let's talk farm animals

Ontario pig farmer in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar

By Kelly Daynard

Plattsville – To hear Scott Richmond talk about his farm, you’d think he had more of a career as a poet or a novelist than as a farmer.

Scott Richmond’s a fifth generation farmer, raising pigs, corn and soybeans on his family farm near Plattsville

Scott Richmond’s a fifth generation farmer, raising pigs, corn and soybeans on his family farm near Plattsville

“My favourite thing is to walk out the back door when the dew is on the grass and the sun’s just coming up over the hills. It just smells like beauty”, he says when describing his chosen career. “I just can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Scott’s a fifth generation farmer, raising pigs, corn and soybeans on his family farm near Plattsville, in Oxford County. His farm was named Brae-Heid, in recognition of its rolling hills, by his long ago Scottish ancestors who emigrated here.

Scott said that there was never any doubt that he was going to farm. Looking back, he chuckles, “I don’t think I picked farming. I think farming picked me.” He studied agriculture at the University of Guelph, graduating in 2002. From there, he worked in construction for a while before returning home join his parents in their farming business.

Together, they have a “farrow to finish” pig farm where mother pigs (called sows) give birth to their piglets and the piglets are raised up to the age when they go to market. They also grow 250 acres of corn and soybeans that are used to feed their livestock.

A successful blind date a few years ago led to his marriage to wife Dawn and the recent arrival of their daughter, Meredith, the sixth generation of the Richmond family to live on the farm. Dawn wasn’t from a farm but Scott’s proud to report that she’s adjusted to her new rural life well. “She’s always eager to help out when needed.”

Scott says that the health and well-being of his pigs are always foremost on his mind – from the time he wakes in the morning until he goes to bed at night. His daily routine involves walking the barn to ensure that all of his pigs are healthy, content and have enough feed and water as well as checking his fields to ensure that his crops are also thriving. Said Scott, “I haven’t found a better business partner than Mother Nature.”

Scott is also active in his community. He’s vice president of his local curling club and past president of the Oxford County Pork Producers’ Association. He likes being involved in his community and his industry. “It’s a combination of coveralls and business”, he said in an interview. “I like working at home and being my own boss but I like helping in the industry too.”

Many Ontario pig farmers, like Scott, are also involved in helping their local food banks. In June 2013, a new pilot program saw a donation of 10,000- 500g packs of ground pork made directly to Ontario food banks in Southwestern Ontario including Sarnia, London and Hamilton. The program built upon the success of the “Donate a Hog” program that was started in 1998.

During the course of the 2013 pilot project, the donated pork represented the equivalent of 20,000 meals for adults. The entire quantity was dispatched within three to five days of delivery.

Next, the program’s organizers hope to build on the success of the Ontario Pork Program by securing enough funding to run the program year-round for two years. The hope is to purchase enough pork to make it available to food banks on a regular basis. Industry partners have expressed an interest in helping to match funds made available by Ontario Pork, the organization representing Ontario’s pig farmers.

The Oxford County Pork Producers’ Association, of which Scott is past president, has also been active in food bank initiatives, donating to their local food bank in Woodstock.

“I think it’s important for farmers like us to give back to our communities,” said Scott. “I feel really fortunate to have the life I live. If we can do something to help others facing hunger in our communities, that’s a very good thing.”

He added that more than 400,000 Ontarians visit their local food bank each month, with 160,000 of them being children. Many of them are lacking good protein sources, like pork, in their diets.

In 2014, Scott is the face of Ontario’s pig farmers and December in the Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. His page is sponsored by Elanco Animal Health and the Ontario Association of Food Banks. Both are involved in the Ontario Pork Program.

To see an interview with Scott, visit - http://youtu.be/JFhaUrYkqLg

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on December 2nd, 2014 :: Filed under Faces of Farming,Farm life,Pigs,Uncategorized
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Proud to have “farmer’s hands”

By Patricia Grotenhuis

"Hands" was the theme of the 2015 #facesoffarming calendar

“Hands” was the theme of the 2015 #facesoffarming calendar

“Where do you work?” the nurse asked, looking at my hands.

“I work at home,” I said, “on a farm.”

“I knew it!” she exclaimed. “It’s a dairy farm, isn’t it? I could tell by your hands. I would know a dairy farmer’s hands anywhere – I used to live on a dairy farm.”

The other nurse in the room seemed surprised by the exchange, so my nurse called her over to show her my hands.

“See,” she explained, “they’re soft in some spots, calloused in others, and stained.”

It was the most accurate description of my hands I’ve ever received. Washing the cows’ udders leads to the soft patches, while forking all of the feed and bedding leads to the calluses. It depends on the day what the stains are from. Sometimes they come from the teat dip we use on the cows after milking to maintain udder health. If I’ve been helping my husband fix something, the stains could be from grease or oil. I enjoy canning when I can find time, so in this particular case, they were stained from pitting cherries.

My hands have never had a manicure, and will never be described as “pretty” or “well looked after”. I’m okay with that, though. I’ve had farmer’s hands most of my life, and to me, it means I spend my time caring for our animals and land, no matter what toll it takes on my body or skin.

The 2015 Faces of Farming calendar

The 2015 Faces of Farming calendar

Soon, winter will be here, and with it will come chapped, cracked skin from my hands being exposed to the elements while I work. It means my hands will catch on fabrics, and sometime they will crack deep enough to bleed. I’m still okay with it, though. It will just be yet another way of showing people I am proud of what I do, and proud to take the best possible care of our animals and land.

“Hands” was the theme of Farm & Food Care Ontario’s 10th Anniversary Faces of Farming calendar. Meet the farmer models in our 2015 calendar here: http://farmfoodcare.org/news/2015-faces-of-farming-calendar

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on November 7th, 2014 :: Filed under Faces of Farming,Farm life,Uncategorized
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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.

always shared.

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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Northern Ontario beef farmer following her grandma’s career path

Meet our September Faces of Farming calendar model: Kim Jo Bliss

By Kelly Daynard

Kim Jo Bliss spent her youth on her grandma's farm, and today farms that land, raising beef cattle and sheep  in the Northern Ontario District of Rainy River.

Kim Jo Bliss spent her youth on her grandma’s farm, and today farms that land, raising beef cattle and sheep in the Northern Ontario District of Rainy River.

Emo –Kim Jo Bliss spent much of her childhood on her grandmother’s beef cattle farm. Her grandma lived around the

corner and Kim Jo’s parents always knew where to find her if she wasn’t at home.

Fast forward 40 years and Kim Jo is now managing her great uncle’s farm. “I always wanted to be a farmer,” she said in a recent interview. “I really never wanted to do anything else.”

With a herd of 50 beef cows and some sheep, Bliss continues to value both the advice from and her relationship with her grandmother. “She’s not as active as she once was,” Bliss explained, adding, “But she’s still quick to offer advice and she’ll leave me messages telling when she thinks I need to move cows to another pasture.”

Bliss also works off the farm at the Emo Agricultural Research Station, operated by the University of Guelph. The station focuses on research primarily in the areas of crop and forages.

Today, Kim Jo is an active member of the Ontario beef industry and a strong proponent of agriculture in Northern Ontario. “Northern Ontario has a lot to offer,” she explained, adding that she often drives the 3.5 hour trip to Winnipeg to fly to southern Ontario for meetings. She represents the District of Rainy River on the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association and volunteers with a lot of agricultural and community organizations.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on September 2nd, 2014 :: Filed under Beef cattle,Faces of Farming,Farm life,Sheep,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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Napanee dairy farmer in 2014 Faces of Farming calendar

By Kelly Daynard

Dairy farmers Kevin and Adrianna MacLean enjoy interacting with the public and answering their questions about farming.

Dairy farmers Kevin and Adrianna MacLean enjoy interacting with the public and answering their questions about farming.

Napanee - You may not have thought of celebrating Christmas with a herd of dairy cows but that’s just what residents of Napanee did last year when they were invited to a special holiday open house event at Ripplebrook Farm.

Ripplebrook Farm is a third generation family farm operated by Kevin MacLean, his parents Barton and Barbara and his step-son Taylor. The family milk 130 cows and crop 750 acres.

The family always embraces opportunities to showcase the farm and often host tours throughout the year. Last year, they decided to host a “Christmas with the Cows” event for their community. They had no idea how many people might attend and were both surprised and pleased when 200 showed up to watch their evening milking and spend the evening in the barn.

That’s just one example of Kevin’s work as an agricultural advocate – or agvocate. Youth groups, service groups and school trips all enjoy feeding the young calves and “helping” to milk the cows. A friendly member of their herd, nicknamed “Carrie the Curious Cow” is always a special hit with the visitors.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on June 20th, 2014 :: Filed under 4-H,Agricultural Advocates,AgVocacy,Dairy cattle,Education and public awareness,Faces of Farming,Horses,milk
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It’s a good thing!

Jean L Clavelle

Today I would like to share some of the positive things I am enjoying about livestock agriculture!  FACES OF FARMING PIC

It is satisfying to hear about all of the young people going into agriculture as primary producers.  Agriculture is not just a career choice with a myriad of job prospects but many young people are finding primary production a viable way of life.  Going back to the farm offers a life that is inherently satisfying regardless of the stress and long hours. Each year the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan publishes a billboard campaign featuring influential and modern young farmers who are making significant strides in their fields. The 2014 campaign was recently released so if you are in Saskatchewan look for these signs around Saskatoon and Regina.

I am excited to see the increasing application of technology in the day to day operation on farm.  Agriculture is not represented by the stereotype of uneducated hillbillies.  I understand that this may not be what our consumer is expecting or perhaps, wants to see but I think it is reassuring.  Many producers have a university education and are incorporating the latest technologies in their operations. This allows for production methods that are constantly improving - quicker identification of disease, better use of resources, healthier animals, and improved food supply for the consumer.  This is meeting the challenge that society has set – to improve efficiency, sustainability and animal welfare. To me the use of cutting edge technology implies a need for improvement, for evolution and for advancement which is everything that agriculture should be doing.

A great example of this is dairy robotic milkers.  As I have mentioned numerous times in previous posts I support many types of production systems - organic, conventional, small production for local markets, larger corporate farms etc etc etc.  However for robotic milkers to be feasible, farms need to be large enough to warrant the expense of a robot and are thus a best fit in mid to large size operations.  There are some advantages to robotic milkers that I believe warrant discussion.  Cows have the option to choose to be milked at whatever frequency they desire, instead of being milked the conventional twice per day.  It is interesting to see that cows will often go through the milker 2 to 5 times per day depending on the stage of lactation and the individual cow.  Robots are able to measure the somatic cell count in the milk which is an indication of mastitis.  Long before regular practices would be able to identify the problem the robot can predict disease and those cows treated as well as automatically divert the milk.  This is beneficial for the cow and for the consumer and for the producer.   Robotic systems also allow the producer to be in constant contact with their barn.  Alarms will sound if there are ever any problems with the cows or equipment which prevents problems before it happens.  Now this is not to say that non robotic systems cannot have optimal management but this technology certainly enhances a producers’ ability to manage his or her operation.

I think one of the biggest things I am enjoying right now is our renewed sense of pride in the fundamental nature of agriculture.  Tagvocate PIChe AGvocate movement has re-ignited the belief that what we are doing is worthy and worth explaining to the world.  Yes we need to continue to evolve and improve but overall Canadian agriculture efficiently and cleanly provides healthy food for our citizens.   It may be overwhelming but the ag community has taken up the challenge to share what we do with society.  And in the words of Martha Stewart “it’s a good thing”.

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Posted by FACS on May 26th, 2014 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,AgVocacy,Animal welfare,Dairy cattle,Education and public awareness,Faces of Farming,Uncategorized
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Faces of Farming - May: Dana and Adam Thatcher

By Pat Grotenhuis

(Rockwood) - Falling in love with a farmer took Dana Thatcher, a teacher, on a path she never envisioned for herself

Teacher + Farmer = a blossoming farm business, rounded out with animals, crops, an on-farm store, bakery and butcher shop.

Teacher + Farmer = a blossoming farm business, rounded out with animals, crops, an on-farm store, bakery and butcher shop.

before meeting her husband Adam.

Even though she had no farming exposure growing up, Dana fully embraced the lifestyle and had no doubts in her mind about becoming a farmer. In the years since, the farm has grown and expanded, and Dana is happy she got a chance to experience farm life.

“It’s an amazing lifestyle. It is not an easy life, but it’s fulfilled. I love what we can have on the farm,” says Dana.

Adam and Dana raise sheep as well as finish beef cattle and hogs. They also have chickens, turkeys and bees. The animals they raise are marketed through their on-farm butcher shop and store. In addition, they grow crops including hay, barley, corn, peas, oats, sweet corn and strawberries.

“The store is a great component of the farm, giving us the opportunity to educate our customers about agriculture,” says Dana.

The work they have done on expanding the family farm has gained them recognition, both as winners of the prestigious Ontario Outstanding Young Farmers Award in 2013 and as calendar models for the month of May in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar produced by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Their page is sponsored by RBC Royal Bank.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on May 16th, 2014 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Faces of Farming,Uncategorized
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Meet the men of February in the Faces of Farming calendar

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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Meet the faces of January in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar

Sarah Brien is a farm girl at heart. Raised on a sheep farm in Ridgetown, ON, she is a fourth generation farmer who naturally inherited her love for the land and animals as well as her sense of community spirit and involvement from her parents.

Erin McLean’s family moved to a farm north of Peterborough when she was five years old. Today, the farm’s offerings include strawberries, peas and raspberries, squash and potatoes, maple syrup and jams and more. They also sell at at local farmers markets and their own two stores.

Erin McLean (left) and Sarah Brien appear in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar.

Erin McLean (left) and Sarah Brien appear in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar.

And, while these two come from different types of farms in different parts of Ontario, they share a common passion for farming – and for sharing their farm stories with the public.

Both are members of a group of 10 young Ontario farmers sharing day to day experiences from their farms through the newly created Dinner Starts Here on-line initiative (www.dinnerstartshere.ca) And, they share a page in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. They appear on the month of January, 2014 on a page sponsored by the Farmers Feed Cities program.

You can watch a video interview with the two women at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hb5SVBRXxs&list=PLxl8ycqu125dgviFG5XoLXP_QPJTJD3IN or follow them on twitter @Mcleanberryfarm and @sarahlee516

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on January 27th, 2014 :: Filed under Faces of Farming,Future of Farming,Sheep,Social media,Speaking out
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