Tag Archives: eggs

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

Get Cracking!

Posted on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 by Steph N

Eggs

For egg farmers, the most important thing after making sure their hens are healthy, is making sure that they are producing Grade A eggs. The biggest factor in this is egg shell quality.

Eggs are graded based on size, shell quality, and yolk quality. When an egg goes to a grading station they are washed, candled (see what this is here: Why ‘Candle’ An Egg?), and then sorted by size to be put into cartons. It is during candling when egg shell quality is assessed and when cracks would be found and removed. There are many factors (besides just a clumsy farmer) that can contribute to a cracked egg.

As a hen ages, the quality of the egg shells that she lays will eventually decline, causing more cracks to occur as the shells are more fragile. Creating an egg takes a quite a bit of calcium and so we increase the amount of calcium in the diet as the hens get older since she is not able to use the calcium as efficiently as when she was younger. Usually at around about 60 or 65 weeks old, we increase the level to the maximum level that it will remain at for the rest of the time we have them.  The calcium in the diet it mostly oyster shell.

Another factor that can lead to cracks is equipment malfunctions. To get an egg from the hen to the carton is a process that involves transporting the eggs quite a distance. To see how it happens on my farm check out this video: Getting Eggs to Your Table. If one little thing is off, it can mean the eggs are transported rougher than normal or allow an egg to hit an edge faster than it should and it can cause a crack. So as farmers, we are regularly maintaining and upgrading our equipment to ensure safe and happy hens and a good quality product.

Of course the biggest factor of cracks is the most important – breaking them into a pan to eat! So next time you crack open an egg, you can be sure you know how the farmer ensured it was Grade A.

What Does a Hen Eat?

Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 by Steph N

Have you ever wondered what a laying hen eats? I’m sure when this first comes to mind you picture a hen in a long ago farm yard foraging for insects in the grass or picking up grain that an old farmer has scattered in the dust. But as nutrition and technology has improved for people, it has when it comes to an animal’s diet as well. 

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Feed is stored on farm in bins and transported through an auger system into the barn.

 

In order to keep our hens happy and healthy and laying eggs we want to make sure that they get all the nutrients that they need. To ensure this happens, they have a specially formulated diet which they have access to at all times. This diet is put together by poultry nutritionists at the feed mill where we buy our feed and can be in the form of a mash or in pellets. On my farm, as well as most Ontario poultry farms the diets will be mostly corn and soy based, with many trace minerals and vitamins within the feed, catering to all the nutritional needs that the hen has. Laying hens also use a lot of calcium for egg shell production and so need a good calcium source in their feed. This typically is provided through limestone, but if a flock is having trouble with shell quality, the feed can be topped up with oyster shell to ensure that they are getting enough.   

In the grocery store you may have noticed that there are several different kinds of eggs such as Omega-3 or Omega-Pro. On my farm we produce Omega-3 eggs and this is all to do with the diet that the hen consumes. Our feed has flax seed in it which allows the hen to put Omega-3 into the eggs she lays. For Omega-Pro eggs, the feed has fish oils in it as well so that the hen deposits even more Omega-3 into the eggs.  

A fun things you may have noticed in traveling, is that eggs in different parts of the country can sometimes have different coloured yolks. In the Prairies they are typically paler than eggs in Ontario because of the availability of the crops for the feed. In western Canada, wheat is a much more available energy source and so the yolks are pale. In Ontario, where corn is a much more common crop, it is used as the energy source and so the eggs have darker yolks. And, if you want a fancy word to impress your friends with, the darker yolk is because corn has high levels of the pigment xanthophyll. 

So, the next time you are eating eggs, you can not only be sure that you are getting proper nutrition, but also that the hen who laid that egg is as well.

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Decking the Halls….on the farm!

Posted on Monday, December 30, 2013 by Andrew

Written by Kim Waalderbos of Farm & Food Care

b2ap3_thumbnail_MilkingParlour.jpgFor farm kids, there’s one thing that stands between them and their Christmas celebrations – farm chores. That’s right, farm animals take no holidays. However, Christmas day is far from an ordinary day for these Dinner Starts Here bloggers.

For Ontario dairy farmers Justin Williams and Andrew Campbell, Christmas morning starts long before the sun rises while so many others are still snuggled in bed with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. 

 

“Christmas morning starts at 4:30 a.m. when we wake up and head to the barn for milking,” says Justin, adding that despite the early hour the barn has a festive spirit. “Christmas morning always seems to be more cheerful in the barn.”

Across the province, at Andrew’s family farm, it’s all hands on deck too. “Christmas around here is pretty wild!” says Andrew. With everyone in the barn, chores go by very quickly with some milking cows, some feeding them, and others laying down a fresh bedding of straw. “It’s the chores we do every morning, but because the whole family is out, we get done much faster.” Then it’s in for coffee, breakfast snacks and of course – opening presents. 

On Christmas morning you’ll also find sheep farmer Sarah Brien in the barn. “Christmas morning is a busy time,” she says. “I think it is for every family, but especially when you have 150 animals in the barn that you have to feed before you eat, open presents and visit family.”

It’s divide and conquer for Stephanie Campbell’s farm family. “First dad goes out and does his early barn chores in the hen barn while mom and I start to get things ready in the house.” Stephanie squeezes in a trip to town to pick up her Grandma just in time for the family to gather and open presents. Then it’s back to the barn to gather eggs and finish up chores before the extended family arrives for Christmas dinner. 

“Our chickens still need to be taken care of on Christmas morning, and so they are part of our routine,” Stephanie says. “I have great memories of doing chores around Christmas time because everyone pitches in and helps.”  

The wait on Christmas morning for the food and presents is almost unbearable most farm kids will tell you. “My sisters and I would be vibrating with the excitement of Christmas morning being so close,” says beef farmer Scott Snyder. “Overall though, Christmas morning is likely my favorite morning because it is relaxed, filled with family and the atmosphere it creates is just plain peaceful”. 

For many farm families, Christmas dinner takes place mid-day. “Because we have to head back to the barn late in the afternoon for another round of milking and feeding cows, we’ll have our Christmas dinner at noon,” says Andrew.

“You don’t really get to take a day off and relax when you farm, but I think everyone would agree that we don’t mind it,” Sarah says.

This blog first appeared at Let’s Talk Farm Animals, and was re-printed with permission. You can click here to view it there.

When the Premier Comes to Visit

Posted on Tuesday, August 20, 2013 by Steph N

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_2066.JPGOn August 6 the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) put on an Eastern Ontario farm tour for Premier Kathleen Wynne, who on that day was acting in her second role as Ontario Agriculture Minister. This tour acted as a way not only for farmers to tell the Government of Ontario what is happening in agriculture, but also allowed many farmers in the region to showcase their amazing farms and hard-working families. Over the course of the day Premier Wynne visited beef, dairy, swine, vegetable and crop farms, and the Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers before finishing the tour at my family’s egg and crop farm.

During her stop at my farm, my family was able to give a tour of our egg room where we gather our eggs, and even had Premier Wynne gathering a few on her own. This means that the dozen eggs you just bought last week may have been gathered by the Premier! Even though we had a few important people in our barn and got to showcase our facility, we still strictly followed bio-security practices as all farmers must to ensure the safety and the health of our animals. This meant that the press, the staff from the Premiers office, and the Premier had to put on plastic boots to avoid any contamination or bacteria coming into our barn from their shoes. It made for a great opportunity for learning, but not great for talking – plastic boots make lots of noise when walking!

We also had the opportunity to show the tour a few of the crops we grow including soybeans, an important crop for farmers in Ontario. I even taught the Premier how to check if the nodules on the roots (formed by a nitrogen fixing bacteria that can provide nitrogen to the plant) were still healthy by breaking them open to see the colour was a fleshy pink like it should be. As an agronomist as well as an egg farmer, it was great being able to teach people about both. 

The last part of the tour on our farm was an exciting opportunity for a few young farmers and myself to meet with the Premier. We were able to share the successes and struggles that young farmers experience in today’s changing agriculture industry. We are very optimistic about where agriculture is going and where it will take us, but are also cautious because of the challenges that lie ahead of us – including financials, societal perceptions, and labour availability. We want to ensure that consumers know that we have their and our animal’s best interests in mind and hope to have the chance to educate them more about what we do. It is a daunting but exciting job to farm and while there are many differences between farmers from beef to dairy to eggs to strawberries, the sentiment between us is the same – we all farm because we love it.

 

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Showing the Premier/Ag Minister a soybean plant

Double the Yolk, Double the Fun!

Posted on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 by Steph N

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Have you ever cracked open an egg and found not one, but two yolks? Don’t worry, the chicken that laid it is a-okay, she’s likely just fairly young. 

At 25 weeks of age, my flock is still fairly new. When we get our hens at 19 weeks of age, they are just starting to lay, and although our chickens are currently laying mostly small and medium sized eggs, many of the large and extra- large eggs that are laid are double-yolks. The reason this happens is because as a chicken is starting to lay, she still has irregularities in her reproductive system just like any other animal as they move into full maturity. So, a double-yolk egg simply occurs when two yolks rather than one are released in her cycle and then the membrane and shell form around both, giving you an egg with two yolks.

On my farm, we grade and sell some of our eggs to neighbours, and nearby stores and restaurants (the rest go to a large grading station about an hour away), and our customers LOVE double yolks. Not only does it provide more yolky flavour for breakfast and can make for fluffier pancakes, but it’s also a pretty cool way to impress and amaze breakfast guests. In my family we also love double yolks. My mom’s famous cookie recipe requires one double yolk egg and one large egg (please don’t tell her I told!) which makes the cookies a bit more moist and tasty. But unfortunately for my mom’s cookies, as our chickens get a little older and wiser, the amount of double-yolk eggs will begin to decrease as the hen’s reproductive system becomes more regular, but some still will be laid. As a hen ages, her egg size naturally increases as well, meaning that the doubles that are laid later on in her life are typically bigger. These eggs are usually called Jumbo size, which is any egg that is greater than 70 g (for more information on how eggs are sized, check out the DinnerStartsHere YouTube Channel). 

So next time you are in the grocery store and see Jumbo eggs, or crack open an egg and find two yolks, you now know how it got there. And you perhaps now also have my family’s secret to moist baking – sorry mom!

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