let's talk farm animals

Old man winter is coming – are you and your animals ready?

by Jean L Clavelle

Here in the west, most people feel cheated by this year’s short summer.  Snow arrived early last fall and then stuck around far longer than we all felt it should have this spring.  However, whether we like it or not , winter is fast approaching!  For the average Joe this means blowing out the sprinklers, finding those extension cords, and winterizing your house.  Not only do producers need to do all of those things, they also need to worry about getting their animals ready for winter too.Winter Cows PIC

There are a few key items on producers’ checklist each fall to ensure they optimize herd health and reproduction in the winter.

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Posted by FACS on October 15th, 2013 :: Filed under Animal care,Animal health,Beef cattle,Farm life,Uncategorized,Weather,winter
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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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Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

by Kim Waalderbos

Winter season on a farm adds a different dynamic to daily chores. Just like we get bundled up for outdoor adventures, the colder temperatures mean farmers must pay extra attention to animals, barns and equipment to keep everything warm and comfortable.

When the thermometer starts to dip, farmers can be found topping up stalls and pens with extra snuggly bedding, adding more food and milk in the pails and feed bunks, or adjusting their barn ventilation to keep fresh – but not cold – air circulating.

Winter on a farm brings with it a need to take extra precautions with the animals living on it - including maintaining comfortable temperatures inside barns on cold, snowy days.

Farm machinery and plumbing isn’t immune to cold weather. When the cold winds start howling there are farmers out thawing frozen water pipes, chipping off stubborn strings to open feed bales, and coaxing along tractors and silo unloaders that aren’t cold friendly. Animals still need to be fed and watered, and possibly milked, despite the temperature outside.

Snow is inevitable in a Canadian winter. For animals that enjoy getting their exercise outdoors on warmer days and frolicking in the snow, farmers will often build windbreaks with trees or wooden fences to keep the wind at bay. Farmers might dress newborn animals up in warm ‘coats’ or add muffs to cover ears to prevent frost bite. Snow is like the gift that keeps on giving as farmers clear laneways with each new dumping of white stuff. Even if schools and offices are closed, farmers still need to get the milk truck, feed truck and other time-sensitive deliveries to and from the farm regardless of weather conditions.

With winter storms comes a higher risk of power outages. On the farm, someone is likely headed out to dig out and hook up a generator in the dark all in an effort to keep water pumps running for the animals, ensure fans, heaters and automatic feeders are on (especially for smaller animals like chickens), and the milk stays cold in the tank.

Once the chores are done, it’s fun to enjoy winter’s wonderland on the farm – whether it’s sledding across fields, building snowmen or other snow-critters, or enjoying a hot chocolate while watching the sun come up over a snow-capped barn with critters nestled warm inside.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on March 8th, 2013 :: Filed under Animal care,Animal welfare,Barns,Canada,Ventilation,Weather,winter
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The Woes of Heavy Clay

By Patricia Grotenhuis

When you are on a farm, there are good days, bad days, and days that look like they might turn bad but in the end are good.  In a job that is completely dependent on weather, animals, and crops, things do not always go as planned.

I had a several-day stretch recently where I was supposed to be helping my parents take photos of their dairy and veal farm, my brother’s beef farm, and my sister’s sheep farm. The goal was to make a nice presentation that they can use to explain their farming practices to customers.  Things went well at the dairy and sheep farms.  I was happy with the photographs I had taken, and was thinking the hardest part of the job would be selecting my favourites.  Then, I arrived at my brother’s farm.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on May 24th, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,animal handling,Beef cattle,Education and public awareness,Farm life,Weather
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Temperature fluctuations a worry for livestock farmers

By Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

This winter we are experiencing unseasonal temperatures and large temperature fluctuations in our area.  People often comment on how variable temperatures can affect their health.  Did you know the same is true for animals?

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Posted by FFC on January 20th, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,Canada,Uncategorized,Weather,winter
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Christmas on the farm as a child

By Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Christmas morning. The kids wake up early, rush downstairs, see the presents and stockings that appeared through the night and promptly…walk right past, bundle up and head for the barn. Okay, we may have stopped for a quick peek in our stocking and to read Santa’s note, but that was it. To farm kids, waiting to open presents is a way of life.

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Posted by FFC on December 20th, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Farm life,Weather,winter
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Fall season on the farm

 By Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Fall is a great time to be on the farm.  The smells, the colours and the activity of harvest and preparing the seed bed for the winter make every day different. 

After months of work, it is finally time to harvest the crops. The animals born during the winter and spring months are also either ready to be sold, or are strong and hardy for winter.  Everyone waits expectantly for that first frost (now past) that signals the end of the growing season and the start of harvest.  It also serves as a friendly reminder from Mother Nature to begin readying barns for winter. 

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Posted by FFC on November 9th, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Canada,Farm life,Harvest,Sustainability of the family farm,Weather,winter
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Hot summer days on the farm

by Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Hot summer days are part of the routine for all of us.  For some, it means a chance to relax by a pool, or to enjoy it from the comfort of air conditioning.  Those options do not work for our farm animals, so what do farmers do to help them? 

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Posted by FFC on August 11th, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Barns,Housing,Innovation and technology,Ventilation,Weather
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The special care nursery

 by Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Sometimes when an animal is born, it may need a little bit of extra care to get going, just like some babies need more care than others.  For whatever reason (they may have been born early, been a multiple birth, or been slow to nurse), they end up needing extra attention, and sometimes, extra warmth.

Since we had a mixture of dairy cattle, beef cattle, sheep and goats on our farm growing up, we also had a variety of experiences with these special animals.  During a barn check, we would go out, and occasionally notice a newborn animal that was weaker than the others.  Since the weak ones always seem to be born during cold weather, the barn that other newborn animals found comfortable was too cold for the weak newborns.

We had a system at our house to nurse these animals back to health.  During the late winter and early spring, we would create a special care area where we knew the small, young animals would be warm and watched very carefully.  As soon as we had one which we were worried about, we would wrap it in blankets, towels, our coats, or anything else that was handy, and off we would go.  To where?  The kitchen, of course!

Our house was divided years ago, and actually has two kitchens: one for Grandma and one for us.  Our kitchen had a wood stove which kept it nice and toasty warm, while Grandma’s kitchen was always warm from the oven and stove being on.  We would find a cardboard box in the basement which was the right size for our newest addition to the farm, and fill it with blankets and towels.  Then, we would dutifully place the box in one of the two kitchens, and the family would be notified about our house guest. 

Since Grandma was semi-retired and later then retired, she would take care of the animals while we were in the barn.  When we were in the house, all of us would take turns.  We kept colostrum in the freezer in different sized containers, so there was always some ready to be thawed and warmed.  Colostrum is the first milk produced by the mammary gland of a cow after calving. It is a rich source of nutrients, fats and antibodies. Feeding colostrum to the calf is critical in the first hours of life as it provides essential nutrients and infection-fighting antibodies to the newborn. If the animal was strong enough to drink on its own, we would feed it using a bottle.  If not, we used a syringe to squirt small amounts of milk at a time into the animal’s mouth. 

Besides feeding the animals milk, we would move them around in the box and rub them with blankets, towels, or our hands from time to time to make sure their circulation was okay.  It was a big job whenever one of these needy animals was born, but it had to be done, and we did not complain.  We would even set our alarms to go off in the middle of the night when the animals would need more milk.

At one time, I remember there being several lambs who were from multiple births and whose mothers did not have enough milk for and a tiny, premature calf in Grandma’s kitchen.  This was not a common thing…most of the animals born are healthy, and their mothers can care for them from the start.  Often there were no animals in the house at all.
We would always become quite attached to these animals, and they would become attached to us, too.  In most cases, within a few days they were strong enough to rejoin the herd.  Sometimes, the animals would not make it.  Whenever this happened, the whole family would try and think of what more we could have done.  We always hated those days.  We had tried as hard as we could, but that specific little one just was not strong enough.

Farming is full of good days and bad.  We never know what to expect when we wake up in the morning, but some of the best days are when you see the special nursing and attention given to an animal pay off, and a formerly sick animal become healthy again.

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Posted by FFC on June 24th, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,animal handling,Animal health,Beef cattle,Canada,Dairy cattle,Farm life,Sheep,Weather
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A taste of farm freshness

Guest Blog by Jeanine Moyer

Jeanine was raised on a pig, beef cattle and crop farm in Ontario

Each seasonal change evokes an awakening of the senses. And nothing beats the arrival of spring and summer to make a person salivate over fresh spring greens and sweet berries. I never realized how lucky I was to grow up on a farm where we grew most of our own fruit and vegetables until I didn’t have a garden of my own to enjoy.

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Posted by FFC on June 8th, 2011 :: Filed under Farm life,spring,Weather,winter
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