An egg farmer examines hen housing

By Ian McKillop, egg farmer and vice chairman of Farm & Food Care Canada

Hen HousingGrowing up in the 1960’s, I’ve fond memories of my brother and me helping collect eggs. We had a small flock of several hundred hens in chicken coops. We’d reach into nests for eggs, put them in a basket and wash any dirt or manure off. Often the hens would peck us – or each other, sometimes causing death. If they became scared, they’d flock to a corner and could even suffocate themselves.

In the 1960’s, conventional cages became popular, providing a healthier and safer environment for hens and the farmers caring for them. So in 1967, my parents built a new barn with conventional cages.

The barn held 6,000 hens, large by 1967 standards, with three hens per cage. Pecking and suffocation were virtually eliminated. Gathering eggs by hand was easier, plus the eggs were seldom in contact with manure anymore. Overall, the cages allowed a safer way of housing our hens with fewer deaths, improving the quality and food safety of the eggs, while keeping costs down. The birds were content and so were we. Continue reading

Barn fires are devastating to all involved

By John Maaskant, chicken farmer and chair of Farm & Food Care Ontario

barn fire 4a

Stock photo

There have been a lot of news stories lately about barn fires in Ontario. Without exception, the stories have been tragic and the incidents devastating to these farm families in so many ways – with the loss of animals being at the very top of that list. Often, a barn fire affects an entire community with neighbours joining together to support each other and help clean up the terrible aftermath. Economic concerns, while very real, are always secondary to the loss of farm animals that these farmers have raised and nurtured.

And it doesn’t matter what type of farm animals are involved. The dairy farmer who milks his or her barn full of cows every morning and night – and knows each of their individual traits – is as emotionally affected as a pig farmer, horse owner or chicken farmer like me. Continue reading

Farming with a focus on learning

By: Matt McIntosh

2010 calendarWalt Freeman loves to learn and has no doubt that farming has been one of the most engaging educational opportunities he has ever had.

Walt and Heather – his wife of 35 years – are the owners of a Battersea-area mink farm. The farm backs up to a small lake and was built on land originally purchased by his grandfather in 1921. The couple still live in the original farmhouse, and currently produce an average of 15,000 fur pelts every year. Continue reading

A large animal veterinarian – and Herd health calls

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 Sarah Pechmann

Sarah_herdHealthAs my time at Port Perry Veterinary Services continues, I am starting to develop a routine for myself. Each morning one of the first things I am sure to do is scan the daily appointment schedule. The calendar is always packed with a wide array of interesting calls which each present a unique and exciting learning opportunity for me.

A common appointment that I find on the schedule almost each and every day is known as a herd health call. I remember being a little puzzled by this term when I first heard it. I have quickly come to realize that these herd health visits are some of the most important responsibilities a large animal veterinarian has and a great chance for me to grow as a veterinarian in the making.

Most dairy and meat producers will actively participate in a herd health program. This means that these producers will have a veterinarian visit their farm on a regular basis to evaluate how the herd is doing, and help make suggestions on ways to improve and maintain the health of the animals within that herd. Rather than focusing on sick animals, the entire herd is examined and the focus is on healthy animals and preventive measures that can maintain their health and well being. Continue reading

The Real Dirt on the Codes of Practice

The Real Dirt on the Codes of PracticeBy Kristen Kelderman, Farm & Food Care’s Farm Animal Care Coordinator

As Canadians, we are very fortunate to have many privileges that others do not. Our great nation boasts the luxuries of real maple syrup, moose sightings, caffeinated beverages from Tim Hortons and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to name a few.

But did you know that Canada also stands out on the world stage when it comes to farm animal care? In Canada, we have Codes of Practice for 14 different farm animal species. They are often referred to in the farming community as the Codes.

So what are these Codes? They act as our standards for farm animal care and handling across Canada.

The first Code was developed in 1980. All are now the responsibility of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC).

Each Code has requirements and recommendations within each document and contains other useful information on caring for farm animals.

I like to say that if you wanted to become a farmer tomorrow, the Code could serve as your guide book for what you needed to know for animal care. The Code won’t teach you how to milk a cow or how to formulate a diet for your pigs, but it explains what is expected for the health and welfare of the farm animals.

Many countries have standards and rules around animal care, so what makes the Codes so special? It’s actually the unique development process and group of people involved.

Each Code is updated by a Code Development committee of industry stakeholders. They include veterinarians, scientists and academics, transporters, the food and restaurant industries, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, government and farmers. It’s quite a diverse group of industry experts and professionals that has yet to be replicated in other parts of the world.

But before the Code development committee even meets, a scientific committee is organized to compile a collection of all the research and academic information available globally on farm animal care related to that species. This information is used as the basis for developing content for the Code.

Once the scientific committee has completed its review, the code development committee presents a first round draft. This first draft is then open to a public comment period. During this allotted time period anyone can submit comments for review on the content of the Code. The number of comment submissions has ranged from 120 to over 4,700.

The Code development committee then meets to discuss the comments they’ve received and how to move forward with the collected comments. Based on this information, they work to produce a finalized document.

According to NFACC, the end result “is a Code that is scientifically informed, practical, and reflects societal expectations for responsible farm animal care.”

The whole process takes about two years. It’s not a quick process, but it’s a thorough one.

Final decisions are consensus-based meaning that every member of the development committee must agree. You can imagine that it could take some time for everyone to agree on each requirement and recommendation within the Code.

Because of this process, our Canadian Codes of Practice are recognized around the world.

To find more information or to see the full version of each Code visit www.nfacc.ca and look under the Codes of Practice tab.

Bringing the Codes into the 21st century.

If you’ve ever picked up a copy of any Code of Practice or scrolled through the pdf version online, you’ll quickly see that that they are large and extremely detailed.

In an effort to help present information in the Code in a unique and novel way, Farm & Food Care’s IMPACT program (Innovative Management and Practical Animal Care Training) is currently developing interactive modules for each updated Code. Each module covers the requirements in each section of the Code and has supplemental questions and activities that users must complete related to the recommendations outlined in the Code.

Users must complete all the questions and activities to receive their certificate indicating that they are competent and understand the content of the Code. It takes about an hour or two to complete the full module.

If a farmer hires a new employee or needs a refresher on the Code content, they can log in and navigate through the module at their own speed. The intent of these modules is to increase the reach of the Codes and provide alternative ways for people to understand them and their content.

To learn more about IMPACT visit www.farmIMPACT.ca.

Farmers continue to invest in the best practices for their animals and do the right thing on their farms every day. The Codes are a great example of that.

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

Would the real factory farm owner, please stand up

Would the real factory farm owners please stand up 2By Kim Waalderbos

I must confess: I’m a word and math nerd. I’ve been intrigued by how letters and numbers puzzle together for as long as I can remember. Yet, one puzzle has me stumped.

Factory farming.

You see, in my three decades (and counting) in agriculture, I’ve never heard anyone in farming actually use this term to describe themselves, or a fellow farmer. In fact, I’ve only heard the term used in media and by anti-farming activists.

So, I consulted my word books and found these dictionary definitions: Continue reading

Fear of needles? Not on this farm.

LeighYes. That is a syringe in my hand. Yes. I am injecting every calf!!*$?!

Before you scream “EXACTLY! This is exactly what I am worried about!” just let me explain.

I hear your concerns about how medications are used in farm animals. You’ve read about ‘factory-farms’ and ‘intensive-livestock’ operations. These labels conjure up images of a johnny-appleseed-like farmer gleefully running around with a needle injecting animals so that they grow big, fast and well…. just unnatural. Am I right?

Some of you might be concerned about certain medications: steroids, hormones, or antibiotics. I hope to deal with those specifics in other blogs soon. But a lot of people are concerned about all pharmaceutical use in livestock.

So what on earth am I thinking injecting every calf?! I’m vaccinating. Continue reading

State of the art barn designed for cow comfort

By Melanie Epp

Sixth generation siblings and dairy farmers Graham Johnston and Mary Ann
Doré’s ancestors have been farming in Brampton since 1842. Like each generation before them, Graham (married to Amanda), and Mary Ann and her husband, Joe, are working on a succession plan with their parents, James and Frances. The five are now in a full joint-partnership, working together as a team.

The Heritage Hill farm family includes (back row from left) Amanda, Graham, James and Frances Johnston; (front row from left) Claire Johnston; Mary Ann, Joe and Nadine Doré.

The Heritage Hill farm family includes (back row from left) Amanda, Graham, James and Frances Johnston; (front row from left) Claire Johnston; Mary Ann, Joe and Nadine Doré.

Graham joined when he finished school, and Mary Ann and Joe joined in 2010 when plans for the new farm began. Although Claire, their sister, was not interested in joining the partnership, she was involved in creating the building plans. She also helps out on weekends.

Both Graham and Mary Ann worked on the family farm in their youth. After studying at the University of Guelph, Mary Ann and Joe took jobs to gain off-farm experience.

Since the area around the family farm has changed and grown, there was no room around the original Brampton farm to expand, so the young couples moved to New Dundee where they are surrounded by farmland. The move meant a new facility, and with cow comfort being their main concern, they decided to make the transition from tie stalls to a free stall system.

“My parents are very much active on the farm and custom cash crop,” says Mary Ann. “They are raising our heifers in Brampton while we wait for our new heifer shed to be built.” Continue reading

Recalling one barn fire story during Fire Prevention Week

By Patricia Grotenhuis, 6th generation farmer

The heifer barn before the fire.

The heifer barn before the fire.

Waking to pounding at the door at 1:45 a.m. one June morning, we struggled to open our eyes. Nothing could have prepared us for the sight of flames shooting out of our barn. As my husband raced outside yelling a thank you to the girls who were at the door, I rushed for the phone to call for help. We already knew the barn could not be saved, but were immediately aware that the other buildings were in danger if the flames spread.
We had no idea if all of the heifers were outside on pasture. With our setup, they have the freedom to move back and forth between the barn and pasture as they please. We had to make sure the ones who were on pasture did not return to the barn, though. Continue reading