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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Animals on the loose

by Kristen Kelderman, Farm Animal Care Coordinator

During the past five years living away from home, I have travelled the notorious 401 highway back to Eastern Ontario too many times to count.

Through blistering heat waves and slippery icy pavement, I have endured the three and a half hour drive often thinking how dull, boring and monotonous it has become. It was brought to my attention recently that, in reality, the hustle and bustle of the highway is anything but humdrum. In a matter of seconds all chaos can break out; it’s a special concoction of travelling at high speeds with little focus and numerous distractions. Add in a pinch of road rage and you’ve got the potential for a ticking time bomb.

Accidents are no new reality for those who use the highway to commute to work every day. We share the roads with other commuters, school buses, taxis, vacationers, transport trucks, police and farm animals…yes that’s right folks, farm animals.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on April 26th, 2012 :: Filed under Animal care,animal handling,Barn fires
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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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Changing markets for changing times

 by Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate
In recent years, interest in local foods and what farming practices are being used has created a shift.  Consumers are starting to seek out farmers who sell direct through farmers’ markets and on-farm stores, and farmers are spending more time connecting with consumers.

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Posted by FFC on July 22nd, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Chickens,Consumers,Farm life,Feeding the world,Turkeys,Wildlife
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Sheep shearing in the spring

by Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

When people think about careers in agriculture, they normally think of farmers. It is much more than that, though. There are many jobs within agriculture which you may not think about.

A great example is the sheep shearer. Sheep must be shorn in the late winter or early spring so they will be comfortable during the warm weather. Shearing a sheep a few weeks before it gives birth also makes it easier for lambs to find their mother’s udders to nurse.

Karen shears an alpaca

Sheep shearing is very labour intensive – so many sheep farmers will hire someone who specializes in shearing to visit each year.

My sister, a sheep farmer, hires an old friend named Karen for the job. Karen had been shearing sheep since she was 12 years old, and decided she could shear while in university as a spring and summer job. She even began shearing alpacas in 2002.

Karen works full time as a pedorthist (foot care specialist). However, on weekends Karen still travels to farms shearing sheep and alpacas. “I’m not in a place where I can have a farm of my own, and I think I would miss it too much if I didn’t get out,” says Karen.

Shearing a sheep

Sheep shearing season for Karen begins in February, and carries through to the end of June. Work with alpacas begins in April, and the season ends in June. Karen also shears a few flocks of sheep in the fall. The size of sheep flocks that she is responsible for range from two to 150 sheep.

Because there are not many professional alpaca shearers, Karen travels long distances to shear them, and herds range in size from two to just under 100 animals.

In the course of an hour, Karen can shear between 12 and 14 sheep, or four alpacas. Alpacas take a lot longer because of the difference in technique. They have to be held on their side on a table, and several people are involved in holding them down. Once the alpacas are shorn, they also have their hooves trimmed.

Karen enjoys the shearing. For her, it is like coming home when she gets out on the farm again, working alongside the farmers and helping them care for their animals. “I can’t imagine giving it up. I like being able to get away from the office, and back on the farm” says Karen.

Karen’s love for the animals is what brings her back to farms year after year, working in a job which is very physically demanding. “I really feel blessed to be able to travel around the province and work with so many different people. In the spring I work seven days a week, from the beginning of April until the end of June – but because it is two different jobs, so completely different, it doesn’t usually feel like real work,” says Karen.

Having someone like Karen, who specializes in shearing, come out to the farm, it allows the shearing process to be done quickly and efficiently. With the job being completed faster, there is less stress on the animals.

Shearing is a necessity for the well-being of sheep and alpacas, and people like Karen make it easier for farmers to complete the task.

To watch a video of another sheep shearer at work, visit www.virtualfarmtours.ca and click on the Sheep Farm Tour. In the third video box at the top, you can watch Farmer Bill shear one of his sheep – a process that only takes a few minutes.

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Posted by FFC on April 26th, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,animal handling,Farm life,Sheep,spring
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No such thing as a quiet bull

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

People forget that farming is a dangerous profession. I recently read about a symposium in Ireland on the danger of farm animals, in this case bulls. And a study into the situation found that, unlike dogs, no breed of cattle was “safer” than another. Authors of the study reported that when investigating fatal accidents, inspectors often hear that a bull could be considered ‘quiet’ for years and suddenly become ‘angry’ and attack.

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Posted by FFC on February 10th, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,animal handling,Beef cattle,Canada,Dairy cattle,Farm life
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Emergency Response and Livestock Video released

If you’re involved in emergency response AFAC’s newly released video is for you. This 10 minute video, developed by the Alberta Farm Animal Care Association, is an overview of the highly successful Livestock Emergency Response Course.

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Posted by AFAC on October 15th, 2009 :: Filed under Transportation
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The pig whisperer

Steve Buist, Hamilton Spectator, 2008.06.04

I’m playing a word game with Temple Grandin. It’s fascinating to hear her describe how her brain works.

Temple Grandin is a professor of livestock behaviour at Colorado State University. She also happens to be autistic.

You could make the case that she’s the world’s most highly functioning autistic person and I wouldn’t argue with that.

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Posted by FFC on July 22nd, 2009 :: Filed under Education and public awareness,Family vs factory farming,Farm life,Housing,Pork
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Certification soon needed for livestock transport

Fairview Post
Posted By Chris Zwick
November 12, 2008

Livestock haulers and handlers across the country will soon require certification to transport livestock, but luckily enough the Fairview college campus is offering a one-day Certified Livestock Transport training program on Nov. 15.

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Posted by FFC on July 21st, 2009 :: Filed under Regulations,Transportation
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Poultry production has lower carbon footprint than other livestock systems

Source: Farmers Weekly Interactive 22/11/2007

Poultry meat uses less global energy than other livestock systems and
intensive poultry uses less than free range and organic, according to new research.

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Posted by FFC on July 21st, 2009 :: Filed under Education and public awareness,Family vs factory farming,Poultry,Research
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