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

A chance ad brings this calendar-model couple back to farming

2010 calendarBy Resi Walt

(Thamesville) – It was a chance sighting of an advertisement in a local newspaper that gave Clarence Nywening and his wife Pat the opportunity to return to their farming roots.

Clarence was raised on a beef farm and Pat on a dairy farm. But, after marrying, they had moved away from the farm and on to a different business ventures. However, Clarence said, “It was always my dream to go back to farming.”

In the early days of their marriage they owned a cleaning business, cleaning churches, houses and offices. One day, while cleaning at an office building, they noticed an ad in a newspaper for a farm that was for sale. They knew instantly it was where they wanted to be. Continue reading

Making big changes to keep the cows happy

Guest blog by Andrew Campbell, Ontario dairy farmer

Keeping cows happy is one of the most important jobs of a dairy farmer. After all, did you know that happy and comfortable cows give more milk? It’s true! If a cow isn’t feeling well or isn’t comfortable, they just won’t give as much milk as those that are happy, comfortable, well fed and well watered.

It is why we are making a huge investment into the long term health of all of our girls with a new addition. The addition will mean more room for more cows, but will also feature some new comforts.

To tour the additions to Andrew’s new barn, visit http://www.dinnerstartshere.ca/component/easyblog/entry/making-big-changes-to-keep-the-cows-happy?Itemid=101

You have to shower before going into a barn?

It may be hard to believe but farmers might ask you to take a shower or wear overalls and plastic boots over your shoes before entering.

In her blog post on the www.dinnerstartshere.ca website, pig farmer Kendra Leslie explains why:

When you walk into a hospital, the first thing you do is wipe your hands down with hand sanitizer, right? Well, essentially, that’s biosecurity.

The reason you use hand sanitizer when you go into a hospital, is so you don’t bring in new bugs into the hospital. As pig farmers, we take the same sort of steps to insure that our pigs stay healthy and no new bugs or illnesses are brought into the barn.

A shower in a Canadian pig barn

A shower in a Canadian pig barn

Most pig farms require that you shower in before entering the barn. By removing all outside clothing, showering and putting on clothes that do not leave the barn, means that the chance that new bugs or diseases will enter the barn is low. It’s very important that anyone entering the barn shower and change into barn clothes, whether they have been around pigs before or not.

To view the whole blog visit

www.dinnerstartshere.ca/blog/entry/you-have-to-shower-before-going-into-the-barn

 

Hot enough for ya?

In this blog post, Eastern Ontario egg farmer Stephanie Campbell talks about the challenges of keeping farm animals cool and comfortable during the heat of summer months. Watch www.dinnerstartshere.ca for more blogs from some young Ontario farmers.

By Stephanie Campbell

Is it hot enough for ya? I’m sure you’ve heard this saying many times this summer, but did you ever think that it could apply to farm animals as well? For most farmers, when the weather is very hot, it not only means that is can be uncomfortable for them to work in (especially if they have hay to do), but they also have the task of making sure their animals stay cool as well. This is why most barns have very good ventilation systems.

Fans on the side of an egg barn

Fans on the side of an egg barn

In my barn, we have an air exchange system with big fans and vents that turn on and off automatically based on the temperature of the barn. This ensures that the temperature remains as steady as possible to ensure the hens stay happy and comfortable. The air is fully exchanged every seven minutes. Even with this air exchange, on very hot days (i.e. days over 35 degrees Celsius), sometimes the barn can get a little warm. For this reason we have extra big fans (think wind machines in old movies) to keep the air fresh and moving through the barn.Read the rest of her blog here at http://www.dinnerstartshere.ca/blog/entry/hot-enough-for-ya

 

Be a real champion

Reprinted with permission

By Trent Loos

With county fair season upon us I thought the message here should be shared with all. For the purposes of this particular piece I am going to reference showing pigs only, but it certainly applies to all animal species. I think in a real serious manner we need to address the oldest principle in animal ownership, which I believe should still be called “animal husbandry.”

You may not realize this but before people received “animal science” degrees they could earn a degree in animal husbandry. This name change, to me, was the beginning of our losing the battle in the arena of public perception regarding this industry. But here we are now and it is up to those of us that own pigs to shape the public’s notion of proper animal welfare….

To view the rest of the blog, click here http://www.hpj.com/archives/2013/jul13/jul29/0724LoosTalessr.cfm

 

Do you know what Animal Welfare really means?

In my 15 years studying, researching and being employed in agriculture I’ve had many discussions with urban and agricultural friends, family, colleagues and even strangers about the meaning of animal welfare.  Often this conversation begins with animal welfare and then diverges into other different and oftentimes unrelated topics.  One such discussion began with welfare of laying hens in cages then turned into a discussion of the nutritional benefits of eggs from hens fed different diets.  I suspect welfare is never a short discussion because in many people’s minds welfare is associated with so many other issues.

So, what is Animal Welfare?
Continue reading

Dear Ryan Gosling…

Dear Ryan Gosling:

Letter sent to the Globe and Mail – July 11, 2013

To the Editor:

Putting ‘Actor turned animal welfare expert’ criticisms aside, let’s correct the premise first – a pig is not a dog or a chicken or a bat or a dolphin. They all have very different housing, health and care needs.  Although it may not come up at many Golden Globe parties, millions of dollars have been invested in researching farm animal welfare.  Virtually none of that money has come from the animal rights critics Mr. Gosling has aligned himself with to write this commentary, even though they fundraise to ‘improve animal welfare.’

The Code of Practice for Pigs is an amazingly Canadian process.  It’s based on science and put together with input from government, the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, agriculture and food industry and farmers themselves. There is always a need for continuous improvement in farming, and critics voicing their disapproval is part of that process.  However, I support a more reasonable approach to improving animal welfare based on science and practical farm experience, which may not be as sexy, but might actually help real animals in real barns in Canada today and tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Crystal Mackay, Executive Director, Farm & Food Care Ontario

To see Ryan Gosling’s original opinion piece, visit here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/a-tiny-cage-is-not-a-life/article13117337/

 

Common myths about agriculture – even at the University of Guelph

Guest blog by Rudi Spruit, dairy farmer

Rudi Spruit is a student at the University of Guelph and wrote this response to an article that appeared in the university’s newspaper, The Ontarion.

About four weeks ago, I read an article in The Ontarion about Meatless Monday. As an agriculture student at the University of Guelph, I take a keen interest in anything agriculture-related, especially if it is published in the University of Guelph’s independent student newspaper.

I can see some reasoning behind Meatless Monday, including some health benefits. I don’t know this for a fact, but with the obesity rate where it is in the United States, I can see how eating less protein and more veggies might help the North American diet.

The concern I have is in some of the wording used.   The one problem that set me off with this article was the writer’s lack of understanding about farming in Ontario, evidenced when she mentions, “Others are concerned with animal cruelty; by opting for a vegetarian diet, individuals show they no longer support the conditions many factory farm animals are raised in.”

Nothing could be further from the truth, and the Meatless Monday campaign does nothing to help animal welfare. The concern with animal cruelty is great to everyone, especially farmers. Farmers choose to work with animals because they enjoy it. Caring for animals properly is a matter of doing the right thing.  Contented animals are also more productive animals and lead to higher quality food products. Like any animal owners, farmers must also follow laws for humane treatment, and neglect and abuse of animals of any kind (pets or livestock) is against the law.

In Canada, 98 per cent of all farms are still family owned and operated. It is true that farms are bigger than they used to be, but they’ve had to accommodate a growing world population and a declining farm population.

Fifty years ago, one in three Canadians farmed. Today, it’s one in 47, yet Canadians still want affordable, local food, so we need to produce more – and more efficiently – if we’re going to feed our growing population.

Let me tell you about my family’s dairy farm. We’re the proud caretakers of 370 cows who live in the barn throughout most of the year. There is a reason for that – and that reason will hit us all in about two months: winter. Cows don’t like it. We keep them in the barn for the same reason your pets live in the house: for comfort, fresh feed, fresh water, and safety.

In the summer, cows are often too hot and a lot of them, if outside, could risk facing heat stress and death. So our barn is designed to cool those animals down. Even when they are given a choice of going outside, they pick the barn 98 per cent of the time.

Larger farms came about because approximately 100 years ago, half of the population farmed, whilst now only two per cent do. That means two per cent of the population feeds the remaining 98 per cent. To do that, farms have to get more efficient at producing quality product in large quantities with minimal labor input.

My grandfather milked 60 cows with the help of his family of nine, which created enough income for one family. Today, my dad milks 200 cows with my mom and no other help except for the occasional weekend assistance by me, which creates enough income for all of us.

Today, there are tens of thousands of Canadian farmers like my dad, providing the same amount of care, with the same amount of detail and the same amount of animal welfare. Most farmers care greatly for their animals and take the utmost pride and care in their animals.   If you have any questions about the modern food system and animal agriculture do not hesitate to contact Farm & Food Care Ontario. It’s an organization created to answer the public’s questions about their food and farming supplies.

Also, if you want to enter a modern farm facility without leaving your desk, just visit Farm & Food Care’s website at www.virtualfarmtours.ca to tour a number of Ontario farms, including dairy farms like mine.