let's talk farm animals

Questions about animal and food production - answered!

Jean L Clavelle

Farm Food Care Saskatchewan

 

I was really excited to take part in Farm and Food Care Ontario’s twitter party a few weeks ago to promote the launch of their latest venture – ”Real Dirt on Farming”.  This is a booklet designed to answer all of your questions about farming and food production in Canada.  It is the real dirt so to speak on everything from livestock to crops to horticulture. It was great to see so many questions from all of you and how interested you were in how your food is grown.  The sad part was that it ended way too soon, and there was so much more to share!  On that note I would like to answer some questions about food production to make your decisions about food purchases easier.

Eggs with darker coloured yolks are healthier.  There are actually no nutritional differences between eggs with different coloured yolks.  The colour of the yolk is dependent on what a hen eats.  Any diet for hens that includes a compound called xanthophylls will result in a darker yolk. A hen that eats a wheat-based diet (more common in western Canada and low in xanthophylls) will produce an egg that has a pale yellow yolk. Hens that eat a corn-based diet (most common in Ontario and higher in xanthophylls) will produce eggs with darker yellow yolks.  This is also why free range eggs tend to be darker in the summer because hens will eat grasses or alfalfa which have higher xanthophyll levels.

White and brown eggs come from chickens of different breeds

White and brown eggs come from chickens of different breeds

Eggs with brown shells are better because they are more expensive!  Ummm, no.  There are no nutritional differences between eggs with white shells and eggs with brown shells.  Eggs with brown shells come from different breeds of chickens.  But then why do brown eggs cost more?  Well that’s because the breed that produces brown eggs is a larger bird and requires more feed to lay one egg.  Brown eggs are more expensive simply because it costs more to grow them.

Conventional milk produced in Canada is raised with hormones.  Not so!  Bovine somatotropin (bST) is a hormone that occurs naturally in cattle.  It regulates growth and lactation in cattle and has no effect on humans.  Recombinant bST otherwise known as rBST is a commercially produced version of the natural hormone and it can increase milk production by 10 to 15%.  The problem however is that it may also increase the risk of mastitis and infertility and cause lameness in cows which is why Health Canada has not approved it for use in dairy production here.  So what that means for you is that no milk, cheese or yogurt (conventional or organic) comes from cows given rBST.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on November 24th, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Beef cattle,Chickens,Dairy cattle,Education and public awareness,eggs,Misconceptions,Poultry,Turkeys
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Idle hands are hard to find for this young farmer

(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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Meet the face of November in the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar

By Patricia Grotenhuis

Passionate about telling the public about her family’s 200 year old egg farm in Eastern Ontario, Stephanie Campbell has undertaken a number of projects to achieve her goal.

Campbell’s agricultural awareness efforts have spanned her local area, the campus of the University of Guelph, and various events across Ontario.  They have even led to the creation of YouTube videos to share her message with a broader audience.  In 2013, Stephanie will be featured as the face of November in the Faces of Farming Calendar published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Her appearance in the calendar is sponsored collectively by the Farmers Feed Cities campaign and by Burnbrae Farms.

“I enjoy showing my urban friends the farming life. We try to hold open houses and barn tours at least once a year,” says Campbell.

Stephanie Campbell is the face of November in the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar

Stephanie Campbell is the face of November in the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar

During her time at Guelph while she completed her Crop Science degree, Campbell was secretary of the Poultry Club.  Within two years the club increased to 60 members from 30, and had members both with and without agriculture backgrounds.The poultry club’s main objective was to get students interested and involved in the poultry industry.  They toured farms, worked on a video in partnership with the Poultry Industry Council, and worked with the Turkey Farmers of Ontario on website projects.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on October 31st, 2013 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,eggs,Laying hens
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A poultry vet responds to this week’s activist videos

Guest blog by Dr. Mike Petrik, Ontario poultry veterinarian

(reprinted with permission from http://mikethechickenvet.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/response-to-activist-video/#comments)

This blog post is one I was hoping not to have to write. In Canada, there was recently an “investigative report” on the commercial egg industry. It developed after an animal activist group took undercover footage and passed an edited video to a television newsmagazine. The resulting 30 minute show was a black eye to the professional farmers, and has caused a stir in the public. I am disappointed in the response from the industry groups to address this attack, so I am writing this blog post in hopes of doing my part. This commentary does not represent any organization, and is entirely my own opinion.

First, let me point out some of the issues that are at play in animal activist videos in general.

1) Modern farms are large. This is daunting to most non-agricultural people. Looking at a barn with 10,000 chickens is as alien to you as me looking at an auto assembly plant, or a brewery, or a company that makes computer components. The shock of seeing the alien environment is leveraged by insinuating that it is impossible to care for large groups of hens. The fact is, there are basically as many laying hens in Canada as there are people. The farms are large because so many people live in cities and towns and don’t have time or interest in raising their own food. 30 Million chickens have to live somewhere in Canada if we want to continue to eat eggs the way we do now. Interestingly, the average flock size in Canada is smaller than anywhere else in the developed world….in the US, farms are between 50 and 100 times as large.

2) Activist videos are not what they seem. No, I’m not saying they fake them (although that has happened in some cases). What you need to realize is that the activist takes video for 4-5 months, then edits the video into the worst possible 15 minutes possible. The mandate of animal activists is to stop the use of animals…..all animals. They aren’t interested in showing the truth….if false representation helps them stop a process they see as immoral, that is very acceptable to them. Think about what this means. Imagine someone secretly taping you interacting with your kids or coworkers for months, and then trying to make you look bad. Imagine going through 4 months of footage of baseball games, and clipping out batters getting hit, hard slides, collisions at the plate, then make a 15 minute video of how baseball should be stopped because it is too violent. If the people watching were from the interior of China where people are unfamiliar with baseball, what would their opinion of the sport be?

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on October 23rd, 2013 :: Filed under Activism,Agriculture Education,Animal care,Animal cruelty,Animal welfare,eggs,Laying hens
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Expert Panel Addresses Hidden Camera Investigation at Alberta Egg Farm

A panel of farm animal care specialists has examined undercover video footage from an egg farm in Alberta and says that the scenes clearly show unethical and irresponsible treatment of animals. The panel also felt it was difficult to reach conclusions based on the video footage as presented.

The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) created the Animal Care Review Panel to engage recognized animal care specialists to examine hidden amera video investigations and provide expert perspectives for food retailers, the egg industry and the media. The panel was asked to examine video contained in a report on the television news magazine W5 as well as a 3-minute video segment posted on the Mercy for Animals Canada website.

The panel was comprised of Dr. Candace Croney, Purdue University; Dr. Ed Pajor, University of Calgary; and Dr. Stewart Ritchie, a British Columbia veterinarian and poultry consultant.

In the video, hens are seen being tossed and handled roughly by workers, dead birds lie in cages and on floors in various levels of decay and chicks appear to be trapped in cages or farm equipment.

“What was shown in the video is inappropriate and unacceptable,” said Croney. “Handling birds that roughly reflects a lack of cognizance that these are live, sentient animals that can feel pain. What I saw shows a real need for additional training of farm employees at the very minimum.”

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on October 22nd, 2013 :: Filed under Activism,Animal care,Animal cruelty,eggs,Housing,Laying hens
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Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan pleased with the success of another ‘We Care’ Billboard Campaign!

By Jean Clavelle

TBillboard campaign June 16his year marks another triumph for the “We Care” billboard campaign initiated by the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS).  The program, which began in 1996, feature beef, bison, horse, chicken, egg and swine producers with their animals and are posted around busy thoroughfares of Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on September 20th, 2013 :: Filed under Activism,Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Animal care,Beef cattle,Broiler Breeders,Canada,Chickens,Consumers,Dairy cattle,eggs,Faces of Farming,Farm life,Future of Farming,Horses,Media,Pigs,Pork,Poultry,Sheep,Speaking out,Uncategorized
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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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Major US Study on Backyard Flocks

Over the last few years, there’s been a growing interest in raising chickens in urban centres.  Municipalities have been debating the topic and, in some cases, like Toronto, have rules banning urban flocks. This week, we profile a blog post on the topic from Mike, an Ontario chicken vet.Free range hens

Through my many associations, I become aware of studies and surveys on all things chicken. Recently, I had a study passed on to me that dealt with the demographics of backyard poultry owners. It was performed by the National Animal Health Monitoring System, an arm of the US Department of Agriculture. They talked about the need to know about the location and number of backyard flocks in terms of disease control (they ARE an animal health monitoring system….it’s what they do) but what interested me most was the demographic of the typical American Backyarder. Surveys were performed in Miami, Denver, LA and New York.

To read the whole blog, go to http://mikethechickenvet.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/major-us-study-on-backyard-flocks/

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on July 8th, 2013 :: Filed under Animal care,Chickens,eggs,Housing,Uncategorized
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Let’s Talk Farm Animals – indeed!

They came. They ate. They met cows and calves, pigs, hens and chicks. They checked out tractors and milk trucks, met farmers, veterinarians and nutritionists and, throughout the day, learned a little bit more about farming in Canada.

Last Saturday, 2,000 visitors dropped by Heritage Hill Farms, near New Dundee, in Waterloo Region, Ontario for Ontario’s first Breakfast on the Farm (BOTF). It’s an initiative copied from colleagues at Michigan State University Extension who hosted the first BOTF event in 2009. Since then, more than 40,500 children and adults have attended Breakfast on the Farm events throughout Michigan to learn about where their food comes from.

The host farm family is shown with Ministers John Milloy, Elizabeth Sandals and Premier Kathleen Wynne. The farmers include, from left, James Johnston; Mary Anne, Nadine and Joe Doré; Claire, Frances, Amanda and Graham Johnston.

The host farm family is shown with Ministers John Milloy, Elizabeth Sandals and Premier Kathleen Wynne. The farmers include, from left, James Johnston; Mary Anne, Nadine and Joe Doré; Claire, Frances, Amanda and Graham Johnston.

Ontario’s first event, organized by Farm & Food Care Ontario, and presented in partnership with Egg Farmers of Ontario and Foodland Ontario, was an overwhelming success. Also attended by the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, and several of her Queen’s Park colleagues, the day offered visitors the chance to see what happens on a working dairy farm.  The Johnston and Doré family, whose ancestors have been farming in Ontario for seven generations, provided complete access to their farm with visitors wandering through their barns, milking parlour, milk house and more.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on June 26th, 2013 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Breakfast on the Farm,Consumers,Dairy cattle,Education and public awareness,eggs,farm tours,Pigs
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Breakfast on the Farm this Saturday, June 22

This coming weekend, on Saturday June 22, Farm & Food Care will host Ontario’s inaugural Breakfast on the Farm program. An estimated 1,700 complimentary tickets have already been reserved for the Taste-of-Ontario breakfast and dairy farm tour that will be held on the dairy farm of the Johnston and Doré families near New Dundee, in Waterloo Region.

Ontario’s event is based on the successful initiative of Michigan State University Extension which has hosted 25 such events since its first in 2009. Each event, held in a different part of the state, attracts thousands of urban visitors. We’re very appreciative of the advice and assistance we’ve received from the Michigan committee.BOTF colour

We’re also grateful to the program’s founding partners: Foodland Ontario and Egg Farmers of Ontario, and the more than 25 other commodity groups and agri businesses that are providing support.

The day will include the chance to eat a wonderful Ontario breakfast, meet cows and calves, chickens and pigs as well as check out farm equipment like tractors, feed and milk trucks and more. There’ll be lots of special exhibits and a few surprise guests.

Want a sneak peek of the farm on the tour? Watch this YouTube video to meet Graham Johnston, one of the farmers on this fifth generation family farm. In this video, he’ll explain how cows are milked on this farm: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAWVXG-e2pI

There are still a few free tickets available for this event. You can reserve one by visiting http://www.farmfoodcare.org/about-us/breakfast-on-the-farm

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on June 20th, 2013 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Dairy cattle,Education and public awareness,eggs,Farm life,farm tours
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