let's talk farm animals

Inside Farming: Hormones Are Everywhere, Including In You

By: Chloe Gresel, CanACT member, University of Guelph

The beef with growth implants in cattle production

Many Canadians actively search for hormone-free beef for their next meal, but hormonal implants may not be the enemy. In reality, growth implants help beef animals convert feed more efficiently, which results in leaner meat and keeps the price of beef more reasonable for the consumer. In addition, the levels of horses in these animals not be as worrisome as some think. Photo by Rudolph Spruit

Many Canadians actively search for hormone-free beef for their next meal, but hormonal implants may not be the enemy. In reality, growth implants help beef animals convert feed more efficiently, which results in leaner meat and keeps the price of beef more reasonable for the consumer. In addition, the levels of horses in these animals not be as worrisome as some think. Photo by Rudolph Spruit

There is much buzz in today’s media about wanting hormone free meat. Can I let you in on a secret? There is no such thing. You see, just like humans, all animals have naturally occurring hormones in their bodies. What the consumer is actually trying to get when they ask for “hormone-free beef” is animals that are raised with no hormones outside of their own. Companies such as A&W are trying to scare consumers into thinking that their products are better because they are using beef that is raised without growth hormone implants.

Can I let you in on another secret? Implants are not the enemy. Growth implants are used to help beef animals convert feed more efficiently. This means the animals develop more lean meat and grow more on less feed. Beef animals that are implanted have increased weight gain from 5 to 23 per cent and convert feed to meat 3 to 11 per cent more efficiently than non-implanted cattle. By using less feed, costs are reduced for the farmer and beef is kept at a reasonable price for the consumer. There is also a smaller environmental impact when cattle are implanted, as farmers are using fewer resources to get them finished and ready for harvesting. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Animal Science stated that if we were to remove growth implants from our cattle production system, we would need 10 per cent more cattle, 10 per cent more land and feed, and 7 per cent more fuel and fertilizers to raise the same amount of beef.

You might be thinking that it’s great that implanted beef has a smaller environmental impact, but you still don’t want all those extra hormones in your own body. Well then, let me share this tidbit of information: 15 ml of soybean oil has over 28,700 nanograms of plant estrogen, while a 100 gram serving of beef raised with growth hormones has only 2.2 nanograms. Surprising, isn’t it? Studies have shown that there are greater differences in hormone levels between the different sexes of cattle then there are between cattle raised with growth hormones versus cattle raised without growth hormones.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on June 23rd, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Animal health,Beef cattle,Consumers,Feeding the world,Food,Food safety,Innovation and technology,Misconceptions,Regulations,Speaking out,Sustainability
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My meat journey

by Kristen Kelderman, Farm Animal Care Coordinator, Farm & Food Care

Over the last two years that I’ve worked with Farm & Food Care, I’ve been asked a lot of questions. Most of which have come from volunteering at public events. I’ve had great conversations with moms, kids, dads, grandparents and teachers, who all love farm animals and want to know more. Some common questions being ‘how big is that cow?’, ‘how many eggs does a chicken lay?’ and my personal favourite of ‘are you a real farmer?’

Others are more complex like ‘why are pigs kept in stalls?’

But there was one question that I will never forget . It was a question that caught me off guard and one that I have not stopped thinking about since that day. A mom approached me at the CNE and asked ‘how can you care for your animals and then eat them?’

Now that’s a tough question. She was not a vegetarian; she ate meat, but genuinely wanted to know.  I can’t remember what I said to her on that day, but on my drive home that night it kept cycling through my head. How do we justify this decision? I never really considered it that much.

As a young kid growing up on my family farm I became very familiar with life and death. I marveled at the miracle of a new calf being born and also mourned the life of a cow after she had died or been put down. Many times I watched and helped my dad put down a sick or lame cow. Life and death is part of everyday life on a farm. It was something that I never really questioned and I continued to think about this question long after.

It was not until recently on a tour of a Cargill beef plant that I had a “light bulb” moment. I began to piece together my thoughts as I walked through and watched how cattle are turned into the beef you see in the grocery store. Watching the workers do their jobs and trim a small part of the carcass at each point along the way was amazing. Very little goes to waste; even the hooves are processed into products that you buy for your dog at the pet store.

A couple of times our tour guide turned around and checked to see that I was alright. I was the only girl on the tour, but probably the one most fascinated by the whole process.

I left Cargill that afternoon with a renewed confidence in our food system. Regardless of what you read, hear or watch, I can say with firsthand experience that the animals who produce the meat we eat are raised and treated in the most humane manner, from the farm through to your plate.

If I had a time machine, I would go back to that day in August and when that mom asked me ‘how do you eat the animals that you care for?’ I would tell her the following:

We (as farmers) owe it to our animals to provide them a healthy comfortable life, but when the time comes we also owe them a quick and painless death. Farm animals are raised in Canada for food.  Whether it’s beef, chicken, pork or turkey meat that I eat, I know that the animal was well cared for and respectfully treated. I will confidently continue to eat Canadian.

 

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on March 3rd, 2014 :: Filed under Animal care,Beef cattle,Feeding the world,Food,Food safety,Meat/slaughter plants,Uncategorized
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2014 Milk Calendar features recipes by Ontario dairy farmers

At Farm & Food Care Ontario, staff eagerly awaits the annual November release of the Milk Calendar, published by Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC). In fact, we’re almost as excited about arrival of the annual Milk Calendar as we are about our own Faces of Farming calendar (which if you haven’t already seen ordered, you can do so at this link.

Hats off, this year, to DFC for profiling Canadian farmers, and their favourite recipes, in the calendar including Ontario dairy farmers Reuben and Ed Bos who appear on the calendar’s cover. You can read a great story about the Bos family that appeared recently in the The Record.

Ontario dairy farmers Reuben and Ed Bos on the front cover of the 2014 milk calendar

Ontario dairy farmers Reuben and Ed Bos on the front cover of the 2014 milk calendar

Several other Ontario farmers and their favourite recipes are also featured in the calendar including Catherine Agar of Salford with her French Roast recipe appearing in May; Andrew Campbell of Appin with his mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookies appearing in July; Nichele Steenbeck of Varna with her favourite Strawberries and Potted Cream; Sandra Willard of Thornloe with her Breakfast Smoothie recipe appearing in August; Jody Spriel of St. Marys with her Cauliflower Cheddar Soup recipe appearing in October and Jennifer Eastman of Kinburn with her Ham and Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese recipe appearing in November.

Farmers from Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec also contributed recipes to the project.

Ontario recipe developer and Professional Home Economist, Jennifer MacKenzie is again responsible for the array of great recipes that appear in this year’s project.

All of the milk calendar recipes can be found at http://www.dairygoodness.ca/recipes/milk-calendar/2014

 

 

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on November 27th, 2013 :: Filed under Dairy cattle,Feeding the world,Food,milk,Uncategorized
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Bridging the great divide

by Jean L Clavelle

There are some statistics being tossed around these days on social media - only 3% of the population is involved in food production agriculture.  Of those involved in primary production, 98% are family owned and operated.  Interesting as it seems this has set up our culture to be an “us against them” scenario in terms of food production and the general public.

It has been my experience that people in animal agriculture are passionate about raising their animals.  This isn’t a job, it’s a way of life.  Most of my colleagues feel the same way, and primary producers (those directly involved with on-farm production) that I’ve had the pleasure of working with here in western Canada exemplify this statement.  They want to produce a safe product, they want their animals to have a satisfying life and they want to have enough income to provide for their families and continue on with this lifestyle.

Sure there are some bad eggs (sorry for the bad pun) and those that don’t make the right choices.  This happens in every walk of life, every profession, every business however it is not the norm and it is certainly not the norm (or considered acceptable) in animal agriculture.

Sadly animal rights groups and some media presentations like those we saw in the recent W5 report do their best to highlight the small percentage that do not represent what conventional agriculture really is.  And instead of highlighting positive practices, sensationalized media coverage takes small snippets of unacceptable episodes and position them as being the norm.  Let’s be clear, animal rights groups do not want us to use animals in any way shape or form.  They do not believe we should eat meat or any animal by-product.  And unfortunately this message is lost for the average consumer.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on November 12th, 2013 :: Filed under Activism,Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Animal welfare,Canada,Feeding the world,Media,Uncategorized
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When you’re a farmer, sick days aren’t really an option

Guest blog by Brent Royce, Ontario turkey and sheep farmer

Recently, a local woman ran 108 km in two days to raise money for Ronald McDonald house of London. Great job!   I found myself wondering why someone would put themselves through that much pain and agony.  Suddenly the question turned around to me and I asked why have I pushed myself past that point of pain.

We raise turkeys and sheep along with about 500 acres of crops.  About a year ago, I started having chest and arm pains, which resulted from three bad discs in my neck and several pinched nerves. So why have I made my family suffer by watching me work myself into more and more pain? Why wasn’t I smart enough to stop and walk away from it?  The bottom line was that I have livestock that need cared for and fields that need planted and maintained.  I have committed myself to contributing to the food chain at the primary level as a farmer. Farming is my dream, my passion, and my drive.  Pain and discomfort came second.

Ronald McDonald house gave this runner a home and a place of comfort when she most needed it.  I get that. The fields, the barns, the animals reward me all the time and provide a place to put life in perspective.  I see life created and given. I see death and sickness which I can treat, but most of all at the end of the day I know I have done my best to provide families with good quality affordable food.

To make my family suffer watching me work through my pain is something I didn’t realize I was doing at the time and isn’t fair, but they know the animals must be cared for.
As of now I wait to see a surgeon; trying to fill my days while someone else does my work for me.  The truth is slowly sinking in to us all that, in my early 40’s, I could be limited to what I will be able to do for the rest of my life.

We have been lucky enough to sell the sheep and all their feeding equipment to someone that is passionate about the livestock and has the same commitment to agriculture as we do. The sheep have yet to leave our farm and that will be a real reality check.  We also have had to sell our combine due to the fact I won’t be able to operate it again without creating undue pain.

We have been fortunate enough to do what we love for 20 plus years and hope to be able to carry on by next spring.

A family that I respect very much has put me up to the challenge of blogging about farming as I know it. So this is my first attempt at it and perhaps we will have more to come on the challenges that have happened and will happen on this farm.

The one thing I can guarantee is that long term injuries in a self-employed business bring with them a lot of emotional rides. Thankfully we have great neighbours and friends that are willing to help out to get things done. After all, that is what rural Ontario is about.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on September 12th, 2013 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Animal care,Farm life,Feeding the world,Food,Sheep,Turkeys
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Common myths about agriculture – even at the University of Guelph

Guest blog by Rudi Spruit, dairy farmer

Rudi Spruit is a student at the University of Guelph and wrote this response to an article that appeared in the university’s newspaper, The Ontarion.

About four weeks ago, I read an article in The Ontarion about Meatless Monday. As an agriculture student at the University of Guelph, I take a keen interest in anything agriculture-related, especially if it is published in the University of Guelph’s independent student newspaper.

I can see some reasoning behind Meatless Monday, including some health benefits. I don’t know this for a fact, but with the obesity rate where it is in the United States, I can see how eating less protein and more veggies might help the North American diet.

The concern I have is in some of the wording used.   The one problem that set me off with this article was the writer’s lack of understanding about farming in Ontario, evidenced when she mentions, “Others are concerned with animal cruelty; by opting for a vegetarian diet, individuals show they no longer support the conditions many factory farm animals are raised in.”

Nothing could be further from the truth, and the Meatless Monday campaign does nothing to help animal welfare. The concern with animal cruelty is great to everyone, especially farmers. Farmers choose to work with animals because they enjoy it. Caring for animals properly is a matter of doing the right thing.  Contented animals are also more productive animals and lead to higher quality food products. Like any animal owners, farmers must also follow laws for humane treatment, and neglect and abuse of animals of any kind (pets or livestock) is against the law.

In Canada, 98 per cent of all farms are still family owned and operated. It is true that farms are bigger than they used to be, but they’ve had to accommodate a growing world population and a declining farm population.

Fifty years ago, one in three Canadians farmed. Today, it’s one in 47, yet Canadians still want affordable, local food, so we need to produce more – and more efficiently – if we’re going to feed our growing population.

Let me tell you about my family’s dairy farm. We’re the proud caretakers of 370 cows who live in the barn throughout most of the year. There is a reason for that – and that reason will hit us all in about two months: winter. Cows don’t like it. We keep them in the barn for the same reason your pets live in the house: for comfort, fresh feed, fresh water, and safety.

In the summer, cows are often too hot and a lot of them, if outside, could risk facing heat stress and death. So our barn is designed to cool those animals down. Even when they are given a choice of going outside, they pick the barn 98 per cent of the time.

Larger farms came about because approximately 100 years ago, half of the population farmed, whilst now only two per cent do. That means two per cent of the population feeds the remaining 98 per cent. To do that, farms have to get more efficient at producing quality product in large quantities with minimal labor input.

My grandfather milked 60 cows with the help of his family of nine, which created enough income for one family. Today, my dad milks 200 cows with my mom and no other help except for the occasional weekend assistance by me, which creates enough income for all of us.

Today, there are tens of thousands of Canadian farmers like my dad, providing the same amount of care, with the same amount of detail and the same amount of animal welfare. Most farmers care greatly for their animals and take the utmost pride and care in their animals.   If you have any questions about the modern food system and animal agriculture do not hesitate to contact Farm & Food Care Ontario. It’s an organization created to answer the public’s questions about their food and farming supplies.

Also, if you want to enter a modern farm facility without leaving your desk, just visit Farm & Food Care’s website at www.virtualfarmtours.ca to tour a number of Ontario farms, including dairy farms like mine.

 

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Posted by FFC on December 7th, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,animal handling,Canada,Dairy cattle,Feeding the world,Future of Farming,Meatless Monday,Speaking out,Summer,Sustainability of the family farm,winter
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Livestock: the original recyclers

Livestock: the original recyclers

By Jeanine Moyer

About 30 per cent of Canada’s agricultural land is too hilly, rocky, cold or wet to grow crops. But it can support grazing livestock. Livestock don’t compete with people for food grains. In all, about 80 per cent of the feed consumed by cattle, sheep, goats and horses could not be eaten or digested by humans.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on August 16th, 2012 :: Filed under Beef cattle,Consumers,Crops,Environment,Feeding the world,Uncategorized
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Farming for six generations - or more

By Patricia Grotenhuis

I’ve always known farming is in my blood.  Recently, I found out how far it goes in my bloodline is while my parents were going through the family tree.

In two lines of the family tree, one from Mom’s side and one from Dad’s side, I am the sixth consecutive generation of Canadian farmers.  In all likelihood, if you were to go back further into my family history and look at what type of work my ancestors did before coming to Canada, my family’s farming history could go back even further. 

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on July 12th, 2012 :: Filed under Canada,careers,Family vs factory farming,Farm life,Feeding the world,Future of Farming
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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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Harvest 4 Hunger

by Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Hunger relief efforts by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank have been given a big boost by a group of farmers, who set a world record in the process.

Although there were several date changes due to the weather forecast, on October 5, 115 farmers combined a 160 acre soybean field simultaneously in Perth County, Ontario in an event called “Harvest 4 Hunger”.  The crop was harvested in 11 minutes and 43.9 seconds, according to the release sent by the organizers.  Although it was not fast enough to beat a Manitoba wheat harvest record as the fastest harvest ever, it was a great effort.

More importantly, though, it raised approximately $250,000 for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to use towards fighting hunger around the world, exceeding the $200,000 goal set by event organizers.

Following the harvest, an auction was held to sell the soybeans.  The release also states the first bushel sold to the public brought $1000, and the first two lots of 1,600 bushels sold for $36 per bushel to the grain trade, which is well above market value.  It is estimated the yield was 8,000 bushels.

In addition to the crowd of approximately 3,000 people who watched the event, there were also two fixed wing aircraft, three helicopters and many video cameras documenting the harvest. 

Once the final weights of grain are known, organizers will have a more accurate total for the amount of money raised.  On the day of the event, lunch was available by donation to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and the public can “donate a bushel” for $20 on the Canadian Foodgrains Bank website. 

The link for the website is: https://secure.peaceworks.ca/cfgb/donate/donation_make_form?notes=Donate%20a%20Bushel to donate a bushel.

Canadian Foodgrains Bank is a partnership of Christian churches and Christian-based agencies.  It is active in hunger relief efforts in developing countries.

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Posted by FFC on October 12th, 2011 :: Filed under Canada,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Farm life,Feeding the world,Food,Media,Sustainability of the family farm
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