Thursday, 26 May 2011

Technology - The Exponential World We Live In

This past January, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime.  I had the chance to take part in the Five Nation's Beef Alliance Young Ranchers Program down in Denver, Colorado. 

This was both educational and fun! I had the chance to meet with a group of young ranchers from Australlia, Argentina, Mexico, the United States, and Canada, and to discuss many issues affecting the agriculture industry. 

We heard many speakers and got to tour various agricultural destinations down in Denver.  
One of the best parts of the trip, as far as I am concerned was having the chance to meet with Dr. Temple Grandin and to hear her speak about agriculture.  Dr. Grandin spoke about social media, such as blogging, facebook, twitter, youtube, and the many other social media networking sites out there.  She couldn't stress enough how important these sites were for the future generations and the generation that we live in today.  

All too often the media portrays a negative view of the agricultural industry, and as Dr. Grandin mentioned, the only way for us to change this negative view is for us to give our consumers the "real deal" and to show them just how much we love our land, our animals, and feeding the world, it is up to farmers, industry leaders, and young ranchers, such as myself, to show the world the positive and the real story.  

She encouraged each of us young ranchers to get active on the internet, to share our stories and to agvocate (promote agriculture), and that is just what this blog is all about!

I decided to see just how big of an influence the internet really has on the world, so I found a couple of videos that opened my eyes to just how much of an impact the internet really has on people, and just how many users tune in.  

The four videos that I have listed below are all very informative and they make you realize just how much of an influence media has.  Some of the information is overlapped, but each video has points of its own that are very important and helpful! I encourage you to check them all out, trust me, it will be more than worth your time!

The first one is my favorite, because it talks about cattle and how much beef consumption is expected as well as how much technology is used.  I thought that all four of these videos have a great deal of information that you don't really think about until you read it and realize that yes, indeed, our world is being taken over by technology.  Businesses are relying on their computers for sales and marketing.  Agriculutre isn't just a business, it is a way of life.  I think it is important for all of us to reach out and impact the millions of people that tune into youtube and facebook everyday.  We want them to know our story, and to support agriculture in our world.  After all, by 2030 the first video says that China will eat more beef in a day than the US does in a month, so where will all of this beef come from? 

It is so important for youth to be active in agriculture and to get involved and support your local farmers, after all, when they're all gone, who will be here to feed the world?

Have a nice day everyone!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

I'm Just A Farmer, Plain and Simple

One of the great things about farming with my grandparents is getting to live in the same yard as them, allowing for many visits.  

My father and grandfather are spoiled by my grandma, she cooks them delicious home cooked meal every single day for lunch.  Luckily for me, whenever I am home for lunch on a weekday I get to go and enjoy Grandma's cooking.  Farming with my grandparents gave me the opportunity to spend countless hours with them growing up and still now.  

The other night I went over to Grandma's house to feed the dogs and stopped in for what I thought would be a quick visit.  Three hours later my grandpa came in from the field and I realized it was already 10:30!  

The visit was awesome, and my grandma shared a bunch of stories with me.  She also shared a clip that she had cut from the newspaper and I thought it was the best way to sum up my father and grandfather, so I wanted to share, I figure it is perfect for an agricultural blog, it sums up a farmer, plain and simple! Enjoy!

I'm Just a Farmer, Plain and Simple
(excerpts from I'm Just a Farmer, Plain and Simple by Bobby Collier)

I'm just a farmer, plain and simple.
Not of royal birth, 
but rather a worker of the earth.
I know not of riches, 
but rather of patches on my britches.

I know of drought and rain, 
of pleasure and pain. 
I know the good, the bad, 
the happy and the sad.

I'm a man of emotions,
a man who loves this land
and the beauty of it's sand.

I know the spring's fresh flow
and autumn's golden glow.
Of a newborn calf's hesitation
and an eagle's destination. 

I know of tall pines
and long waiting lines.
I know the warmth of campfires
and the agony of flat tires.

I'm a man who loves his job
and the life that I live.
I know of planting corn and bailing hay
and animals going astray.

I live in a complex world but my faith guides me,

I'm a farmer, plain and simple.

This poem pretty much completely sums up any farmer that I know, especially my grandfather.  
Farmer's love their land, their animals, and the people in their lives, plain and simple. 

Have a great night, off to lacrosse I go!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Beef and Dairy Go Head to Head

With six years of school left, I am working hard to make some money to save up this summer which has resulted in me getting two jobs, both at local golf courses.  Being a waitress gives me a great way to connect with many different people on a daily basis.  I often find conversations eventually leading to the fact that I live on a farm.
The other day, a girl asked me if we milked our cows, and I responded "no, we have beef cattle on our farm" assuming that would be enough of a response.  However, the girl just looked at me and said "So what is the difference from a milk cow to a beef cow, can't you use them all for everything?"
It seems so obvious to me why we would use certain types of cattle for milk and certain for beef, but I guess not being raised around farmers, and on a farm, I might not really have a reason to know.  
So I began to explain to her the difference between milking cows and beef cows. 
First of all there are two common divisions of cows, with many subdivisions.  In one corner we have the "beef" cows, the cows that we use for meat and human consumption.  In the other corner we have "milk" cows, the cows that are raised to make milk, cream and dairy products.

The "Beef" Category

A male cow is a bull. Great Blue Marble on the Farm features farm animal images, farm animal animation, farm animal cartoons, farm animal facts, and farm animal sounds.
In the "Beef" category, you can break the category into many different breeds!  With over 800 different breeds of cattle identified in the world, it is no wonder that there is confusion when talking about cattle!
Below are some of the most common breeds in North America!

Aberdeen Angus                      Beefalo                       Beefmaster                           Belted-galloway

Blonde d'aquitaine                 Brangus                       Charolais                            Dexter
English longhorn                   Galloway                       Gelbvieh                      Hereford
Highland                               Limousin                                          Lowline                               Murray grey
Maine Anjou                             Red Angus                                       Salers                                     Simmental     
Speckle Park                            Texas Longhorn                          Welsh Black                                       Zebu    

Other beef breeds: Africander, Aubrac, Barzona, Bazadaise, Belgian Blue, Belmont Red, Bonsmara, Boran, Braford, Brahman, Brahmousin, British White, Buelingo, Canchim, Caracu, Chianina, Composite, Corriente, Devon, Drakensberger, Droughtmaster, Gloucester, Hays Converter, Hybridmaster, Lincoln Red, Luing, Marchigiana, Minature Herefor, Mongolian, Nelore, Nguni, Parthenais, Piemontese, Pinzgauer, Red Poll, Retinta, Romangnola, Sanganer, Santa Cruz, Santa Gertrudis, Senepol, Shetland, Simbrah, South Devon, Square Meaters, Sussex, Tarentaise, Tuli, Wagyu, Watusi, Welsh Black, Whitebred Shorthorn

For links to the list above please go to

Beef cows are raised primarily for the purpose of meat for human consumption.  Females are kept on farms to produce calves, and often it is the male calves and lower performing female calves that are sent to be made into beef.

Beef cows are not usually used for milk and once their calves are weaned they dry up, usually only producing milk for 6-8 months out of the year, less than the ten months of the dairy cow.  If you wanted to milk a beef cow you could, however, they have generally smaller udders because they are not bred as much for udder structure and milk production as the dairy cows are.
On our farm we have to milk our cows sometimes when a calf is sick and can't eat on its own.  When this is the case, we do our milking by hand and then tube feed the baby calf to make sure that it is getting the right amount of nutrients to try and nurse it back to health.
Trying out some Beef milk, right from the cow!
The "Dairy" Side

Domesticated cows are called bovines or cattle. Great Blue Marble on the Farm features farm animal images, farm animal animation, farm animal cartoons, farm animal facts, and farm animal sounds.
In the "Dairy" category, there are 11 breeds that are most commonly found in North America, with approximately 40 common breeds across the world.  I wanted to know just what the breeds were like, so I did some research! Below I have included pictures of all of the common dairy cattle in North America, as well as a link.  This link will take you to a site which has pictures, news, information and history about each specific breed.  If you want to learn more about one of the breeds just click the name of the breed below the picture and it will take you to that breeds information!
 In Canada, the Holestein breed is the most common breed, with over 90% of dairy cattle being Holstein
Common to North America
            Holstein                                    Aryshire                                         Canadienne                                       Jersey                   
Dutch Belted                                  Kerry                                    Brown Swiss                                   Guernsey  

Milking Devon                Dairy Shorthorn                 Norwegian Red
Other breeds of Dairy cows: BusaEstonian RedFriesianGirolandoIllawarraIrish MoiledLinebackMeuse Rhine IsselMontbĂ©liardeNormandeRandall, and Sahiwal

Typically, when one thinks of a dairy cow, we get the image of a skinny black and white cow, with a large udder and a well defined topline (spine), well this is what image comes to my mind at least!  In reality, there are actually a diversity of color and shape of dairy cows, all with the same quality of being able to produce large amounts of good quality milk.
Dairy cows are not usually used for meat because they are generally much skinnier than beef cows, lacking the muscling, fat and finish that you see on most beef cows.  A good beef cow is one that is well conditioned (quite fat), and a good dairy cow is usually one that is quite slender, not much fat on their body.
On the average North American Dairy farm, the cows are milked twice daily, with roughly 12 hours of rest time in between.  This means that Dairy farmers are getting up anywhere from 4-6 AM to milk the cows, so that they can finish them that night between 4 and 6! That's early! If the cows are not milked within the 12 hours, their udders often get too full and they can start to become uncomfortable for the cow.  If you stop milking a cow completely, she will dry up and will not produce milk anymore until she has another calf.  After having a calf, the cows are usually milked for 10 months before they are dried up and about to calve again.  The cows are always bred at different times so that they calve on different days all year round.
A good friend of mine has a dairy farm and her family always has baby calves running around.  They have their operation set up so that they are always milking roughy 200 cows, with about 30-40 dry cows that are about to calve.  This way they are always milking the same amount.  On their farm they artificially inseminate all of their cattle (meaning they don't use a bull to breed the cows, they inject the sperm on their own).  This allows them to choose what day the cows are bred and gives them an idea of the exact day that each cow will calve.  Lucky for me, they live close to our farm and were able to AI my little Charolais heifer for me this year, hopefully they used the right straw of semen and I won't be having a tiny Holstein showing up next spring!

So what about the babies!

On a beef farm the calves are kept on their mama's until they are weaned at roughly 6-8 months.  This means that the babies rely on their mamas for milk for every meal.

In comparison, on a dairy farm, the calves do not spend their lives relying on their moms.  Dairy calves are taken away from their moms shortly after birth and rely on the farmer to feed them.  The farmers use the milk that they milk from the dairy cows, so the calves are still getting mother cow's milk, they are just not getting it directly from the cow herself.  Up to two or three months old the babies are kept in individual little houses where they are given special attention, personal milk and food.  When they are a bit older they are moved to group pens, where they are still given milk in troughs, just not individually anymore.

Dairy calves drinking bottles.jpg

If you have questions on dairy cattle, check out this link, it has a bunch of questions with answers, from where the milk goes to the age of cows, all things that take place on a dairy farm are covered in these answers so check it out! I learned a great deal even though I knew a fair amount of knowledge about dairy farms!  Dairy Farm Questions Answered


Have a great week everyone!!

Friday, 20 May 2011

The Beef On Canadian Cattle

Did you know ...

  • as of July 1, 2010 there were               12.57 million beef cattle in Canada
  • 53% (26,500) of Alberta producers have beef cattle
  • Alberta cattle and calf numbers – 5.5 million head (40% of Canadian total)
  • Canada cattle and calves – 14 million head
  • Alberta has 1.95 million breeding beef cows and heifers (39% of Canadian total)
  • Alberta feeds over 2.18 million cattle each year with total annual beef production of over 773,000 tonnes
  • Alberta averages 189 beef cattle per farm
  • Alberta has 21,095,393 hectares of farmland - 
  • 31% of all Alberta farmland is natural land for pasture
  • 12% of all Alberta farmland is tame or seeded pasture land
  • Alberta federal and provincial inspected plants processed 2.4 million head of cattle or roughly 71% of the Canadian total in 2009
Alberta Cattle Industry Statistics - As found by the Alberta Beef Producers
  • In 2009 there were approx. 49,500 farms in Alberta
    • 53% had cattle
    • of the 53%, 41.5% were beef cattle farms
  • beef cattle provide 34% of Alberta total farm income
  • benefits the economy by over $11.6 billion
  • Alberta exports of beef and cattle are valued at approx. $1.4 billion annually
  • in 2009 beef was the largest meat export at 70%
  • in 2009 Alberta shipped 236,000 tonnes of beef, $708 million to the USA
    • live cattle exports at $465 million

For more Canadian beef info check out these links - 
Check out this link for a few videos! Explore Beef with the help of the Alberta Beef Producers!

Have a safe long weekend everyone! I will be at work, the entire weekend, please think of me! :)


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

All Things Agriculture! - Feedlot on the Spot

Hi everybody!

So a couple of ladies asked me about feedlots, and just what was up with them! So I did a blog on it! Check out my page "All Things Agriculture" the article is towards the bottom, Topic 2 is the heading! I tried to put as much information as I could about feedlots, with links, pictures, and a story from a vegan who took a trip to a feedlot, all on the page! Unfortunately, quite often the media portrays things in agriculture in a negative way.  Feedlots and slaughter plants are probably the hardest hit!  This is why it is so important for consumers to hear the truth and to truly know where their beef is coming from and how it is handled.

I encourage you to check out the page and leave me some feedback.  If you want more information I can try to help you out!  Also, check out this link, Western Feedlots, this feedlot is located in Alberta.  I had the opportunity to take a tour of the High River portion of the feedlots, and I was so impressed by the care and the condition of the cattle and the facilities.  Check it out, it is well worth your time!



Monday, 16 May 2011

All Dogs Go To Heaven

If you have ever lost a pet before, I am sure you have had this hope for the pet.  Last week, our farm's sweet old  German Shepard passed away.  While at Lacrosse practice, one of the girls said to me "don't worry, all dogs go to heaven", and this sparked an idea for me.  

Dutch was the pet, a tan German Shepard with the sweetest personality and disposition.  My grandparents brought Dutch home 11 years ago, when she was already a year old.  That made Dutch 77 years old, in human years, she lived a good life.

Usually people multiply the dog years by seven to figure out how old the dog is in human years.  This can be deceiving however, because the actual age of a dog in human years depends on the breed and the size of the dog.  Usually, larger breeds live shorter lives and mature more quickly, usually considered senior by the time they reach five.  Medium sized dogs are senior around age 7, and little dogs live the longest, usually around 10 years old before they reach senior.
For a German Shepard, Dutch was a pretty good age when she passed away.  
I decided to do a little research on the German Shepard to learn a little bit about Dutch, as well as our other Shepard Dixie.
Dixie taking a snooze on bale, keeping warm off of the cold ground
German Shepards are often used as working dogs, and are usually the choice of dog for the police force.  They are courageous, keen, alert and fearless; as well, they are cheerful, obedient and eager to learn.  They are dogs who have a confidence, are serious, and clever.  To their human pack they are faithful and brave, they will not think twice about giving their lives for their humans.  
On our farm Dutch gave us an example of just how faithful the German Shepard are to their humans.  A couple of years ago my Grandma fell outside of her house and it took her a little while to get up.  While she was lying on the ground, Dutch never left her side, Grandma said she was licking her face, probably trying to comfort her.   Dutch was Grandma's dog, and she loved Grandma more than anyone.  Dixie also loves Grandma, and just the other day she jumped up, without putting her paws on Grandma, and kissed her on the cheek. 
I remember once when I was young, I got stuck in the mud out in the field behind our house and our previous German Shepard stayed with me until help came.  Another time when I was younger I had buried myself in a snow bank, and although I wasn't stuck, my German Shepard could see my feet moving in the snow pile and she dug furiously to get me out, ruining my igloo in the making.  Well, at least she was looking out for me.
Dutch has blessed our family with two batches of puppies.  When I say blessed, I mean surprised.  My father and grandfather would not have considered the puppies a blessing, they more or less considered them a nuisance.  In her first batch she had four puppies, but one of them died.  There was a tiny black one with a white stripe down it's belly, called Flash.  And two tan ones with black noses and paws called Rollie and Copper.  Lucky for me, my parents decided to let me keep Copper, the little tan female, but I had to give the other puppies away.  

Unfortunately, we live by the highway, and one afternoon a semi truck took Copper from us.  Thankfully, all dogs go to Heaven.
So, we got a Border Collie, Lady, to keep Dutch company.  When Lady turned two, Dutch surprised us with another batch of puppies, apparently the neighbor dogs really liked coming to visit our farm.  This time there were four puppies, two passed away, and we were left with two porkie little puppies, Diesel and Dixie.  Diesel and Dixie had the pure markings of German Shepards, both black bodied, Diesel with a white and gray mix of paws, face, and underbody, and Dixie with tan markings on her face, paws and under body.  I worked my magic and convinced my family that we should keep Dixie.  
Dutch and Dixie having some family time
Dixie loved being with her mommy, and some mornings if we let Dixie out of her kennel before untying Dutch, Dixie would push her way into the dog house with Dutch.  Dutch, Dixie, and Lady spent every day together, exploring the pastures, and partaking in their favorite activity of chasing the squirrel who always mocks them from high in the tree.    
German Shepards love to be close to their families, and they need their people, they don't like to be isolated or left alone.  This trait is very evident in my German Shepard Dixie.  Dixie is the dog who is always smiling, always loving.  Since she was a puppy she has been very eager for attention and affection, from me especially.  My grandpa always says that Dixie is my dog, and I really started believing this when I moved away for school.  When I would come home on the weekends, Dixie would start to cry the minute she saw my car drive in.  When I opened my car door she would be right there and try to jump in onto my lap.  She would cry and shake her tail so hard that she would knock herself off balance.  Then, when it was time for me to leave again, she would sit outside of my car, and watch as I drove away, only to start the entire process over the next time I was home.  
This is how Dixie sits whenever I leave home
German Shepards come with health problems, and these were evident in Dutch as she started to get older.  Just this past winter, I could start noticing the stiffness in her hips when she was running with the other dogs.  German Shepards can also have blood disorders, digestive problems, bloat, epilepsy, chronic eczema, dwarfism and flea allergies. When I think about all of the things that could have been wrong with Dutch, I am very grateful for the healthy, and fairly long life that she lived! 
Dixie is always smiling
I hope that this article has informed you a bit about the German Shepard.  If you are interested in learning about your dog to the same depth that I was able to learn about mine, check out this link Dog Information.  All you have to do is go to the site and choose your dogs breed, and you can research all about them!
Good luck researching and happy Monday! 
<3 Sam

Saturday, 14 May 2011

A Family Affair

So I am sure everyone is familiar with the term "Spring Cleaning".  Most of you probably cringe at the thought. But trust me, you don't have it that bad.  On the farm, we take "spring cleaning" to the next level.  The entire family gets involved.  Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad, Jessica and I, and our dogs even take a role.  Last year I got off easy and got to skip the cleaning extravaganza because I stayed in Edmonton at University to take a Spring Course.  I don't know what I was thinking when I didn't sign up for one this year, quite obviously I wasn't thinking at all.  My sister however conveniently had Volleyball Nationals this week so instead of helping out around the farm, she gets to hang with the team in British Columbia.  Unreal.
Grandpa, me and Dad after vaccinating the cattle!

I figure that the easiest way to fill you in on just what has to be done around this place come spring, is to make a list for you!
  • Seeding our crops
  • Dad getting the Harrows ready to hit the field
    • One of the first things that happens around the farm in the spring is the seeding of the crops.  Most of the calves are born by the beginning of May, so we then turn our attentions to the fields.  There are many steps involved in planting a crop, and it is actually quite a lengthy process. 
    • <-- This is my dad harrowing!

      • In the fall, after the harvest, some farmers cultivate their land.  Cultivating works the ground, breaking up the dead crop on the top of it and mixing up the soil, leaving clumps of dirt.  Some farmers on the other hand go with a zero till method.  These farmers leave their fields alone after harvest, and may spray a herbicide on the old crops a couple of weeks before seeding.  The idea of "no till" farming doesn't disturb the soil as much as a cultivator, thus preventing seeds from old weeds being brought to the surface, as well this leaves the topsoil - the six inches under the surface of the ground- from being disturbed.  Not disturbing the topsoil usually makes for a more efficient soil, with less erosion and more soil moisture.  Farmers that choose to use the "no till" method need to have an air seeder, which my family currently does not have, but has been seriously considering purchasing.  So until then we still cultivate our ground.
      •   <-- cultivating
      • Fertilizing- some farmers fertilize in the fall after harvest while others fertilize in the spring right before seeding.  My family fertilizes our fields in the spring before we seed.  This allows the fertilizer to be broken down in the ground over the entire growing year.  For farmers that fertilize their soil each year this method often works well because the fertilizer that is put on the field one spring, is broken down all summer, fall and winter, and will benefit the soil for the next spring.  Lime, phosphorous and sulfur often take longer to break down in the soil, so if it is your first time fertilizing the ground, it is wise to do these fertilizers in the winter so that the soil is ready for seed in the spring.  Nitrogen and pottasium don't take as long to breakdown in the soil so they can often be added in the spring before seeding.
      • Harrowing- harrowing is used to spread out the dead plant matter, manure, and soil that has been left on a field.  If a field was cultivated in the fall, harrowing is used to smooth the topsoil and spread any of the previous year's crop around in preparation for the new seeding.  Harrows also help to smooth, remove weeds and aerate the soil.  Once we finish with the harrows, as seen in the video above, then we can get seeding.
      • Seeding - to seed a field we use a drill.  We pour seeds into the top of the drill and this drops them into the ground as we drive over the soil.  My dad has installed GPS systems in our tractors.  These GPS systems steer the tractor, all we have to do is turn the wheel at the end of the field.  This system is a more efficient way of seeding because it prevents us from going over top of the parts that we already seeded, preventing us from wasting seed, and therefore saving money, time, and fuel.
      • <-- Seed Drill
      • Harrow Packing- Once we are finished seeding, we go over the soil with a harrow packer.  Pretty much the same thing as harrowing, in fact you use your harrows, just with an added piece.  We pack the ground and level it out after the seeds have been planted
      • <- Harrow/Packers
  • Grass Cutting
    • What a thrill.  I am sure everyone knows how brutal cutting the grass the first time of the year is and it isn't fun.  The grass is always full of dust, and various branches and rocks that have blown onto the lawn during the winter.  What makes grass cutting even worse out on the farm is the fact that our lawn is a couple acres large, and we also take it upon ourselves to cut the ditch in front of our house.  Not the greatest time ever.  I personally don't mind cutting the grass because we have a nice, new ride-on lawn tractor, and since it takes a couple hours to cut the grass, I wear a bikini and get a nice tan!
  • Raking of leaves and twigs
  • Grandma's pile explosion right after the match got tossed in
    • My family's yard and my grandparent's yard are only separated by a small group of trees and a ravine, so every year we help them out by picking up the twigs that fall from their large trees onto their grass as well as sometimes cutting the grass for them.  Just yesterday my Grandma decided it was a good day to rake the dead branches and leaves off of her grass.  So my mother, father, grandma and I worked diligently to pick up the old vegetation.  This is always an interesting process.  As soon as there is a pile placed on the driveway, my grandma takes it upon herself to light the pile.  This year the twigs just weren't dry enough to start the pile, so she added a small dose of gasoline.  Small is an understatement.  When my mom threw the match on the pile we had a slight pyrotechnic show, once again.  I desperately wanted to roast marshmallows, but apparently I still had ten million more hours of work to do so my mother wouldn't let me. 
  • Corral Cleaning 
    • With  a couple hundred head of cattle moving through the corrals quite frequently, it is important that they are cleaned out so that manure and other dirt or bedding doesn't pile up in them.  A manure hauling company is hired for a day to remove the piles of manure in corrals that my grandfather has pushed with the loader tractor.  This year, once the snow melted and everything started to dry, my grandfather was busy at work, even in the pastures, fixing ruts in the dirt which were the cause of a very long and snowy winter.  We want to make sure that all of our corrals and pastures are clean and safe for cattle to live in.  We love our animals, and we work hard for their protection and healthy living.
  • Cattle Vaccinations, Brandings & Castrations
  • Lady (the Border Collie) working. Notice how my father and our neighbor, Lorne, never really touch the animals or get to close, they try to let Lady do all the work.  By staying calm and not getting impatient, Lorne and Dad can keep the cattle slightly less stressed, which also creates less problems for them!
    • All three of these things happen in the spring, and it often takes the family and a couple of neighbors to get it all done!  If you check out my "All Things Agriculture" link you can learn all about castration.  My family hasn't had our branding/castrating yet so stay tuned for a story on that.  Just yesterday we did however give all of our cows shots.  After the cows calve, we treat them all for IBR, to prevent the disease from affecting the herd.  IBR - Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis - is a disease which occurs in the air passages of the head and the windpipe and can cause inflammation of the vulva and vagina, and can cause abortion in cattle.  If a cow is vaccinated while she is pregnant, it will also increase the chance of her aborting.  Because of the chance of abortion, we vaccinate all of our cattle with IBR in the spring, after they have calved and before we let the bulls out to decrease the chance of the cattle aborting.
    • When you bring the cattle into the corral to vaccinate, you have to first separate the cows from the calves.  This is probably one of the hardest parts about vaccinating because no mommy's ever want to leave their babies.  So, while one person opens and closes the gates, usually two other people work in the mix of the cattle, sending the mama cows to the gate and keeping the baby calves back.  Once the cows are separated from the calves, we split the cows into smaller groups, and send them down the runway where they line up head to tail.  This is where the cows are given their shots.  Just a quick shot in the neck.  It is fast when you have four or five in the run at once because you can just walk down the line and give them all their needles effectively.  My job is to bring four more cattle up each time one of the lines gets done.  I have to work the gates and make sure that there are always four ready to be put in the cattle run so that we can work as quickly as possible.  Cows kick.  Everyone knows this and everyone wants to avoid it.  This is why I find that being calm with the animals, and just trying to direct them using your body motion and the way you walk towards them is the best way of handling cattle.  When the cows are treated stress free, the process often moves quicker and the moms can be more quickly reunited with their babies!  
    • Our dog Lady plays a big role in the operation each and every time that we sort cattle.  Lady is our Border Collie, and being with the cattle is her life.  With her help we can always quickly bring cattle up to somewhere we want them to be.  Lady loves to ride in the tractor with Grandpa.  When Grandpa opens the gate and honks the horn of the tractor, Lady knows to move the cows away from the gate.  She then lies by the gate and makes sure that nothing leaves the field until Grandpa is out of the field with the tractor and is able to close the gate.  Check out the video above of Lady at work!!
    • Garden and Flower Beds
    • Grandpa and Grandma, working in the garden
      • My mother and Grandma share a MASSIVE garden.  I can't really complain, because I do love the fresh vegetables and fresh raspberries, but I don't particularly like working in the garden.  With spring, the garden and the flower beds need to be cleaned out and planted in preparation for the summer.  With the garden, my grandpa always has to rotatill it the soil to prepare it for the seeding.  This breaks up the dirt and whatever dead plant matter may be on the surface.  As well, this works to get rid of some of the weeds.  The weeds growing in the flower beds need to be pulled out and new flowers put in their place.  And then comes the seeding of the garden.  Grandma, the garden supervisor, is always very proud of her garden and her plants, so she takes her time deciding what should be planted where.  Sometimes it takes quite a few hours to get the entire garden planted! If you want a garden and live in the city, it is still possible!  Why not have a raised bed garden in your backyard, or try one of the community gardens! If you want some tips on planting a garden, or if you're from the city and want to know how you can have a garden, check out this site - Canadian Gardening
    So there you have it folks.  Just a little idea of just what we on the farm do for spring cleaning.  It's quite a lot, and the work can be long and hard, but I wouldn't give it up for the world.  I love where I live, I love what we do, and nothing could change that!

    Thanks for checkin' in!!


    Monday, 9 May 2011

    All Things Agriculture! - Castration Education

    Happy Monday everybody!

    So instead of writting an official blog post today I decided to give you a little castration education.  So click on the All Things Agriculture tab above, scroll down a little ways and you will see a special castration edition! Check it out! 

    Happy reading!

    <3 Sam

    Sunday, 8 May 2011

    Mommy Mayhem

    Today is a day to celebrate mommys everywhere.  And that is exactly what I did.  I woke up early this morning so that I could write a nice card for my mom, just a small way of letting her know just how much she means to me.  I won't get onto a long explanation of just how fantastic my mother is, because it would take me a lifetime to explain it, and I have much to say in this blog.  All you need to know, is that I have the best mother in the world, as I am sure many of you would say about your own mothers.  My mother is amazing, she works so hard to give my family the best life ever, and she always tries her very hardest to help others out.  She's genuine and sweet.  I love my mama. 

    Now onto the other mamas.

    I woke up early this morning to head to the Ponoka Community Golf Course where I spent the morning serving numerous moms at the special Mother's Day Brunch.  It was so nice to see so many families out with their mothers, happy and thankful for what they do.  I think that is what should happen.  Quite often, especially in the case of my mom, mothers spend 364 days of the year putting their kids first and running around after their kids, today should be to honor them, even though I know they deserve so much more. 

    When I finished my shift of serving tons of mommy's, I was greeted at home by both of my Grandma's, my aunt and her family, and my mom.  It was so awesome to be able to honor all the important moms in my life, all in the same place.  I love family time more than anything in this world.

    But enough about my mommys, I have so many more for you to meet, and many more that we need to honor.

    First come the cow mamas.  On our farm we have roughly 200 mommy cows that we calve out each year, starting in late February and usually going to the end of May. (Note: when I say "calve out" I mean we breed 200 cows so they then have their babies on the farm.  A cow giving birth is called calving, so when we talk about calving and our number of cows we say "calve out").  Today we had to honor 200 mommy cows as well.  When talking about cattle, the mother is called a cow, the father a bull, and the baby a calf.  But it doesn't stop there!!! Female and male calves have different names too!  A female calf is called a heifer, and this name stays with them until they have their first baby.  A male calf is born as a bull, however, you have probably often heard the term "steer".  A steer is a bull calf that has been castrated (aka lost his manly parts, or testicles).  If you want to know why we castrate calves check out the "All Things Agriculutre" tab tomorrow, and I will feature a story on why we do what we do, I can promise it will be nutty...  On our farm all of our male calves become steers, and I will explain why that is in the story so check it out!
    Mommy cows usually spend most of their career making babies... well actually, that is their career.  The minute they stop making babies they usually get sent to the auction mart.  On our farm the cows usually spend roughly 9 months being pregnant, and they usually have their first calf when they are 24 months of age.  After calving the calves are most dependent on their moms from birth to about three months old, for beef cows that is.  Dairy calves are usually taken away from their mamas at a day or two old.  Poor babies.  We usually wean our calves (separate them from their moms) in eary October, when they are anywhere from 180 - 210 days old, 6-8 months.  By the time that the calves are weaned the mama cows are already bred again.  Mama cows usually get bred two to three months after they calve! 

    So now that you know all about the cattle, and the mommy cows it is time to introduce you to more mommys on our farm!

    Dutch and Dixie - Our German Shepards
    Dutch is our oldest dog on the farm and at 12 years old she has had two batches of puppies, Dixie being one of her babies.  Dutchie was a good mama, and she loved having babies so much that one spring she stole a couple of baby kittens from the barn and put them in her dog house to stay with her!  Dixie was also a mommy on our farm, and although her puppies were all given away, she was still a good mommy!  
    A mother dog is called a bitch (not meaning to swear, unfortunate title really) and a father is called a dog.  The babies are called pups, and boy are they cute!
    Dogs have a gestation of 9 weeks, approximately 63 days, and the pups rely on their mother the most during the first three weeks.  At 7-14 days their eyes open and they begin becoming more independent.  Puppies can be weaned from their mothers between 3 to 8 weeks after birth. 
    The puppy is Tucker, he is Dixie's baby, and Dutch's grandson.  Dixie is the dark brown German Shepard lying on the grass, Dutch is the lighter German Shepard sitting up, and Lady is the Border Collie, the dog who thinks she is human.  The father is the neighbors dog, we would never say it to their face, but the puppies were an accident.

     The cool thing about mother dogs is that the same litter of puppies can have different fathers!  Female dogs are capable to conceive each time that they get mated!  Half of the litter can look like one dad and the other half the other dad!  Try explaining that one to the husband, hunny I swear some of the babies are yours!
    These three puppies were out of the same litter, all belonging to Dixie.  This shows you that yes indeed puppies can have different dads and still be born in the same litter.  Zoe and Tucker were born with short tails, short hair, and Mia had long hair, and a long tail! Crazy!
    And now for the kitties!
    It seems as though every year our cats are the most active mommys around the farm.  The cats teach their babies all about being independent and fending for themselves, cats don't really need to rely on humans, domesticated or not.  A male cat is called a Tom cat, and a female a Queen.  The babies of course are kittens, and I can honestly say baby kitties are one of the cutest baby animals in the world!  Mother cats spend 63-65 days in gestation, and the babies are usually weaned by five weeks of age.  Just like puppies, the kittens are born with their eyes closed, and their eyes open between 5 and 8 days.  Kittens were the light of my life when I was little, "kitty" was my first real word!  I used to spend hours in our hayloft every minute I was home in the hayloft playing with the baby kitties and watching them attack one another and play all day and then curl up with the other kittens for a snooze.  A big bonus to living on the farm is being able to have baby kittens every year and then picking from the litters the two or three that I want to keep before we give them away to the neighborhood farms!

    A male duck is called a Drake, a female is called a Duck, and the babies are called Ducklings.  A few years ago a wild duck made a small nest under a spruce tree in my grandma's yard.  If we ever went out there we could see her out there tending to her eggs.  Watching baby ducks follow their mama around is such a site to see!  The duck has to worry about so many little babies at once, and Jon and Kate thought they had it bad!  Just watch the video I posted in my blog a few days ago, and you can see the determination of the mother duck while she gathers up her babies that have been swept away in the wind!  

    After a duck lays her eggs she usually spends about 23-28 days sitting on them before they hatch!And then the cute ducklings appear and can stay with their mother their entire life in the flock, but usually are done relying on their mother at 12 weeks.

    A male chicken is called a rooster, and many people wake up with him.  A female is a hen, and a baby is a chick.  Chicks are often raised in incubators (a warm lamp used in place of a hen) and are raised away from their mothers when on farms.  Hens normally sit on their eggs for 20 -22 days.  If you have ever had the chance to hold a chick, or touched a chick, you will know that they are one of the softest baby animals ever!  Their little feathers are like silk, and they are cute little balls of fluff!

    Piglets are the babies.  Another one of the cutest baby animals in the world... If you're sensing a trend, yes, I do believe that every baby animal is the cutest in the world.  It just depends which animal I am seeing at the time.  A mother pig is called a sow, and a father a boar.  Some animals stay cute as they age, I tend to feel that pigs are not one of those animals, they lose the cute.  A pig has a gestation period of 112-115 days and the babies can usually be weaned from 14 to 28 days old.  Mama pigs can have anywhere between 8 and 14 babies, imagine looking after that litter, that mama's house must be a pig sty... :)    

    There are many more animals out there that I would love to talk about and inform you of, but I am just a little out of time and don't know how much more you can handle reading, so if you have a question I would love to check it out for you and write you a story about it!!

    I hope you enjoyed the special "Mommy Mayhem" edition, now enjoy the rest of your day with your mommys!!

    <3 Sam