let's talk farm animals

Meet Mr. May in the 2012 Faces of Farming calendar

 
by Patricia Grotenhuis

The world of horse racing beckoned for a 10-year period for Darryl Drain, but eventually he found his way back to the family egg farm. Drain’s role as an Ontario egg farmer and an advocate for the egg industry has earned him a spot as the face of May in the 2012 Faces of Farming Calendar published by the Farm Care Foundation. His page was sponsored by Egg Farmers of Ontario.

He had always planned on eventually taking over the farm, but the road between when he left his father’s farm and on-farm store and when he returned to it was a long one.  Drain studied at the University of Guelph for a diploma in agricultural business, and then took a step towards training racehorses.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on May 9th, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,Canada,Consumers,Education and public awareness,eggs,Faces of Farming,Farm life
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Battle of the sexes

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

Just when I thought I had heard it all, the Globe and Mail recently carried a feature on “gendered meat”. What you ask (as did I) is such a thing? Well apparently there is a demand by some Canadian consumers for selecting their meat based on whether the animal is male or female.

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Posted by FFC on April 23rd, 2012 :: Filed under Chickens,Consumers,Food,Misconceptions,Pork,Retailers
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“Pink slime” – What’s in a name?

By: Leslie Ballentine, Farming and Food Commentator

“Pink slime” a pejorative term for boneless lean beef trimmings has been getting a lot of attention from, food advocates and US policy makers in recent weeks. Called “lean finely textured beef within the industry,” the ground beef filler is reportedly not used in fabricating meat in Canada. Never-the-less, the hoopla is spilling over our border and is another example of how a name can affect the industry. 

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Posted by FFC on April 2nd, 2012 :: Filed under animal by-products,Consumers,Food,Food safety,Meat/slaughter plants
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Meet farming’s face of February – Cathy McKay

by Patricia Grotenhuis

A summer job for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food during university led to a life-long love and a diverse business for Cathy McKay. McKay is featured in the 2012 Faces of Farming calendar published by the Farm Care Foundation.

Cathy McKay

McKay’s page is sponsored by the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association. She’s the first apple grower to ever appear in the annual calendar that features the faces and stories of some of Ontario’s farmers.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on February 22nd, 2012 :: Filed under Canada,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Faces of Farming,Farm life,Innovation and technology,Uncategorized
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Why are you choosing organic?

Guest Blog: Lisa McLean, Agricultural communicator

I am fortunate to surround myself with a number of strong, intelligent, critical-thinking friends. Many of them are also parents, and all of them want the very best for their families. 

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Posted by FFC on February 7th, 2012 :: Filed under Consumers,Food,Media,Organics,Speaking out
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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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Christmas music wouldn’t be the same without animals

By: Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

When we think of Christmas and animals we may think of Santa’s reindeers or the manger in Bethlehem. We may think of turkey dinners and Beeswax candles or horse drawn sleigh rides, the Red Cardinal or fur-lined mitts.  We don’t often think of music though.

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Posted by FFC on December 19th, 2011 :: Filed under animal by-products,Consumers,Turkeys,winter
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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.

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Posted by FFC on November 21st, 2011 :: Filed under animal handling,Beef cattle,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Meat/slaughter plants,Media,Vegetarian
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Sometimes I just can’t take it any more

Guest blog by:  Gene Gregory, President United Egg Producers

I know that many in agriculture have similar thoughts on the attacks upon our businesses and modern agriculture but sometimes I just can’t take anymore of it.  Here are some of my thoughts:

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Posted by FFC on November 1st, 2011 :: Filed under Consumers,Economics,Education and public awareness,Food safety,Misconceptions,Speaking out
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Why hormone-free labels and other claims don’t really tell the story

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

I just read a news feature by a Vancouver Sun reporter who, for personal reasons, has looked into the food labels that appear on our grocery shelves.

His story arose after seeing a milk carton labeled “hormone free” and purchasing local organic chickens, “worth the premium, my wife said, because, among other things, they were hormone free.” He wanted to check it out for himself and so went onto Google and into stores to do some research of his own. By his own admission his research confirmed both his suspicion and his “ignorance”.

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Posted by FFC on October 10th, 2011 :: Filed under Chickens,Consumers,Dairy cattle,Food,Misconceptions,Organics,Turkeys
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