Tag Archives: daily life

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.

MilkersOn

 

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)

 

 

 

 

What do Farmers do in the Winter? (when we’re not doing chores, of course)

Posted on Monday, March 9, 2015 by Steph N

Have you ever wondered what farmers do in the winter? And I’m not saying we don’t have anything to do – we still check the barns, take care of our animals, gather eggs, clean and sweep, keep our records up to date, maintain equipment, grade eggs to sell to customers, and much more – but things are a little bit slower. There is a lot less outdoor work we can do and there are no crops in the fields to worry about, so we have a little bit of free time.

Many farmers will use some of this time to learn. From Soil and Crop to Dairy Expos to Farm Safety Training, there are many meetings that go on through the winter that help us farmers stay up to date on new technologies and new ideas that we can apply on our farms.

This past week I had the opportunity to go to the Canadian Young Farmers Forum. It is an event that takes place each year and is attended by young farmers ages 18 to 40. On the first day of the event I was able to meet with 13 other egg farmers from across the country to learn about how our industry interacts with the government and how different trade deals can affect eggs in Canada. It is amazing to see how much our industry does for us and Canadians. We also learned about Social Responsibility and how the Egg Farmers of Canada are doing their part. They are planning to build a chicken barn on a farm in Swaziland to help support an orphanage, and in turn help the local economy. This farm not only creates jobs for local people but also food and income for the orphanage.

The topics spoken about at the conference also included business planning, political predictions, new technologies and apps, and tips on agriculture education. While I learned a lot in each session that I attended, the most beneficial information I took away was from talking with other young farmers from across the country. I met dairy farmers from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, potato farmers from PEI, grape growers from Niagara Falls, chicken and berry farmers from BC, grain farmers from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, and egg farmers from the North West Territories. Each farmer had a different story of how they got where they are, and also a different way of doing things. I gained a lot of new ideas from these conversations that I can apply on my farm, including things as simple as a new way to streamline record keeping in my barn.

Farmers are not afraid to share their ideas with each other, and it helps build a stronger agricultural sector throughout the country. The community that this creates is one of the many reasons I am so proud to be able to call myself a farmer 🙂

A speaker at the Canadian Young Farmers Forum talks about Best Management Practices

A speaker at the Canadian Young Farmers Forum talks about Best Management Practices

What Does A Dairy Cow Eat?

Posted on Friday, January 2, 2015 by Andrew

Tile

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.

FeedTests

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.

Summer Family

Posted on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 by Erin M

Every spring, our summer family begins to arrive. It’s slow at first…a couple of guys now more like old friends. They arrive and there are welcomes, a mix of chatting through broken Spanish and English, grocery shopping…trips to the bank and most importantly – the purchase of long distance phone cards to call home. 
 
We get down to work quickly as there is lots to do. Sometimes we work side by side cleaning up after a busy spring, sometimes they’re out in the fields doing weeding, picking rocks or moving irrigation and sometimes we’re sitting on the back of a bumpy tractor planting acre after acre of strawberries. 
 
 
As the season moves on, another couple of guys join us in the daily tasks of farm life and then after that, usually a couple of more. 
 
By the time the middle of June arrives…our entire summer family is here catching up with each other as they speak in rapid Spanish, filling the farm with infectious laughter and song. 
 
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I’ve been asked a few times why we hire migrant workers – and my answer is fairly simple: 
 
We need reliable staff who show up every day and we need staff who will work when we ask them to and provide the quality and quantity we expect to be picked. Contrary to why a lot of people believe farms hire migrant workers – it’s not cheaper or easier….it’s actually is a lot more expensive and a lot more work for us to hire them than it would be to hire local staff. First – we’re required (as we are required to pay all of our staff) to pay them minimum wage. Some of our guys who have been returning year after year have earned increased wages like all of our staff does when they return year after year. Then – we have to pay for housing, a portion of their utilities, and a portion of their airfare to and from Mexico. We also spend countless hours taking them shopping for anything they need – from groceries to new clothes to take home for their kids…which is a tremendous amount of work, time and effort. But in the end…for us..it’s worth it. 
 
We hired local pickers for years…years and years and years – in fact – we still do to supplement our ‘summer family’ with them …but we could never find enough people who wanted to do the work. Or people who would stick it out the entire season. Or people who would show up when it was over 30 degrees, or raining, or whatever the day may bring. Regardless of the circumstance – we still needed to be able to harvest the crops we were planting…and before we started hiring migrant workers, we were never able to do this. Entire fields would go to waste because we simply couldn’t get them picked. 
 
We couldn’t get things harvested, keep things picked clean and the harvest suffered, the crops suffered, our customers suffered and we as farmers suffered. 
 
We hired four guys from Mexico originally, and have now expanded now to twelve great guys. Guys with wives, kids and lots of family back home. We have guys with toddlers, twins, teenagers, grandkids and everything in between. Guys who when they’re back in Mexico work on farms, as taxi drivers and even one as a DJ.  Guys who want to come to Canada to work temporarily, because they want to provide a better life for their families in whatever way they can. Guys who jump in to help whenever it is needed and are ready and willing to work with whatever has to be done. 
 
When we first had four guys it meant that we were able to start producing more and harvesting more of what we had produced. It meant we were able to hire more people to sell the things that we had grown, and expand our business – eventually buying a second farm and hiring even more guys who live on that farm for the summer. Since we started using the migrant workers program we’ve been able to create a vast amount of new jobs in the community that would have never been available if it weren’t for them. We’ve been able to expand from one full time employee (who as a business owner was rarely, if ever, actually paid) to four full time year round employees. We have also been able to expand from 3-4 seasonal employees, to almost 25 seasonal employees, not including migrant workers – which is an enormous increase. 
 
Our guys are one of the major backbones of the business. They are vital to our operations successes – we quite literally could not exist without them. From planting, to crop maintenance, to keeping the farm and fields in good working condition to harvesting and beyond – they do an immense amount of hard work. We have good friends, brothers and even a father and son who spend their summers side by side working with us – and we know how important they are and try to make sure they know how important they are whenever we can. Whether it’s taking them out for a nice Mexican meal they’ve been craving once we make it through our busiest season, grabbing some Chinese takeout after an unusually long and/or hot day so that no one has to cook, taking them to the lake to go swimming, having BBQ’s or Mexican feasts on the farm, having them at weddings, or just an evening soccer game in the backyard…going to Canada’s Wonderland or simply bringing them an ice cream, ice cold bottle of water or can of their drink of choice “coca” (coke!) to the field on a hot day – we want to make sure they know how big of a part of the business they are, and how much we value them. 
 
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Yes – they work long, hard days for us to put fresh local produce on your table. Yes, they may not be Canadian…. but to us…they’re “the guys” – and they’re our summer family. They’re salt of the earth people who we look forward to welcoming to work on the farm each summer. They’re the kind of people who smile encouragingly as you stumble over your Spanish and grab a heavy box to help you carry it, who laugh and joke and tell you about their “bambinos” and ‘bambinas’  as they show you a better way to harvest a certain crop. They are incredibly grateful for the job and we’re incredibly grateful for them, their work ethic and their determination to do the best job possible in everything that they do. 
 
No – It’s not the easiest job, but they work hard and come back year after year…happy to be working along side us helping to make our farm the best it can be… always welcomed with open arms to be part of our “summer family”.

Winter Harvest

Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 by Erin M

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If you’ve visited a grocery store lately, you’re probably well aware that there aren’t a lot of things for sale in the produce section that are ‘Product of Ontario’ this time of year. If you’re lucky you’ll find a few Ontario apples from last fall, though after last year’s spring frost that badly damaged a large percent of Ontario’s apple crop they’ve been harder to find this winter. Otherwise you might be able to scoop some of last year’s garlic harvest or some greenhouse tomatoes or cucumbers. On the whole this time of year though most of the produce that we as Canadians have access to during the winter months is from far and wide across the globe. 

Just because your local fruit and vegetable farmer isn’t necessarily milking cows, collecting eggs or feeding animals day and night doesn’t mean we get to slack off in the winter though – there’s still lots to do on the farm even when we’re not growing delicious fruits and vegetables!

Here are just few of the things we’ve gotten done in our “down time” this winter while we weren’t growing on our farm:

*Cleaning – Winter is a time when we’re able to give things a big thorough going over. From cleaning and organizing workshops, scrubbing ovens in the markets and washing walls and much more – we have time in our off season to be able to check all sorts of cleaning and organizing jobs off our to-do list. Making improvements around the farm to buildings, roads and cleaning up inside and outside all need to be done to keep the farm in tip top shape! 

*Fixing machinery – The guys took apart (and luckily put back together!) tractors and anything else that wasn’t running *just* right. They needed to repair, replace and make sure they’re running smoothly for when we need them the rest of the year.

*Accounting – Definitely not a favourite job on the farm..but to help us farm better we keep full records of what we grew and what we sold so we have a better idea of what we need to grow the next year – plus – we have to submit our taxes (we have to do those too!) sooner rather than later so we can get it out of the way and move on to what we’re really interested in – farming!

*Paperwork – Another low key task that takes up more time than you would believe. From updating staff manuals and training tools to creating new brochures, ensuring we’re up to date with necessary government postings and everything in between – we could probably fill up an entire winter just with catching up on paperwork!

*Planning ahead – We do lots of planning during the winter…from debriefing and talking about our festivals and events, talking about changes we want to make and new ideas we have for the farm – we’re always making lists and plans of things we want to do for the day, the week, the year and beyond.

*More planning – After looking at our records, our field rotations, and figuring out where we’re going to plant what next in future years (yep – we always have to be looking at LEAST a few years ahead!) we can finally order our seeds, containers and any other farming equipment or supplies we might need for the spring, summer and fall. 

*Building things – I’m finally getting new display cupboards in our farm market!!! After ten years of asking for this to be a winter project…I’m so excited that it finally made its way up the winter list and got accomplished! 

*Making syrup – We make lots of maple syrup every spring so this takes up a large portion of our time…from tapping the bush, to boiling the sap and bottling the syrup…and of course our MapleFest – there’s lots for everyone to do!

*Growing as farmers – Every year we attend various conferences throughout Ontario to talk and network with other farmers, learn from experts in the field and learn about everything from new technologies, nematodes or new ways to use marketing – all things we can learn to help make our farm the best it can be! We also attend lots of different meetings, AGM’s, community groups and workshops to learn how our farm can contribute back to the community, events and organizations around us.

Even though it may not seem like it…there’s lots to do on a fruit and vegetable farm when it’s too cold outside to actually grow anything. There is ALWAYS lots to do – and this is only a small portion of the things we’ve been able to get done this winter – our own version of a winter harvest! As always we’ve been super busy getting ready for another summer season…so busy in fact that I think I need a nap just thinking about it. Except that it’s spring – which means that the farm is ACTUALLY getting busy and there is even MORE work to do now!

Next up…planting, picking and preparing – oh my!