Yes, There’s an App for Farm Animal Care

By Kristen Kelderman, Farm Animal Care Coordinator, Farm & Food Care

The days of carrying a notepad around the farm still exist, but there’s a new kid in the barn and field that carries a lot more functionality than a farmer’s well-worn pad of paper.

Farmers love technology and have embraced it willingly, from GPS-equipped tractors, to radio frequency eartags, to robotic milking machines. Maybe some generations have adopted it faster than others, and certainly some forms more than others, but farming and technology go hand-in-hand.

Thinking back to where mobile tech was just a few years ago when I picked up my first cell phone. I was a late bloomer for a millennial. I distinctly remember a conversation with my dad about texting that went something like this…

“Why would you text anyone? If I want something I’m going to pick up the phone and talk to a person. Who needs texting?” My siblings and I just shook our heads thinking that dad will never get it.

Fast forward to today, most of my communications with dad are through text messaging. We kids had it wrong. Now dad sends me pictures from the farm, uses abbreviations like lol (properly!) and populates his messages with emojis. And I love it.

Usually he has a newer phone than me, carries it everywhere with him and is always asking me if I’ve downloaded the latest app. But the guy doesn’t use Facebook. Or that tweetagram thing, as he calls it. But, like many other farmers, he recognizes that some apps have made farming more innovative, efficient, informed, and sometimes even easier.  

IMPACT 2Whatever you can dream up, there is probably an app for that. And now with Farm & Food Care’s IMPACT program there’s an app for animal care information.

Accessing info on animal care has never been easier from the barn, field or beside the chute.

The multi-species app offers information on euthanasia, procedures, handling, transport and other general care. Videos, articles, decision trees, loading density calculator are all at your fingertips and in your pocket. It’s not your grandpa’s factsheet!

Don’t want to read an article or watch a video on your phone screen? You can email it to yourself and watch it later. You can also bookmark what is important to you and share it between your employees, colleagues, and fellow farmers.

The app is available for download for Apple and Android devices, and is free. Have a new employee starting on your farm? Use it as part of your training program or implement it into on-going training.

Download it today. If you don’t have a smart phone, not to worry. IMPACT resources are available online by visiting www.farmIMPACT.ca.

Technology can be great but if you regularly experience a slow internet, let the Farm & Food Care office know. A USB stick with videos and content can be sent to your farm. There are options, no matter your circumstances.

Regardless of how you prefer to access information today — apps, websites, carrier pigeons — there is no doubt that we live in the age of endless information and technology has played a large roll in this. Farmers know the value of continually learning the best practices for today, tomorrow and for generations to come.

Renovating the family farm business

By Matt McIntosh for Farm & Food Care

Scott Douglas stands next to his combine.

Scott Douglas stands next to his combine.

(Leamington) – It was in the midst of the Great Depression in 1935 that Scott Douglas’ grandparents first purchased 50 acres of farmland on a small concession road just north of Leamington, Ontario. Now, after 80 years, two generations and several major farm changes, the Douglas family farm is going stronger than ever.

The now 1,800 acre farm, known as Cloverview Farms, produces corn, soybeans and wheat, and features a small hobby operation usually containing a couple of beef cows, a few pigs and some chickens. Scott farms alongside Jennifer and parents, Harold and Linda. Scott and Jennifer also have three children – nine year old Graydon, seven year old Shannon and five year old Cameron – who help with the small number of animals. Continue reading

Sweat like a pig – Fact or Fiction?

FactFictonpigletFICTION: Forget what you’ve heard about that expression. Pigs like to keep clean and they can’t sweat to cool off. So, barns provide a clean environment and have ventilation systems, like fans, to maintain an optimum temperature. Some barns even have sprinklers to keep the animals cool in the summer.

Did you know…the expression “sweat like a pig” actually comes from the smelting process of iron? After the iron has cooled off, it resembles piglets and a sow, and as it cools, beads of moisture – like sweat – form on its surface. This means it has cooled enough to be moved safely.

So, sweat like a pig? It’s not likely, since pigs can’t sweat!

Now you know!

For more interesting farm and food tidbits, check out www.realdirtonfarming.ca

Veterinarians play an important role in farm biosecurity

Each summer veterinary students from the Ontario Veterinary College delve into that practical experience at veterinary clinics across Ontario and additional locales. These blog posts are an opportunity to tag along with nine of them this summer.

By Ed Metzger

Ed Metzger, Ontario Veterinary College class of 2016

Ed Metzger, Ontario Veterinary College class of 2016

Veterinarians play important role in upholding high biosecurity standards.

Basically, biosecurity encompasses everything we do to keep the existing “bugs” on a farm contained, and keep other bad bugs out; it’s a way of confining avenues of disease such as viruses and bacteria to one place and limiting their spread. Biosecurity is an issue swine veterinarians deal with on a daily basis, and has been a cornerstone of practice during my time at South West.

So how do you reduce or stop the spread of disease from farm to farm? This can sometimes be a very tricky task. Some of the main ways that viruses spread from farm to farm are on animals themselves when a producer brings new animals to his farm, and on people: their boots, clothes, and the vehicles they are driving. Some common viruses such as PRRS (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome) can even become aerosolized and spread through the air – this presents a major challenge! Because of this, there has been an overwhelming response and acceptance, from producers and industry personnel, to adopt practices to reduce the spread of disease. Continue reading

Local company develops high tech, welfare-friendly pig feeding system

By Lilian Schaer, Farm & Food Care

(Brockville) – An Ontario-based company has developed a leading-edge electronic sow feeding system that it’s now selling across Canada – and it took just a little over a year to get from concept to market.

Curtiss Littlejohn is shown with Canarm’s new electronic sow feeding system

Curtiss Littlejohn is shown with Canarm’s new electronic sow feeding system

Curtiss Littlejohn, Swine Products Manager with Canarm, a privately owned company headquartered in Brockville, Ontario that produces ventilation and lighting systems, as well as livestock handling and management equipment, says the feeding system was inspired by information gathered from hog farmers across North America as part of a survey conducted last year.

“The survey showed that farmers in North America are looking for sow feeders that are built here, with durable components and integrated software, and by a company that has the depth to service them when something goes wrong,” explains Littlejohn. “Canarm had the ability to start to develop this and a year later, we had a functional unit on the show floor.”

More and more farmers are moving to loose housing for their sows – adult female breeding pigs – as the industry evolves to respond to consumer and food company demands.

This means farmers need new equipment to help them manage their animals in the barn. Continue reading

A Saskatchewan Farm(er)

By Laura Reiter

I am involved in one of the over 36,000 farms in Saskatchewan. Now if you are like most folks, a picture or two will have popped into your head when you hear “Saskatchewan farms”.
This …

Combining on the Canadian prairies

Combining on the Canadian prairies

Or maybe this …

Cowboys on their horses moving cattle in winter

Cowboys on their horses moving cattle in winter

You’d be right in thinking that grain and cattle operations make up the majority of the farms in Saskatchewan. But there is so much more!

Continue reading

Ontario pig farmer in the 2014 Faces of Farming calendar

By Kelly Daynard

Plattsville – To hear Scott Richmond talk about his farm, you’d think he had more of a career as a poet or a novelist than as a farmer.

Scott Richmond’s a fifth generation farmer, raising pigs, corn and soybeans on his family farm near Plattsville

Scott Richmond’s a fifth generation farmer, raising pigs, corn and soybeans on his family farm near Plattsville

“My favourite thing is to walk out the back door when the dew is on the grass and the sun’s just coming up over the hills. It just smells like beauty”, he says when describing his chosen career. “I just can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Scott’s a fifth generation farmer, raising pigs, corn and soybeans on his family farm near Plattsville, in Oxford County. His farm was named Brae-Heid, in recognition of its rolling hills, by his long ago Scottish ancestors who emigrated here.

Scott said that there was never any doubt that he was going to farm. Looking back, he chuckles, “I don’t think I picked farming. I think farming picked me.” He studied agriculture at the University of Guelph, graduating in 2002. From there, he worked in construction for a while before returning home join his parents in their farming business.

Together, they have a “farrow to finish” pig farm where mother pigs (called sows) give birth to their piglets and the piglets are raised up to the age when they go to market. They also grow 250 acres of corn and soybeans that are used to feed their livestock.

A successful blind date a few years ago led to his marriage to wife Dawn and the recent arrival of their daughter, Meredith, the sixth generation of the Richmond family to live on the farm. Dawn wasn’t from a farm but Scott’s proud to report that she’s adjusted to her new rural life well. “She’s always eager to help out when needed.”

Scott says that the health and well-being of his pigs are always foremost on his mind – from the time he wakes in the morning until he goes to bed at night. His daily routine involves walking the barn to ensure that all of his pigs are healthy, content and have enough feed and water as well as checking his fields to ensure that his crops are also thriving. Said Scott, “I haven’t found a better business partner than Mother Nature.”

Scott is also active in his community. He’s vice president of his local curling club and past president of the Oxford County Pork Producers’ Association. He likes being involved in his community and his industry. “It’s a combination of coveralls and business”, he said in an interview. “I like working at home and being my own boss but I like helping in the industry too.”

Many Ontario pig farmers, like Scott, are also involved in helping their local food banks. In June 2013, a new pilot program saw a donation of 10,000- 500g packs of ground pork made directly to Ontario food banks in Southwestern Ontario including Sarnia, London and Hamilton. The program built upon the success of the “Donate a Hog” program that was started in 1998.

During the course of the 2013 pilot project, the donated pork represented the equivalent of 20,000 meals for adults. The entire quantity was dispatched within three to five days of delivery.

Next, the program’s organizers hope to build on the success of the Ontario Pork Program by securing enough funding to run the program year-round for two years. The hope is to purchase enough pork to make it available to food banks on a regular basis. Industry partners have expressed an interest in helping to match funds made available by Ontario Pork, the organization representing Ontario’s pig farmers.

The Oxford County Pork Producers’ Association, of which Scott is past president, has also been active in food bank initiatives, donating to their local food bank in Woodstock.

“I think it’s important for farmers like us to give back to our communities,” said Scott. “I feel really fortunate to have the life I live. If we can do something to help others facing hunger in our communities, that’s a very good thing.”

He added that more than 400,000 Ontarians visit their local food bank each month, with 160,000 of them being children. Many of them are lacking good protein sources, like pork, in their diets.

In 2014, Scott is the face of Ontario’s pig farmers and December in the Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. His page is sponsored by Elanco Animal Health and the Ontario Association of Food Banks. Both are involved in the Ontario Pork Program.

To see an interview with Scott, visit – http://youtu.be/JFhaUrYkqLg

An Animal Lover Turned Farmer – Kendra Leslie

By Andrew Campbell

(Paisley) – Kendra Leslie grew up in rural Ontario, but didn’t grow up on a farm. Instead, she was an animal lover who was always curious as to what a farm life was like. She was so interested in agriculture, that she took a job with a nearby pig farmer when she was still in high school. What started out as a part-time job on weekends and in the summer months, quickly turned into a passion. Graduating in agriculture from the Ridgetown campus of the University of Guelph, Kendra is now a full-time caretaker of a sow herd for an Ontario pig farmer.

Kendra Leslie feels at home in rural Ontario.

Kendra Leslie feels at home in rural Ontario.

A sow is a female pig old enough to give birth to piglets and Kendra spends her days at work caring for those mother pigs and their piglets. “Every day is different, which is something I love about my job, ” says Kendra. “From feeding the sows to checking every animal in the barn to ensure they are eating properly and are healthy, we take the care of each one very seriously.”

But that’s only one of her daily chores. Kendra’s also responsible for weighing piglets to ensure they remain healthy, checking expectant mothers with an ultrasound and ensuring that any sows that have recently given birth are doing well.

Continue reading

When the farm is no longer on the farm

By Carolyn MacLaren, General Manager, BC Farm Animal Care Council (BCFACC).

When I became involved in speaking about and explaining farm animal care a few years ago I had some ideas of what the issues were, where good things were happening and improvements were demonstrated, and where there were still gaps. I also had some familiarity of the “urban” issues from my university days in large Canadian centres where both schools I attended during my academic career had their share of “greenies” or “vegan” types as they were known. All of this I could deal with and I could reconcile, it was pretty easy for the most part so either I was good at it or I had the luck to not encounter too many disagreeable or militant types. Probably a combination of both, really.

I regularly meet very nice people who know absolutely nothing about farming and food production but have clearly been influenced by people and groups who aren’t telling our story as it really is, such as the PETAs (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) of the world. I have learned to take time to listen to those questions and understand what they are asking and what the issue or concern really is and then try to answer in the most direct and simplest way possible, citing examples and drawing on analogies, as I have been taught. For the most part this does the trick and people are appreciative that I took the time to discuss the issues and did not laugh at their lack of knowledge.

The computer game Hay Day may be fun but is a poor depiction of how farms really work.

The computer game Hay Day may be fun but is a poor depiction of how farms really work.

Now that I have children of my own, I make sure their perspective is imbued with a healthy dose of realism – “ … yes, calves do have their horns removed, it’s safer for them and the other calves, yes trimming a chicken’s beak is safer for them and the other chickens …”. We speak openly about what is on our dinner table and where it came from. It’s not unusual to hear my 8-year-old ask “So, Mommy, is this chicken or pig we are eating tonight?” before she happily and heartily digs in. When we drive out to the family dairy farm on a particularly aromatic day (usually when the spreading of manure is allowed again in the spring) our girls will tell their friends, who are loudly protesting the smell, that “that smell is actually very good because without it, there would be no cheese, no milk, no ice cream, no yogurt.” I have brought them to my side and it really wasn’t that hard. Or so I thought. Continue reading

Farming in Perth County for seven generations and planning for more

Bob McMillan, Julie Moore and their family appear as the faces of January, 2014 in the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar

Bob McMillan, Julie Moore and their sons Reid and Nolan appear as the faces of January, 2014 in the 2013 Faces of Farming calendar

by Patricia Grotenhuis

Bob McMillan and Julie Moore may have struck people as an unlikely pair when they first started dating. He was a farmer passionate about the land and his livestock. She was a self described city girl from Toronto who knew little about farming when they met.

McMillan’s family’s history is entrenched in the rural community near Stratford.  His ancestors bought the Perth County farm in 1850 when they came from Scotland, and it’s been in the family  ever since.  The farm has changed a lot over the years, but according to McMillan, that just adds to the history for future generations.

“The roots are something I take for granted.  There are interesting stories and the history is nice to have.  There have been lots of changes, but everyone gets to add something to the farm,” says McMillan.

Moore added, “We continue to call the original stone house our home. Under our roof, seven generations have been born, married, celebrated and inspired. Our home farm is truly a place where a family story begins.”

The two are appreciative of farm life and their community, something that Julie has especially appreciated coming from the city.  “I love the sense of community here.  It’s so different from larger, urban centres – everyone knows the history and has a sense of connection and belonging,” she said.

In 2013, the couple and their two young children Nolan and Reid appeared in the eighth edition of the Faces of Farming calendar, published by Farm & Food Care Ontario. The couple’s winning application was chosen from a field of 31 exceptional entries in a new contest launched to select one farm family to appear in the calendar.  In their application, Julie described her family as a “progressive, passionate and proud farm family”. She also said that she felt they “typify today’s farm family – active, educated, engaged, caring and committed to our families, our farms and our community.”

McMillan and Moore have expanded their business by purchasing a neighbouring farm. They’ve also built a new barn and added new corn storage/dryer facilities.
They’re doing their best to make sure they leave the farm in a better condition for the next person who works the land by implementing numerous environmental improvements. McMillan has switched to new tillage systems to help conserve soil.  He uses crop rotation to make sure nutrients are not being depleted from the soil, and to improve soil health by having crops with different root systems each year.  Crop rotations also lessen the insect and disease pressure on the plants.

To explore changes that could be made on the farm to improve the environment around them, McMillan completed an Environmental Farm Plan and implemented many of the changes the program suggested.  As part of a conservation project, the couple has planted 1,000 trees on their property.

“We plant for another day and another generation, so we can grow our rewards down the road,” says McMillan.  “It’s impressive to see the benefits now from past projects.”
McMillan is also devoted to caring for his livestock – pigs – and follows stringent guidelines on what the animals are fed and how they’re cared for.

They’ve also got a strong commitment to their community.  McMillan is currently Deputy Mayor of Perth East, sits on Perth County Council and is involved in other community boards and associations.

“I want to be a younger voice in politics, and I want to continue making people aware of farming through my politics,” says McMillan, who was first elected as a councillor in 2003 and is serving his second term as deputy mayor.

Moore is also involved in the community, serving as a school board Trustee with the Avon Maitland District School Board, volunteering with many projects at her sons’ schools and as a consultant to the South West LHIN.  She enjoys running, and has completed several half marathons.  Their two sons, Nolan (7) and Reid (3) enjoy everything there is to see and do on the farm.

Julie is using her newfound knowledge of farming to help educate friends and family from the city about where their food comes from, and the dedication of the people who grow it.

“I didn’t have an appreciation for my food, where it comes from and the work and skill that goes into producing it.  Farmers are highly skilled. They need to be to produce quality food. Food that is safe and healthy food for us to enjoy” says Moore.