By Ian McKillop, egg farmer and vice chairman of Farm & Food Care Canada
Growing 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
By Kristen Kelderman, Farm Animal Care Coordinator, Farm & Food Care
Having recently become a new homeowner, it’s amazing how many different housing options there are are out there. You might be a high rise condo dweller living in one of the many buildings that populate the horizon or maybe in a single detached family home that is more your style.
Townhomes, executive penthouse lofts, cottage living – the options are endless with each choice presenting different benefits and amenities. If you’re anything like me, the only restriction is your bank account!
It’s not that different when it comes to housing options for farm animals. Modern barns today offer many benefits that the traditional red bank barn of our grandparents’ age would never be able to provide. New advancements in technology have allowed the reconstruction of modern barns to provide things like climate-controlled environments, enriched amenities, access to feed and water 24 hours a day, smart phone alerts if an issue arises in the barn and much more.
But how do we know what good and what bad environments for farm animals actually are? Science helps to tell us this. There has been a lot of research around the globe on housing of farm animals and on how different environments affect them. Many researchers have dedicated their entire careers to this area of science: studying animal behaviour, environmental impacts, natural behaviours and many more aspects of how housing influences an animal’s life.
Let’s talk about laying hen housing – housing for the birds that lay the eggs that you enjoy for breakfast. Continue reading
Eggs stamped with an alphanumeric code
By Treena Hein for Farm & Food Care
(St-Isidore) It’s easy to tell a Ferme Avicole Laviolette egg from others being sold in Ontario. Each one has an alphanumeric code that signifies the date of packaging, batch date and producer. Every time their customers see the stamp, they are reminded that Laviolettes take quality and accountability very seriously. The code is also an important food safety measure, helping make any product recall both fast and accurate. For being the first in the province to implement traceability that goes beyond the carton, Marcel Laviolette recently won a 2014 Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.
By 2012, the year Marcel implemented the automated egg stamping system, his business’s sales territory was quite large, including dozens of grocery stores, restaurants and food wholesalers in eastern Ontario and southwest Quebec. At that time, food safety and traceability were all over the media, and being discussed at dinner tables across the nation, within the government and within the food and agriculture industry. Marcel knew that his many customers would feel that much more comfortable if each egg was stamped, something that was being done in other jurisdictions. And for the local egg producers that use Laviolette’s grading station (and make up two thirds of his egg volume), stamping would provide added peace of mind. Lastly, having coded eggs should help increase sales, being a preferred product in terms of traceability and food safety concerns. “We wanted to stand out,” Marcel explained. Continue reading
A barcode scanning device used at Laplante Poultry (Photo courtesy of Laplante Poultry)
By Treena Hein
(Sarsfield) – Food safety is something that the public takes very seriously – and so do farmers like Robert Laplante. Laplante is not just a broiler chicken farmer, he’s also the owner of a processing plant and it’s critically important that data input errors of all kinds are eliminated and that product recall times (if a recall was ever ordered) are as fast as possible. To do all this and more, the owner of Laplante Poultry and Feather Weight Farms implemented a completely automated product tracking system, one that won him a 2014 Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence. Continue reading
By Lisa McLean, Farm & Food Care
(Elora) It takes a few minutes for the hens at Elora-based Swan Creek Layer Farms Ltd. to adjust to visitors. They move quickly out of the way when the gate opens, fly across the aisles to new levels, and move out of reach. Eventually, their curiosity gets the best of them and they return to fill the empty spaces they abandoned just moments ago. The birds settle on their perches that are close to the visitors. A few hens walk along the ladders that connect one level to the next.
Bob (left) and Dave Ottens in their aviary-style layer barn.
The hens – egg-laying “layer” birds – live in an aviary-style egg barn, which allows them free access to move through various levels of their space. Lighting helps guide them to private nesting boxes in the back of each level where they lay eggs in sheltered areas and access food and water on demand.
For Ontario egg farmers, this is a different kind of egg barn. Conventional layer barns house several hens in cages, or in newer “enriched” facilities that have built-in perches and nesting boxes. The aviary barn is designed to allow the hens to move freely in a large space.
And the new barn provides a benefit for farmers too – Dave and Bob Ottens, brothers who own the operation, can sell eggs from this barn into a certified “free run” market, which fetches them a premium on the eggs produced here.
“For us, this is a way of adding choice for consumers – the aviary gives us the opportunity to diversify by producing free-run eggs,” says Dave Ottens. “I don’t have a problem eating eggs from conventionally-raised hens, but some consumers want the option of free-run eggs, and they are willing to pay more for that choice.” Continue reading
By Jean Clavelle
Well, it’s that time of year. Cattle are coming home from pasture, calves are being weaned and sent to feedlot and horse enthusiasts are enjoying the last few pleasant riding days left of the season. No one plans to have one, but accidents do happen especially when animals are involved. And whether you are the one involved in a motor vehicle accident or an innocent bystander it’s important to know what to do and how you can help when livestock are on the loose.
The top 5 things you need to know about livestock in an emergency:
- Livestock do not understand lights and sirens mean pullover. This will definitely not make them stop.
- When an animal feels cornered, it will fight or try to run.
- Livestock view us as predators and their natural instinct is to flee from predators.
- Prey animals are herd animals and become extremely agitated when isolated or separated from other animals. Single animals are extremely dangerous animals.
- Once livestock are excited or scared it will take at least 20 to 30 minutes to calm them back down. Continue reading
By Jean Clavelle
This year marks another triumph for the “We Care” billboard campaign initiated by the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS). The program, which began in 1996, feature beef, bison, horse, chicken, egg and swine producers with their animals and are posted around busy thoroughfares of Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw.
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
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
People have long wondered which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Jacob Pelissero is an Ontario egg and pullet farmer. Pullet is the term used to describe a young hen from the time she is a few days of age to 19 weeks of age when she’s old enough to start laying eggs.
In this blog, he attempts to answer that question. (Spoiler alert – he thinks it is the chicken.)
You can see his post here – www.dinnerstartshere.ca/blog/entry/which-came-first
Did you know that farm animal veterinarians are extremely specialized? A poultry veterinarian will be an expert in caring for chickens or turkeys, but usually won’t be as experienced in treating a beef cow or a pig.
Today, we want to draw your attention to a blog written by Mike, an Ontario chicken veterinarian.
You can learn more about Mike and his interesting choice of careers at http://mikethechickenvet.wordpress.com/about/
Here’s a link to his latest blog – Chicken Lungs
“Anyone who knows me knows of my hate-hate relationship with running. I have started running in the past year, and have decided that it is the most ridiculous activity known to man. You can’t score goals, you can’t look cool, and you will NEVER make it to Sportcenter (Usain Bolt excluded….I mean….he IS Usain Bolt).
The main reason I hate running is because I suck at it. I’m strong, but my aerobic capacity is lousy. I wish I was a bird. If I was a bird, my trachea (windpipe) would be 2.7 times as large, reducing air resistance. My rate of breathing would be about 1/3 of what it is currently, and I would take much bigger breaths.
This is the first part of the system that makes the bird respiratory system much more efficient at gas exchange than mammals (especially this particular mammal). ”
To read more go to…http://mikethechickenvet.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/chicken-lungs/