Category Archives: Animal Care

What does a pig eat?

Posted on Monday, May 2, 2016 by Drew

A well feed pig is a happy pig!

A well fed pig is a happy pig!

Growing up we can all remember those times when your mother yelled at you “stop eating like a pig”. Although she may have been referring to the mess you were making, pig farmers like me know exactly what it takes to eat like one.

Pig feed is one of the most important aspects of a hog operation. On my farm we make our own feed to ensure high quality products are being fed to keep our animals healthy and happy. With the help of a professional swine nutritionist, we are able to make custom recipes (rations), including exactly what the pigs need at each growth stage.

This recipe or ration contains corn, soybean meal, canola meal and premix. The completed feed is on the right.

This recipe or ration contains corn, soybean meal, canola meal and premix. The completed feed is on the right.

The ingredients my farm uses to make feed are all sourced in Ontario. The main ingredients included in our pig feed are corn, soybean meal and a premix which is specially formulated with vitamins and minerals to meet all of the needs of the pigs at each of their specific growth stages. Depending on what age of animals the feed is going to, our farm may also include soy hulls, wheat shorts, dried distiller grains with solubles, bakery meal, and roasted soybeans.

Ingredients are picked up by our trucker or delivered by customer trucker. The elevator leg takes it up and dumps it into their silo/bin.

Ingredients are picked up by our trucker or delivered by customer trucker. The elevator leg takes it up and dumps it into their silo/bin.

Ingredient Source
Corn Grown on our own fields or neighbours fields
Soybean Meal Hamilton, a byproduct of crushing soybeans for oil
Premix Cambridge and Exeter, specifically formulated for each growth stage
Soy Hulls Hamilton, skin of the soybeans after crushing for oil
Wheat Shorts Mississauga, byproduct from flour mills
Dried Distiller Grains with Solubles Alymer, byproduct of ethanol plant
Bakery Meal St. Petersberg, byproduct from donuts, buns, cookies, timbits etc. that do not meet the requirements for human consumption
Roasted Soybeans Grown on our own fields, roasted as pigs cannot digest them raw
Each Ingredient is stored in its own silo/bin.

Each Ingredient is stored in its own silo/bin.

Our farm makes feed 2-3 times a week with an automated system. To make feed we first log-on to our computer feed mixer program and put in an order by telling it how much feed we want made. The computer figures out how many batches of feed it needs to blend to make the total amount needed. After the order is planned, we hit the send button and the feed system starts.

The entire feed making process is all automated. This is the main control panel for everything.

The entire feed making process is all automated. This is the main control panel for everything.

The ingredients are held in separate bins and are automatically weighed by the computer as they get augured into the mixer which can hold up to 2000kg at one time. Before the corn and roasted soybeans are added to the mixer, they get ground by the hammer mill. This increases the surface area and allows for better digestion by the pig. Once each ingredient is added, the mixer will mix for 2 minutes to ensure everything is blended. After fully mixed, the feed goes to a storage bin which allows for the next batch to start.

The batch mixer (under the frame under the augers) asks for each ingredient to be augered in one at a time.

The batch mixer (under the frame under the augers) asks for each ingredient to be augered in one at a time.

Once the computer has completed the order and all the feed is in the overhead storage bin we load our feed truck.

Back the feed truck under the bin and load up.

Back the feed truck under the bin and load up.

We back the truck under the bin and open a slide and the feed falls in.

Open a slide and the feed falls into the truck.

Filling up the feed truck.

This truck will haul the load to one of our farms and unload it with a pneumatic blower into an unloading pipe which goes into the feed bin.

Delivering feed with our feed truck to one of our barns.

Delivering feed with our feed truck to one of our barns.

This delivery went well for me.

Thumbs up! This delivery went well for me.

There is a feed auger that goes from the feed bin and fills the feeders in the barn. The auger is on a timer and runs three times a day. When the feed fills the last feeder up, a sensor turns the auger off. The pigs eat from the opening at the bottom of the feeder. They also can grab a drink of water while they are there.

There is a sensor that tells the feed line when all the feeders are filled up.

There is a sensor that tells the feed line when all the feeders are filled up.

So there we have it folks, an overview of the processing of making feed, delivering it and feeding to the pigs. I hope you learned a thing or two from it. Feel free to ask any questions.


Calving Season Has Begun!

Posted on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 by Elliott & Rebecca Miller

Hello to the avid followers of Dinner Starts Here!

We are Elliott & Rebecca and we are new bloggers joining the Dinner Starts Here group. We own and operate a beef cow/calf operation and also grow grain on our farm. We are looking forward to contributing some insight into beef farming and the business of growing grains like corn, soybeans, wheat and hay. We are a family farm that strives to produce the best products we can for the consumers that we market to. We work off the farm at our own respective jobs (in the agriculture industry), but we still play an active role in the daily operation of our family farm.

This time of year we are quite busy in the barn with our beef cows and their newborn calves (babies). It’s an exciting time around our place as calving season quickly unfolds around Christmas time.  Our beef farm consists of about 80 beef cows (females) and their calves (babies) and 2 bulls (males). We are currently about 75% done our calving season and look forward to the arrival of a few more baby calves in the next couple of weeks.

We haven’t witnessed many of our calves being born at the actual time they make their grand entrance into the world. Most of the time we get to the barn and they have already been born, licked off by their mother and had a good drink of colostrum (first milk) from their mother. We make sure they are doing well and let the cow bond with  her newborn calf using the natural instinct they have to care for their young. The colostrum is extremely important to survival of the newborn calf because it is full of immunoglobulins and other necessary components that act as a natural defense mechanism against harmful bacteria and diseases that they could be exposed to the newborn calf.  When calves are born their immune system is suppressed – prior to birth they received all essential nutrients via the mother’s umbilical  cord hence why it’s important that they get tasty (to them anyways!) colostrum upon arrival.  The colostrum has protective antibodies (immunoglobulins) that are transferred from the cow to the calf when they nurse the first few times.  Without colostrum, the calves chance of survival and ability to grow into a big, strong calf is decreased.

A question often asked by people is “how much does a calf weigh when it is born?”  The answer – well it varies based on a number of factors, but typically our calves are between 80-100lbs when they are born.  A cow can weigh between 1,100-1,400lbs (or more) – so on a scale of proportion a calf weighs approx 8-10% of its mother’s weight when it is born.  That seems pretty big when you compare what a human baby weighs when it is born, but it is all relative to the situation. Typically once a calf is born, the mother will lick the placenta (“after birth”) off the calf to dry it off and to help stimulate the calf to try and stand up and start nursing.  Sometimes within the first 10 minutes we can watch a newborn calf trying to take its first steps (other times it can be up to 1-2 hours, depending on weather, ease of calving, conditions, etc).  After they start to master the art of walking on 4 legs, they will try to start nursing from their mother’s udder to ingest the colostrum.  It is a pretty neat process and is something we think everyone should be able to witness.  If we are lucky, we might be able to film this process if we witness a birth in the near future – and we will post it to show you what it looks like.

These calves are lying down in a freshly bedded area where they can socialize, rest and play.  They have access to their mother’s whenever they want – all they have to do is walk through a small opening in a gate into the rest of the barn (2nd picture shows a small opening in the gate where calves can go in and out)

calves in barn at lornes


Here is is a picture of a calf born tonight (calf on the right) and her mother standing behind her.



What Happens to A Dairy Calf After It Is Born?

Posted on Monday, November 30, 2015 by Andrew

The excitement of a new calf never gets old for me. Whether a cow has the calf on her own (about 75% of the time) or needs some help (because the calf is big, the cow isn’t interested in pushing or something more serious like a breach) watching that calf get up on it’s own legs within minutes of being born is simply cool to see. Every time. Continue reading

Harvesting the Straw After the Wheat

Posted on Thursday, August 20, 2015 by Andrew

Wheat is one of the grain crops we grow around our farm. It is all sold with an intention of going to the food market to be used as flour for something like cookies or pastry. But harvesting that grain is only the beginning for the crop, as we also want to harvest the stalk of the dried up wheat plant. Continue reading

Rounding Up Feed for the Cows

Posted on Thursday, May 7, 2015 by Andrew

As we head into spring, one of the big jobs for the next few months is going to be to harvest, haul & store the feed for the next year for the cows.


One of my favourite YouTubers is Geoffrey, a dairy farmer in Saskatchewan. He has put together a great video on some of the ways his family harvests forages (like hay, pea & barley silage) that will be fed to their cows.


Geoffrey with his fiancee.

Geoffrey with his fiancee.

How Do You Milk A Cow?

Posted on Monday, April 13, 2015 by Andrew

It is a job that needs to be done at least twice a day, every day, so it has to be done well. (some farms even do it three times a day) Here are the steps we go through to milk our cows.

Step one: Get your dip to clean each of the four teats & then get a paper towel.

GettingReadytoMilkThis box takes a spin around the barn every time we milk, holding the clean paper towels. Using the dipper hanging from the side, we coat the teat in a disinfecting iodine solution. After waiting 15 or 30 seconds we wipe the solution clean.

Step Two: Check the milk.

Mar27Before we place the milking unit on, we want to check to make sure the milk quality is exactly as it was 12 hours ago. If we ever see something abnormal, the cow is milked into a bucket until we figure out what might be wrong. To find abnormal milk isn’t common & not the case here – so on goes the milker!

Step 3: Milkers On.



With the teats clean and the milk quality good, this milking unit is put on. A soft suction keeps it from falling off, while it gently squeezes the teats making a similar action to what you & I would have to do if we were milking her by hand. (Start at the top of the teat near the udder, gently squeeze, and pull down to the bottom of the teat)

Step 4: Wait for her to finish & then give a final dip.

MilkerEach of our milking units record how much milk flows through, and at what rate. That way, when the cow is finished it can pull the milking unit off automatically so as to not over milk the cow. When this is finished, we come along with another iodine based solution that will coat each teat again to protect against bacteria for the next 12 hours before we start the job all over again!

All of this needs to be done with calmly & patiently as cows have the ability to hold their milk. If they aren’t comfortable – they won’t give their milk. Luckily, they are quite happy with our twice-daily routine and milk flows freely! Celine chews her cud while she is milked. (an action required by cows to digest their food – something they do several hours a day)





Welcome to the World, Baby!

Posted on Wednesday, April 1, 2015 by Sarah

Warning: I talk about bodily fluids in this post. It’s natural, but not necessarily pretty. You’ve been warned.

Who wouldn't love seeing these faces everyday?

Who wouldn’t love seeing these faces everyday?


Sunday afternoon I was at home, two hours away from Guelph. I had been out with my friends all weekend and I was tired and ready to get home and rest. My plan was to leave at 1:00pm. 12:45 rolls around and my car is packed. I was ready.

But as per usual on the farm, my plans changed.

Mom had just left to go away for a week and my dad and brother were planning on going to London for the afternoon to see a London Knights playoff game (Go Knights Go!). But March is the time when lambs are born, and as with any pregnancy – when its time its time. Dad had made a few trips to the barn already that morning, and it was time. We were about to get a new baby lamb. I was tasked with staying home for a little longer, and making sure everything went smoothly.

The signs were all there; she didn’t eat her breakfast, she was restless and she was keeping her distance from the rest of the sheep. Now usually, sheep have little to no problems when they lamb. You can leave for a half an hour and come back to a few fresh faces in the barn. We don’t often like to interfere, and I’m sure the sheep like to be left alone during this time (I wouldn’t want onlookers during this either!).

Welcome baby!

Welcome baby!

Unfortunately, this time an easy birth wasn’t in her cards. By 2:30pm the she was pawing, panting, lying down and getting up and generally looking more and more uncomfortable. This is when I decided it was time to lend a hand. And that’s exactly what I needed to do.

Normally, when a lamb is born, its two front feet will come out first with its head between its legs. This time the lamb was “supermanning” as I like to call it. One foot out straight, then a head, then a second foot tucked back. If a lamb is positioned like this inside the ewe, the chances of someone getting hurt during the lambing process is really high.

I’ve never been to vet school, the closest I have come is taking an “Animal Structures” course at school which I dropped after the first midterm because it would have been a guaranteed fail. But I’ve been in the barn hundreds of times during lambing, and I’ve learned how to help.

I had the barn supervisor there to help me!

I had the barn supervisor, Harley,  there to help me!

Helping a ewe lamb definitely isn’t pretty, as with any pregnancy there’s blood and a lot of “goo”. That’s a nice name for it. If the lamb is positioned incorrectly, as this one was, it has to be re positioned and that can’t be done from the outside. I had to find the other leg and pull it forward. Off came the rings, up went the sleeves and inside I go (yeah, in THERE).

I can’t tell you how many times I told the sheep “I’m sorry girl” or “We’ve almost got it”. It took me longer than I was planning on, but I couldn’t exactly see what I was reaching for. Not to mention the ewe was unable to stay still, which I can’t blame her for. Somebody poking around inside me wouldn’t be the most comfortable thing in the world. It was a tough, dirty, uncomfortable job. I almost had myself convinced that this lamb only had one leg, because I thought I searched everywhere. But then I felt those tiny little toes. I finally found the other leg, and was able to pull it forward. I was wet, shaking and almost in tears because I knew the ewe was in pain and I wanted it to be over for her.

It almost was. One more big push and out came the lamb, a little ram lamb. We were both ready for it. I picked up the lamb and cleaned off its face so it could breathe, then I put him at the moms nose. The ewe started to lick the lamb off (this is a bonding process for both the lamb and mom) and she hopped right up as if she just came in from outside.

Momma and babies are up and ready to go!

Momma and babies are up and ready to go!

Within 15 minutes, she had a second lamb (another boy!). This time there were no complications.

I’m happy to report that all are alive and well. See for yourself!


What Does A Dairy Cow Eat?

Posted on Friday, January 2, 2015 by Andrew


For all of us, nutrition is incredibly important to our health. It is no different for a dairy cow! I’ve heard many times people compare a dairy cow to a high performance athlete, since their bodies are working to produce milk, much like an athlete is working on their chosen sport. So what does it take for a cow to reach the peak of her production?

Well, it actually starts with a sample of each of the different types of feed we will be using.


Samples of the hay, corn silage and grain corn are all sent to a lab for nutritional analysis. That way our herd’s nutritionist can create all the labels that you and I get when we buy food in the grocery store. With those labels, Dan (the nutritionist) then works to create a balanced diet based on their needs and how much they are expected to milk. He also creates a for a mineral supplement to make up for any deficiencies that our own grown crops have. He then sends along a recipe for how much of each type of feed we are to use, and we measure it down to the pound, mix it all up, and serve out a delicious, and very nutritious, meal.

Here is each item before we mix it all up (measured out as 10% of what they would eat daily).

Cows Eat

Our milking cows each eat 15.5 pounds of dry hay, 57 pounds of corn silage (it is heaviest because is more than 50% water), 12 pounds of corn ground up to powder and 8.5 pounds of vitamins & minerals (including a protein supplement) daily. Mix it all up and add another 8 pounds of water for each cow and you have a meal that is sure to satisfy!

Once we get to the summer, the cows will add a little bit of grass to their diet when they go out to the pasture and graze, but it will only make up a few pounds. They always get to choose between this mix and the grass, and this mix is always cleaned up first!

Spending some time with some great poultry!

Posted on Monday, August 11, 2014 by Matt

Chicken BarnI recently spent a week at home on the farm over the summer which finally gave me a chance to get my hands dirty again after spending far too long at university. One of the things I got to do while at home was look after our chickens. We raise chickens for meat, which are known as broilers.

Compared to other livestock such as dairy cows or pigs, chickens can be a relatively lower maintenance animal, but they still do require proper attention and care. The most laborious part of the job is preparing the barns to receive new baby chickens. This preparation involves cleaning out all the litter from the previous group of chickens, disinfecting and sanitizing the barns, then laying down new fresh bedding for the baby chicks. We use straw for bedding, but other farmers use wood shavings instead. Straw is the part of the wheat plant which isn’t harvested as grain. Since my family also grows wheat, we can easily collect the straw from the fields which means we don’t have to pay for bedding like some other farmers.

Once the barn is prepared, we heat the barn up nice and warm to 34 degrees Celsius. It might feel pretty warm for us, but the day old chickens absolutely love it. From there, we raise the chickens until they are 2.8 kilograms, which takes about 6 weeks from the time they arrive at the barn. Over those 6 weeks, we walk through the barns two or three times a day to check that they are receiving adequate feed and water and to ensure that they are healthy. We try hard to make sure the chickens are happy and comfortable, so if something is wrong we correct the issue immediately.

After the 6 weeks are up, the chickens are loaded onto specially designed trucks and taken to a processing plant. When this happens, it means the barns are empty and the cycle starts again!

The photo in this story is of what my barns at home look like. The chickens are about 5 weeks old at this point and are calm, quiet, and enjoying the warmth of the barn.