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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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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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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Livestock on the road – how you can help in an accident

By Jean Clavelle

Wtransport PICell, it’s that time of year.  Cattle are coming home from pasture, calves are being weaned and sent to feedlot and horse enthusiasts are enjoying the last few pleasant riding days left of the season.  No one plans to have one, but accidents do happen especially when animals are involved.  And whether you are the one involved in a motor vehicle accident or an innocent bystander it’s important to know what to do and how you can help when livestock are on the loose.

The top 5 things you need to know about livestock in an emergency:

  1. Livestock do not understand lights and sirens mean pullover.  This will definitely not make them stop.
  2. When an animal feels cornered, it will fight or try to run.
  3. Livestock view us as predators and their natural instinct is to flee from predators.
  4. Prey animals are herd animals and become extremely agitated when isolated or separated from other animals.  Single animals are extremely dangerous animals.
  5. Once livestock are excited or scared it will take at least 20 to 30 minutes to calm them back down.
    Read All »

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on October 4th, 2013 :: Filed under animal handling,Animal welfare,Beef cattle,Broiler Breeders,Chickens,Horses,Misconceptions,Pigs,Poultry,Sheep,Transportation,Turkeys,Uncategorized,Veterinarians,Weather
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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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Meet the faces of April in the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar

By Kelly Daynard

The connection between turkey farming and riding motorcycles isn’t an obvious one for most people. But for the Vanderzanden family of St. Ann’s, Ontario, both are important parts of their lives.

The multi generation family of Harry, Paul, Steven and Evan are featured in the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. Their page is sponsored by Turkey Farmers of Ontario and they’re the first fourth generation family to ever appear in the calendar’s pages in its eight year history.

The four generation turkey-farming family of Harry, Paul, Steven and Evan Vanderzanden are the faces of April - and the cover image - on the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on April 11th, 2013 :: Filed under Canada,Faces of Farming,Farm life,Turkeys,Uncategorized
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Meet the farmers of January from the 2012 Faces of Farming calendar

by Patricia Grotenhuis

Three Ontario turkey farmers, the father/sons team of Heiko, Wayne and Mike Oegema, are featured in the 2012 Faces of Farming Calendar published by the Farm Care Foundation. Their page was sponsored by Turkey Farmers of Ontario.

These turkey farmers are the faces of January in the 2012 Faces of Farming calendar

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Heiko Oegema’s family established a turkey farm in 1959, shortly after emigrating from Holland.  He said that it was the opportunities available to Canadian farm families that brought his family to their chosen country.

As Heiko’s own family grew, so did their farm business. A retail store was added when his son Mike returned to the farm.  Heiko recently retired and the farm and store are now being run by his twin sons, Mike and Wayne.

“The transition has gone smoothly.  I used to farm with my brother, and then we phased the boys in,” says Heiko.

The store, called “The Turkey Shoppe”, opened to diversify the farm in December of 1992, after Mike graduated with his business degree.  It started out small, expanded in 1996 when Wayne returned, and has been growing ever since.

“We’ve had to expand over the years, and we’re raising more birds annually to meet seasonal needs,” says Mike.

The farm has changed its production schedules slightly since opening the store to make sure it will have enough fresh birds for Thanksgiving and Christmas to meet their customers’ needs.  The Oegemas have also built a licensed free-standing meat processing plant to process their turkey meat into products such as pies, sausages, burgers, and schnitzel.

Although the store is important to the farm, the family’s main focus is on ensuring the birds’ welfare.  Heiko was on the committee that originally developed the Recommended Codes of Practice for turkey producers.  The Codes are national guidelines for the care and handling of the different species of farm animals. They promote sound management and welfare practices through recommendations and requirements for housing, care, transportation, processing and other animal husbandry practices.  The farm implemented the codes immediately, and has been following them and making improvements ever since.

Currently, the farm is undergoing barn renovations.  Work includes making the barns more energy efficient, more comfortable for the birds and improving the ventilation system.

Even with so much work to do on the farm and in the store, the Oegemas are active in their community.

Heiko is the church organist, sits on church council, and enjoys time at the family cottage with his wife, Helen.  He is also a member of the local Chamber of Commerce.  In the past, Heiko was on the Soil and Crop Improvement Association, served as chair of the Turkey Farmers of Ontario, the organization that represents Ontario’s 190 turkey farm families. He was also an executive committee member on Turkey Farmers of Canada.

Mike and his wife, Annie, have three sons.  Mike served on the local fire department for eight years, and is on church council.  In what free time he has, he enjoys golf, soccer and hockey.

Wayne is chair of the local church council and likes to hunt, fish and bicycle.  He and his wife Jeanna have a five-year-old son.  Before returning to the farm, Wayne worked as a licensed diesel mechanic for 10 years (a skill that comes in handy on the farm). Today, though, he is happy to be home farming again.

 “It’s more peaceful than the garage.  You’re tied to it but there’s a freedom and an independent lifestyle.  That’s what I love,” says Wayne.
To view the rest of the 2012 calendar, visit http://www.farmfoodcare.org/index.php/news/calendar-2012
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Posted by FFC on January 23rd, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,Canada,Codes of Practice,Faces of Farming,Farm life,Housing,Turkeys,Uncategorized
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Changing markets for changing times

 by Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate
In recent years, interest in local foods and what farming practices are being used has created a shift.  Consumers are starting to seek out farmers who sell direct through farmers’ markets and on-farm stores, and farmers are spending more time connecting with consumers.

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Posted by FFC on July 22nd, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Chickens,Consumers,Farm life,Feeding the world,Turkeys,Wildlife
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