air is fully exchanged every seven minutes. Even with this air exchange, on very hot days (i.e. days over 35 degrees Celsius), sometimes the barn can get a little warm. For this reason we have extra big fans (think wind machines in old movies) to keep the air fresh and moving through the barn.Read the rest of her blog here at http://www.dinnerstartshere.ca/blog/entry/hot-enough-for-ya

 

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on August 16th, 2013 :: Filed under Barns,eggs,Housing,Uncategorized
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A biosecurity plan for all horses

by Jean Clavelle

If you have ever had anything to do with livestock, chances are you’ve heard the word biosecurity.   Biosecurity refers to practices designed to prevent, reduce or eliminate the introduction and incidental spread of disease.  Most of us would associate this with poultry or swine production systems but have you ever thought about biosecurity as it relates to your horse?

Horses are often kept in areas of high traffic and are therefore of high risk for exposure to disease.   With some basic practices and common sense you can reduce the biosecurity risk for your own horses whether you have a herd of 20 or of 1!  Pasture Horse

Here are a few tips:

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Posted by FACS on July 12th, 2013 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Animal health,Barns,Horses,Uncategorized,Veterinarians
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Farming is a sweet thing for this eighth generation country boy

By Andrew Campbell

Bloomfield - When you think of a typical high school student, you might think about someone who spends time sleeping in, cramming for exams or practicing to make a school team.  But what about starting a new business? It may not be common, but Justin Williams of Wilhome Farm in Prince Edward County is anything but ordinary.

At the young age of 11, Justin took his interest in a friend’s family maple syrup business home to his parents’ farm. He was sure he could also produce high quality maple syrup. Together with 25 maple trees and the help of a neighbour who let the young entrepreneur borrow a sap boiler, ‘Justin’s Maple Syrup’ was born.

More than a decade later, Justin, now 24, taps 500 trees each year, uses a vacuum system to bring the sap through the forest to his sugar shack and has upgraded his boiler several times. Today, he’s producing 500 litres of maple syrup annually and typically sells out of his supply. When he’s at peak production, he’s often assisted in the sugar shack by his “Nana” and other members of his family.

Justin Williams in his family’s barn with a young heifer calf.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on May 13th, 2013 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Animal care,animal handling,Barns,Dairy cattle,Maple Syrup
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Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

by Kim Waalderbos

Winter season on a farm adds a different dynamic to daily chores. Just like we get bundled up for outdoor adventures, the colder temperatures mean farmers must pay extra attention to animals, barns and equipment to keep everything warm and comfortable.

When the thermometer starts to dip, farmers can be found topping up stalls and pens with extra snuggly bedding, adding more food and milk in the pails and feed bunks, or adjusting their barn ventilation to keep fresh – but not cold – air circulating.

Winter on a farm brings with it a need to take extra precautions with the animals living on it - including maintaining comfortable temperatures inside barns on cold, snowy days.

Farm machinery and plumbing isn’t immune to cold weather. When the cold winds start howling there are farmers out thawing frozen water pipes, chipping off stubborn strings to open feed bales, and coaxing along tractors and silo unloaders that aren’t cold friendly. Animals still need to be fed and watered, and possibly milked, despite the temperature outside.

Snow is inevitable in a Canadian winter. For animals that enjoy getting their exercise outdoors on warmer days and frolicking in the snow, farmers will often build windbreaks with trees or wooden fences to keep the wind at bay. Farmers might dress newborn animals up in warm ‘coats’ or add muffs to cover ears to prevent frost bite. Snow is like the gift that keeps on giving as farmers clear laneways with each new dumping of white stuff. Even if schools and offices are closed, farmers still need to get the milk truck, feed truck and other time-sensitive deliveries to and from the farm regardless of weather conditions.

With winter storms comes a higher risk of power outages. On the farm, someone is likely headed out to dig out and hook up a generator in the dark all in an effort to keep water pumps running for the animals, ensure fans, heaters and automatic feeders are on (especially for smaller animals like chickens), and the milk stays cold in the tank.

Once the chores are done, it’s fun to enjoy winter’s wonderland on the farm – whether it’s sledding across fields, building snowmen or other snow-critters, or enjoying a hot chocolate while watching the sun come up over a snow-capped barn with critters nestled warm inside.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on March 8th, 2013 :: Filed under Animal care,Animal welfare,Barns,Canada,Ventilation,Weather,winter
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Different types of dairy barns for different reasons

Cows waiting to be milked in a Pipeline or Tie Stall barn

by Patricia Grotenhuis

What are dairy barns like? There are three different kinds of dairy barns, and farmers chose the one that works best for them.  Some have an existing barn which is set up in a specific way, and they decide to keep that style of barn.  Others make changes as their needs change, or as new barns are built.

The three basic styles of dairy barn are pipeline or tie stall, parlour or free stall, and robotic, which is a different kind of free stall offering cows a choice of when they are milked.

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Posted by FFC on January 17th, 2013 :: Filed under Animal health,Barns,Dairy cattle,Farm life,Uncategorized
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Enjoying the peace of a barn at night

By Patricia Grotenhuis

There is something peaceful about a barn at night.  I’ve always found it soothing to be out there after all of the animals are fed and cared for, as they all eat or rest contentedly, a soft yellow glow from the lights shining on them.

I was reminded of how nice it is recently when I slipped out to give my husband a message.  In the summer, being in the barn after dark always meant chores were going really slowly since most of the family was in the fields, or, as children and youth, that we were preparing animals for a show at a local fair or 4-H event.  Once the time change comes, though, it happens daily.  As soon as the equipment in the barn for feeding the animals is turned off, and there is just the gentle, steady hum of the milking machines, the peacefulness starts.

The cows stand munching on their feed waiting to be milked, and the calves eat their hay and grain, waiting for their share of the milk.  In the heifer barn, they are finishing eating and starting to lay down and rest.  The radio plays softly in the background. My husband slips quietly between the cows, putting milking machines on, and taking them off, giving the cow a little pat on the back or scratch on the neck as he goes.

As the cows finish milking, they often lay down to chew their cud, which is not only part of the digestive process for them, but is also a sign of a content, healthy animal.

By the time milking is finished and the calves have been fed their milk, a large portion of the cattle in the barn will be settling in for the night.  At that point, my husband is nearing the end of the chore routine as well – cleaning the barn, checking on any cows that are close to calving, and doing a final walk-through to make sure everything is in its place and the cattle are comfortable.

Some nights, of course, a late night in the barn is caused by a piece of equipment breaking, a cow having a calf, or one of the animals needing a little bit of extra care.  On these nights, the barn is not always such a soothing place.  Even then, though, that night charm shows through.

My husband, like all farmers I know, takes pride in making sure the animals and land he is in charge of are cared for as well as possible.  All farmers have their own way of achieving that goal, but they share the same end result.

Some days, it means he barely sees our children because something needs a repair in the barn, or there is a cow who is showing some early signs of sickness.

Some nights it means getting up at two in the morning to drive to the main farm and make sure a cow is not having difficulty delivering a calf.  Other times, he is pouring over his herd management paperwork, making decisions about what he should change in the barn, meeting with people to make sure the cows are receiving the proper nutrients in their diet, or going to various industry meetings to keep up to date on the latest research.

To farmers, the greatest compliment they can receive about their livelihood is that they have a nice farm, their animals look good and are doing well, and they are taking care of their land and the environment. That is why my husband will not leave the barn with something left to do, or do a half-hearted job of caring for the cattle.  The benefits and satisfaction he gets from seeing the farm doing well are a payoff for him.

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Posted by FFC on November 30th, 2012 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Animal care,animal handling,Autumn,Barns,Dairy cattle,Family vs factory farming,Farm life,Housing
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Breakfast on the Farm - a Michigan Road Trip

by Kristen Kelderman

As a little girl, I can remember one of the biggest events we held on our farm was the annual Holstein barbecue. I remember this specifically because of all the extra work I was assigned to do that summer, cleaning the window sills, brushing the cows and painting just about anything you could slap a coat of paint on.  And on that warm July night, some 400 neighboring farmers and friends gathered to enjoy a night of fantastic food, great people and to celebrate dairy farming. This distant memory crossed my mind this summer as my colleagues and I travelled to Michigan State to visit the Judges’ dairy farm in Isabella County for a program called Breakfast on the Farm.

Volunteers work to feed 2,000 visitors to the farm

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Posted by FFC on September 27th, 2012 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Barns,Breakfast on the Farm,Dairy cattle,Education and public awareness,Farm life,farm tours,Sustainability of the family farm,Uncategorized,United States
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In the face of crisis

By Jeanine Moyer

Living on a farm means we live farther away from our neighbours than most people. Instead of lawns and fences separating our house from the neighbour’s we have fields and streams. Sometimes I think the distance between each farm can make the relationship between neighbours stronger. And tests the strength of a relationship like an illness or disaster when neighbours come together to face adversity.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on July 19th, 2012 :: Filed under animal handling,Barn fires,Barns,Family vs factory farming,Farm life,Sustainability of the family farm
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Making moo-sic in the 2012 Faces of Farming calendar

by Patricia Grotenhuis

A musician who became a farmer seems like an unconventional path, but David Murray, a boy raised in small town Ontario, eventually found his dream job owning and milking  a herd of cows.

He has embraced the industry, taking on a number of roles on local, provincial and national levels.  With a background including music, retail and restaurant work, many people would question why Murray decided to farm. 

“I liked milking the cows.  I still do,” says Murray.

David Murray's photo in the 2012 Faces of Farming calendar

It is a simple answer, but a truthful one.  His commitment to the industry has earned him a spot in the 2012 Faces of Farming Calendar published by the Farm Care Foundation. His page is sponsored by Gay Lea Foods, a farmer-owned dairy cooperative that David and his wife Annamarie have been members of for many years.  The photo, one of the most unique ever taken in the calendar’s history, combines David’s love of music and cows and shows him out in a pasture field playing the piano while his cows appear to enjoy the concert.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on June 1st, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,animal handling,Barns,careers,Dairy cattle,Family vs factory farming,Farm life,milk,Sustainability of the family farm
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Barn changes over the generations

 Barn changes over the generations

By Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Sometimes I sit and think about all of the changes that have happened from the time my great-grandfather bought his farm until now, when my parents run it with the help of my siblings.

Back in 1934, Canada was in the middle of the Great Depression.  That seems to be a strange time to buy a farm, but Great Grandpa did it.  Some of the original buildings are still on that farm, with new buildings and additions  over the past 77 years.  These changes, in some ways, show the timeline of how agriculture has been evolving.
Take the original bank barn for example.  It is still large and impressive, but there have been noticeable changes made to it.  Different areas of the barn reflect different times.  There are the old stanchions which used to be used for the cows.  They’re rather small, and most have been removed.  In one corner, they are still intact, but are rarely used as stanchions anymore.  The rest of the barn has tie stalls now, which were used for the cows when I was young, before the milking parlour was put in.  Now, the tie stalls are used for calves before they are big enough to be in group pens.

In another corner of the barn, there is a track hanging from the ceiling.  At one time, that track was used to remove manure from the barn.  Eventually, it was replaced by a more modern gutter cleaner system.  The gutter cleaner was recessed into the floor and brought manure to a pump.  The pump would send the manure through a pipe into the manure storage pit outside of the barn.

Underneath the barn hill was once the milk house.  It was where all of the milk was stored before the milk truck picked it up.  This area was added on to, and later became a series of three loose housing pens.  When I was young, the pens were used for maternity pens and, in some cases, as sick pens.  Those pens changed and became housing for a wide variety of animals over the years.  In my lifetime, they have been used for veal calves, horses, sheep and goats.  If a pen was empty, it also housed rabbits when we were younger.

The freestall structure which my grandpa added to the barn, has been used for beef cattle, veal, heifers, and is now strictly used for milking cows.  Part of it was converted into the milking parlour.  During the summer, one end of the freestall is blocked off, and the dry cows (cows that are not being milked because they are close to calving) use it for shelter and for water access.  Both the dry cows and milking cows have pasture access from spring to fall.

The mow in the barn has always been partially used for hay and straw storage.  One area of it was also used for livestock housing a long time ago.  I remember being told there were chickens in one part of the mow when my grandparents were farming and my dad was young.  The floor was pulled up from one section of the mow, and used to make a wall so that one half has two storeys, although only half of a floor between them.  That section is used for cut straw in the main part of the barn.

The other part of the barn mow is wide open.  It was used for bale storage for years.  Right now, it is mainly storage of small tools and equipment, as rolling the large round bales into the mow is very hard to do with a limited number of people and we do not have small square bales any more.  In the mow, it is obvious that the barn is old.  Wooden pegs hold the beams in place, rather than nails.  In several places, you can see evidence of how the hay and straw used to be unloaded, although the equipment itself was removed long ago. 

That barn has seen changes from no electricity to electricity. It went from being a mixed farm (with several kinds of animals being raised on the property) to being a more specialized dairy farm. The farm has also gone from raising animals mainly to feed the family and some neighbours to producing enough for larger numbers of people
The treasured farm photographs that we have, dating back to the 1940s, tell a story when they are lined up…a story about Canada.  They show how farms used to be small, subsistence-style farms supporting low numbers of people.  In those days, there was a much larger percentage of the population who farmed, and almost everything eaten was local food. 

Now, the farm is modern and is larger.  The average Canadian farm produces enough food for 120 people, and only two per cent of Canadians are farmers.  Technology is needed to make the farm more efficient, allowing farmers to feed so many people.

The improvements made have led to a more safe food supply for Canada, and have made it possible for so many people to work in other jobs now.  I am sure if my great grandpa were here today and could walk around the farm today, and see how it has changed, he would be proud to see what it has become.

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Posted by FFC on January 12th, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,Barns,Beef cattle,Canada,Chickens,Dairy cattle,Farm life,Feeding the world,Innovation and technology,Manure,Sustainability of the family farm
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