let's talk farm animals

Farming with family members requires give and take

Guest blog by Brent Royce, Ontario turkey farmer

Sometimes determination takes a while to prove itself. This week I was able to tell my dad, “I told you so” with only a 10 year waiting period!

As with any business, there will be disagreements with partners involved. In a family farm business it is amplified by the fact that those partners are also parents or siblings with whom you sit down with for normal family time like Christmas.  During the time of transfer of responsibility for decisions, this becomes more of a challenge, as everyone on both sides of the process will agree.

Even though I got to say I was right, somehow dad managed to leave me thinking about the issue and realized he still was able to reinforce management ideas that I already knew.  When I look back over 10 years, I quickly realized how agriculture has changed and developed. No longer can we plan for just the next few years. Instead, we have to look at all the options and possibilities that are available and make sure that all decisions are made knowing that anything might happen.  Lots of farmers now run their farms as a true business with far more time spent looking at all details than their predecessors did. As a result, some of the old sayings like “a penny saved is a penny earned” don’t always hold water anymore. Times have changed.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on December 6th, 2013 :: Filed under Farm life,Sustainability of the family farm,Turkeys
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Meet the face of June in the Faces of Farming calendar

By Patricia Grotenhuis

Dancing in the barn, baking pies, catering and many great memories of farming alongside her husband Morley are just a sample of the stories Thelma Trask can tell.

This energetic mother of six and grandmother of 10 has been farming with her husband since their wedding 56 years ago, and before that, she taught school for two years.

For her long-time commitment to farming, Trask is featured as the month of June in the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar produced by Farm & Food Care Ontario.  Her page is sponsored by Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Ltd.

Thelma Trask and one of her famous pies

Thelma Trask and one of her famous pies

Trask and her husband, who met at a corn roast during her tenure as a young teacher, have shared many good times. “When we got married, Morley couldn’t dance.  So, I taught him how to dance, during chore time, between the rows of cows in the barn,” she recalls with a laugh.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on June 10th, 2013 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Dairy cattle,Faces of Farming,Farm life,Future of Farming,Innovation and technology,Sustainability of the family farm
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Connecting with consumers is the greatest reward for local beef initiative

By Kelly Daynard

Sarnia – It started six years ago as a conversation between friends. Today, that idea tossed around a kitchen table has become Bluewater Beef, an initiative of the Eyre and Shaw farm families of Lambton County.

Murray Shaw recalls that early conversation. “We wanted to expand our farms but the economics at the time, for small farmers, didn’t make sense.”

While most of their beef produced at the time was sold directly to larger processors, he and partner Ralph Eyre already sold a small amount of beef locally, taking orders from friends and family for beef from their farms. From sales of that “freezer beef”, they had learned that people liked knowing exactly where their meat came from.

The Eyre and Shaw farm families of Lambton County are the owners of Bluewater Beef

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on February 27th, 2013 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Animal care,Beef cattle,Consumers,Farm life,farm tours,Food,Meat processing,Sustainability of the family farm,Uncategorized
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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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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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Meet this octogenerian with a passion for beef cattle

 by Patricia Grotenhuis

Passionate about her cattle, full of energy and enthusiastic about the agricultural industry, Sandy Grant is a farmer with a full schedule.  She is also 85 years young and does the work herself.

Beef farmer Sandy Grant is the face of August in the Faces of Farming calendar

This energetic mother of nine and grandmother of 14 moved from the city to her Georgetown-area farm in 1971 with her family, and has had animals ever since.  She admits the neighbours did not know what to think of her and her husband at first, but as time went on, relationships were formed and friends made.

“I always thought it would be nice to live on a farm.  After years of having horses and ponies, I wanted to try something different so I bought my first four heifers in the early 1980s,” says Grant.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on August 1st, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,Beef cattle,Canada,Faces of Farming,Farm life,Misconceptions,Speaking out,Sustainability of the family farm
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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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Introducing the farmers of March in the 2012 Faces of Farming calendar

 by Patricia Grotenhuis

Research and development are critical components of Rob and Jim Judge’s work as hog farmers.  They have been working to improve pig genetics in Ontario and shipped a group of pigs with their improved genetics to Korea recently.

The father/son team of Jim and Rob are the faces of March in the 2012 Faces of Farming calendar

The father-son team is featured in the 2012 Faces of Farming calendar, which is published by the Farm Care Foundation. Their page in the calendar was sponsored by New Life Mills, a supplier to their business.  Their Simcoe-area farm family has a “farrow to finish” type of hog farm which means that the pigs are born on the farm and raised there until they go to market. The family also raises chickens and crops in addition to the pigs. 

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on March 15th, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,Canada,Family vs factory farming,Farm life,Innovation and technology,Pigs,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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