let's talk farm animals

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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Practicing Animal Welfare every day on the farm

by Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and Agricultural Advocate

Many people are familiar with the term “animal rights”, and hearing can bring up images of activist groups on parade.  Animal rights supporters don’t believe humans have a right to use animals for any purpose. Activists are not usually interested in finding solutions but prefer to focus on problems and dramatic examples to generate funds and support.
A term which is heard less often in the general public is animal welfare, although this is the phrase that refers to what farmers and researchers are doing every day.

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Posted by FFC on February 25th, 2011 :: Filed under Activism,Animal care,Animal health,Codes of Practice,Innovation and technology,Sustainability of the family farm
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Answering a few questions about animal care in a chance encounter

 By Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural enthusiast.

December 22, 2010 – During the summer, I attended the Canadian National Exhibition with the Ontario Farm Animal Council’s (OFAC)  spokesrobot Oprah.  Most of the questions we were asked were fairly general, but there was one comment which has stuck in my mind since then.

 It is one I’m sure everyone in agriculture has heard at some point, and if they have not heard it yet, they will soon.  While we were on our way to the parking lot at the end of the day, a gentleman stopped us and asked what Oprah was for.  I briefly explained that she is an educational assistant sent to events such as fairs and festivals by the Ontario Farm Animal Council, and followed up by telling him who OFAC is and what it does.

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Posted by FFC on December 22nd, 2010 :: Filed under Animal care,animal handling,Animal health,Barn fires,Codes of Practice,Consumers,Dairy cattle,Education and public awareness,Farm life,Housing,Innovation and technology,Regulations,Research,Sustainability of the family farm,Uncategorized

Animal Industry Comes of Age

Farm animal councils in Canada, led by the National Farm Animal Care Council, have taken a lead role in promoting the Codes of Practice to farmers in this country. NFACC is also now leading the development of revised codes for a number of livestock species. We think this article sums the topic up well – OFAC

Animal Industry Comes Of Age
Laura Rance
EDITOR
Manitoba Cooperator

An animal-abuse court case based on the discovery of hundreds of dead, starving, dehydrated and injured hogs in a Notre Dame de Lourdes-area barn earlier this year could be precedent setting on two fronts.

The horrific conditions animal-welfare officers found when they were called to the scene and the number of charges laid against the owners of the barn may make this one of the biggest animal-abuse cases the province has ever witnessed.

But it is also the first time charges have been laid for failing to comply with an industry code of practice — standards of animal care developed under the leadership of these hog producers’ peers.

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Posted by FFC on December 13th, 2010 :: Filed under Animal care,Animal cruelty,animal handling,Beef cattle,Canada,Codes of Practice,Dairy cattle,Housing,Pork