let's talk farm animals

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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A Family Factory?

Guest blog, by:  James Bosma, Dairy Farmer and Agriculture Advocate.

Factory versus Family farming has come to the forefront of discussion as of late. But what defines a family farm?

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Posted by FFC on November 14th, 2011 :: Filed under Education and public awareness,Family vs factory farming,Sustainability of the family farm
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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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Sustainability is all the buzz in the retail world

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator
 
According to the numerous trends lists that I have been reading, the buzz around food sustainability will continue to increase, driven by the food industry and retailers like Wal-Mart. This includes social, economic and environmental sustainability – lower greenhouse gas emissions, smaller carbon footprints, fair(er) trade and pricing policies, and responsible production practices. Food manufacturers and retailers now have whole departments devoted to corporate social responsibility. As buyers of farm products they have influence with their suppliers over how products may and may not be produced.

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Posted by FFC on October 19th, 2011 :: Filed under Retailers,Sustainability,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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Our contract with pigs

by  Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural ambassador

A number of conversations between a father and his son about why they follow the specific farming practices they did led to the writing of a fable which stretches back to the times before animals were domesticated.

Bob Hunsberger, a pig farmer from Ontario, and his son Kyle, decided to write an explanation showing the evolution of farming practices which have lead us to where we are today.  Writing the document has helped the Hunsbergers answer questions they are asked about animal agriculture and about the farming practices being used with pigs.

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Posted by FFC on June 17th, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Farm life,Feeding the world,Pigs,Pork,Sustainability of the family farm
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Food prices are up – but what’s to blame?

by Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Food prices are drawing a lot of media attention lately. It seems everything is increasing in price, both at grocery stores and at restaurants. Many different factors have been blamed for these price increases, but regardless of the reason, the outcome is the same. In some cases, food prices rise at the store without any increase for the farmer.

A Manitoba study showed the cost of a week’s worth of groceries for a family of four rose by $6.01 from 2008 to 2009, but farmers received $0.86 less. In 2009, beef farmers received $2.05 for the 600 grams of sirloin tip beef that cost you $9.15 in the store. In 2008, by comparison, the farmer also received $2.05 for the same cut of beef, but you only paid $4.61.

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Posted by FFC on April 19th, 2011 :: Filed under Economics,Farm life,Feeding the world,Misconceptions,Sustainability,Sustainability of the family farm
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What is a ‘factory farm’ anyway? – Part 2

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

The over-used term “factory farm” never seems to be defined. Many farmers and others who work in the agriculture business consider it an insulting term, much like a racial slur that shouldn’t be tolerated.  Here is what one farmer thinks.

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Posted by FFC on March 23rd, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Education and public awareness,Family vs factory farming,Letters to the Editor,Sustainability of the family farm
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