let's talk farm animals

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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Camels have it over farm animals

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

The Dog Days of Summer are tough on most living things; people, plants and animals. But with this summer’s record breaking-temperatures  in many parts of the country, the heat and humidity are especially bad news. Hot weather can take a toll.

Camels obviously can tolerate heat, but livestock and poultry are not so fortunate. Many types of farm animals can’t regulate their body temperatures as well as people can- pigs can’t sweat for example- and even a slight prolonged rise in body temperature can heat stress cattle. Just as with people, heat exhaustion can kill. So it’s up to the farmer to get them through the ‘Dog Days’.

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Posted by FFC on July 25th, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Housing,Transportation,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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Power’s out!

 by Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Storms have always filled me with awe.  I love sitting, safe and secure, in my house or in the barn while the wind howls around us,  snow or rain coming down with no end in sight.  There is always one big fear with storms, though:  what if the power goes out?

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Posted by FFC on May 10th, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Farm life,Farm Safety,Innovation and technology,Uncategorized,Weather,winter
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Spring on the farm

by Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong dairy farmer and agricultural advocate

I always found, growing up, one of the hardest questions to answer was “what’s your favourite season?”  I loved them all!  As each change in the seasons came, I would look forward to the change with anticipation. 

Scenes like this may still be a few weeks away but we're already looking forward to them!

Spring, to me, meant a time for new life.  Not only in the barn, either.  Dairy cows have calves year round, which is why we have a steady supply of milk in the grocery stores.  Other animals, like beef cows, sheep and meat goats, have most of their young during the late winter and spring months.  I have always loved driving down the road in the spring, and seeing the young animals out on pasture.  It is a sight that will make me smile every time, no matter how often I see it.

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Posted by FFC on March 25th, 2011 :: Filed under Crops,Dairy cattle,Farm life,Other livestock,spring,Weather
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