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.

Share

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
Tags :: , , , , , ,

Trimming to Perfection

By Kristen Kelderman, Farm Animal Care Coordinator

As the spring breeze starts to warm and winter wheat fields showcase a lavish bright green hue across the countryside, I begin to notice myself missing the farm more and more. Summer is my absolute favourite time of the year to work and visit my home farm; it’s a whole different world… with an endless to do list. While it is not every day that I get to enjoy this anymore, I had the pleasure of accompanying hoof trimmer Vic Daniel to a family dairy farm in Ontario, recently. 

Hoof trimmer Vic gives a dairy cow's feet some close attention and care

Vic invited me to tag along to a farm with him, after we met at Eastern Ontario Dairy Days, where he presented a wealth of knowledge on dairy cow lameness.  On average, a dairy farmer will ensure their cows” hooves are trimmed twice a year. Proper foot care is an important component of a farmer’s herd health program.

Share

Posted by Farm and Food Care on April 12th, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,animal handling,careers,Dairy cattle,Farm life,Research,Uncategorized
Tags :: , , , , , ,

Animal rights vs. religious freedoms

By Leslie Ballentine, Farm and Food commentator

In December a plan for an outright ban on ritual slaughter methods in the Netherlands failed to pass the Dutch Senate. The bill and the issues surrounding it garnered world-wide attention by Jewish and Islamic communities, the meat processing and retail sectors, and animal activists. Government diplomats also became involved.

Share

Posted by FFC on February 13th, 2012 :: Filed under Activism,animal handling,Food,Meat/slaughter plants,Regulations
Tags :: , , , ,

If slaughterhouses had glass walls…

By: Leslie Ballentine, Farm and Food Commentator

There is a common saying among vegetarians that “If slaughterhouses had glass walls everyone would be a vegetarian”.  Having been to all types of meat plants I disagree.  And so did one of North America’s largest processing companies.

Share

Posted by FFC on November 21st, 2011 :: Filed under animal handling,Beef cattle,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Meat/slaughter plants,Media,Vegetarian
Tags :: , , , , , ,

Animal protection laws have a bite

By: Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

There is often confusion among the public on Canada’s laws governing the treatment of animals. That is understandable since animal protection is a mix of federal, provincial, and even municipal laws.  Added to the mix, in the case of farm animals, are the varying animal care requirements instituted by the farm and food community in recent years.

Share

Posted by FFC on August 29th, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Animal cruelty,Misconceptions,Regulations
Tags :: , , ,

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? 

Share

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

Guest blog: Ballot measures scuttled

Dan Murphy  

(Dan Murphy is a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator in the United States)

Updated: July 11, 2011 -  Both sides are carefully calling the agreement between the nation’s egg producers and HSUS leadership a “victory.” For industry, that means that two ballot measures set for November that would have asked Oregon and Washington voters to ban the use of cages in egg production will now be withdrawn.

Why? Mostly because the odds of victory were looking less certain for HSUS.

Share

Posted by FFC on July 13th, 2011 :: Filed under Activism,Animal care,Chickens,eggs,HSUS,Regulations,Uncategorized
Tags :: , , , , , ,

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.

Share

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

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.

Share

Posted by FFC on June 17th, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Farm life,Feeding the world,Pigs,Pork,Sustainability of the family farm
Tags :: , , , , ,

Vacation? What’s that?

by Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Growing up, I always heard about the family vacations my friends were going on. Trips to Florida to escape the snow, flights to other parts of Canada or the world for a relaxing escape, and weekend getaways were talked about on a regular basis, but the conversations were always hard for me to join.

Share

Posted by FFC on May 31st, 2011 :: Filed under Animal health,Family vs factory farming,Farm life
Tags :: , , , , , ,