Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Threat Down: Moo-shu Man Milk?

At our home Dad's favorite morning "news" source comes through a show called The Colbert Report. It is an interesting show to say the least. Usually I find the show a bit ridiculous but when I seen a taped episode today something caught my attention on the threat down..... Moo-shu Man Milk!!!

Moo-shu Man Milk?!?!?!? I thought, what the heck is that!! It is milk made from implanting the human breast milk gene into cows so they give different milk. Chinese scientist have created it in attempts to find better ways to feed our growing world population.

I definitely understood what was happening but I didn't really understand why so like always I asked and did some research. Dad used an analogy that I could understand easily that I will share with you. In the dairy the calves are taken away from their moms at birth so that their mothers can go immediately into production towards the farm. We milk out the mothers for the first time and feed the calves their moms milk because it is a special type of milk called colostrum. Colostrum is necessary for the calf to receive in the first 24 hours because it is packed full of antibodies that will help the calves fight away diseases such as scours. Some farms however use an artificially made milk called milk replacer, which can get the job done but isn't ideal. Breast milk for human babies is believed to be similar in quality as colostrum verse milk replacer (or baby formula for humans!). Since it is a new project there isn't much tested for benefits verse downfalls and little is known about the process. I also find it interesting that Canadians are not allowed to test these practices where the Chinese do it freely, morals come into question of course and it is hard to know where to draw the line. What do you think about this?

On a side note this is what my Dad thinks: "It's cool that they have made this accomplishment but if I was to make a genetically modified Holstein and bred her and everything else I would have, at sometime, dehorned her before the video!"  haha got to love Dad!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Interesting New Article!



Global action plan aims to rein in surging food prices

Agriculture ministers representing both the world’s advanced and emerging economies have agreed on an action plan to combat out-of-control global food prices, which have been growing steadily more volatile since 2008.

Central to the plan is the creation of an Agricultural Market Information System that will log public and private commodity holdings, according to a draft copy of the declaration obtained by The Globe and Mail.

The system is designed to increase transparency and stability in world markets by opening a window into the level of food stocks held by participating nations and agri-food conglomerates, companies that buy huge volumes in international markets but do not disclose data on their holdings. Several nations, including China and parts of Europe, are similarly secretive about the quantity of food they maintain. Many argue this has clouded attempts to accurately judge the gap between global food supply and demand, exacerbating the market volatility that G20 agriculture ministers will gather in Paris to discuss next week.
The meeting will be the first of its kind: French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who holds the G20 presidency, asked the agriculture ministers to convene last year after an extreme period of food price volatility that set off riots in Africa and the Middle East. It came on the heels of a price crisis in 2008 that prompted similar outbreaks in Haiti, Egypt and elsewhere.

The ministers’ response to Mr. Sarkozy’s request was, at first, cool. For this reason, policy advisers say the action plan officials sketched out represents a remarkable consensus.
“It’s a very positive step that they tried to grapple with this issue because it [volatility] is a new issue and one that needs new solutions, not old ones,” said Stuart Clark, a senior policy adviser with the Canada Foodgrains Bank, a non-government food aid group.
The launch of an emergency humanitarian food reserve system that will be administered by the World Food Program to mitigate volatility and ensure rapid access to food for vulnerable populations is one of those solutions; the ministers also pledged to remove “food export restrictions or extraordinary taxes for food purchased for non-commercial humanitarian purposes,” and to support better regulation of agriculture futures and derivatives markets. Details of the latter task, though, will be left to the G20 finance ministers.
A big disappointment for observers of the process was the ministers’ position on biofuels: The group agreed to conduct further analysis on the industry’s impact on food prices despite the fact that an analysis commissioned by the group and completed by a coalition of 10 intergovernmental agencies linked increased biofuel production with volatility.

Also missing from the declaration, which pledges more resources to boost agricultural production and research, was mention of the need for the development of climate-smart agriculture.
“If you don’t put a climate-smart lens around it, you might simply suggest that we need more of what we do here: large-scale, energy-intensive, input-intensive agriculture,” Mr. Clark said. “I think it’s pretty clear we need to take a look at that.”
More worrisome to critics of the declaration is the absence of vital details on how private agri-food companies will be persuaded to submit to the agricultural information system.
“Those businesses depend on secrecy in order to do their business – their interest is … in a very different point from where the public interest lies,” said Sophia Murphy, a senior adviser to the global Institute for Agriculture and Trade policy and the United Nations. “They’re right to acknowledge how important the private sector is … we all agree more information would be better,” she said. “Just asking the public sector to tell us what they have is not going to cut it.”
International organizations, including Ms. Murphy’s, the Foodgrains bank and Oxfam, were hoping the ministers would advocate for the buildup of buffer stocks in vulnerable countries.
“If you have stocks, you manage volatility right away,” Ms. Murphy said. “You secure physical food against hunger.”

Ms. Murphy is concerned that underdeveloped countries will remain disconnected from international markets under the new plan. Risk management programs the ministers are advocating are designed to help smooth those countries’ entry into markets. But Ms. Murphy said she is skeptical of their value given the high cost of similar programs such as farm income supports to taxpayers in Canada and the United States.
“They cost a huge amount of public money,” she said. “How all of this is meant to work in countries that have no money and have 80 per cent of their country farming … I question how realistic this is,” she said.
Mark Fried, a policy expert with Oxfam Canada, said those types of small farmers Ms. Murphy refers to do not factor in the draft as equal participants in the global food system. That is despite the fact they feed one-third of the world’s people.
“There is nothing there to make [the action plan] accessible or useful to smallholders,” he said. “It’s a broad, global approach geared to large actors. It may or may not be the way forward for the people that are hungry today.”

Monday, 13 June 2011

Thursday, 9 June 2011

In Perfect Harmony Part 2

As promised! :) The second difference in the lifestyles of Dairy vs Beef come in the facilities/ areas they are kept in.

On our dairy the cattle are kept in a free stall barn during the winter and get "pastured" during the summer. The beef cattle however are always out in the open on pasture. In the winter they are of course fed hay and supplementary feeds but they are always there!

Simmentals out on pasture

Holsteins headed to the summer pasture

Free stall barn for the winter

When looking after any animal whether it a Holstein, Simmental, or even a horse :), there are many factors to take into consideration. Each facility must have available drinking water for the animals at all times. Both cattle breeds are provided this at our place via an automatic water. Shelter also comes into place. As we all know winters can get pretty cold in Alberta so there has to be a place where the cattle can relax and be warm. That's why out in our pastures we have sheds for the beef cattle and the dairy cattle are kept in the free stall. In the free stall the cattle have the option of being inside or out protecting them from the elements and in the pasture the beef have the shelters!!! You also have to make sure that the facilities are safe for your animals. To do so we check all the fences regularly, keep facilities clean and dry, and check daily for anything that may cause harm. This has been part 2 of in perfect harmony!!! More to come later! Please feel free to ask any questions that may come to mind!!!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

In Perfect Harmony

Cows, cows, cows! So many cows! For the most part I think we all know the basic differences between dairy cattle and beef cattle. Dairy are for milk, beef are for meat. Plain and simple. Even though we know that however, how much do we truly know about the differences in the way they exist on the farm?! Fear not for I am here to educate you! :)

The first difference starts from birth. On our farm the Simmentals(Beef) calve out at the end of April/ beginning of May where as our Holsteins(Dairy) calve year round. The Simmental calves are raised on pasture with there moms where the Holstein calves are raised by hand!

A Simmental calf with his momma!

Feeding the Holsteins in the barn!

The Simmentals are raised with there moms because it is more economical for us to do so that way as well as easier! The Holstein calves however need to be fed because their moms are being milked to sell as .... well milk! At our farm we still feed them milk from our "bucket cows". At some farms milk replacer is used to feed them at all times. Tune in tomorrow to learn more about the differences :)

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Terminator!

The cattle mommas around our house aren't the only new moms with little mouths too feed!! As promised here is the picture of our fox at the log pile and a few of her little ones (there is six of them!!!!). Lets just say I'd sure hate to be a gopher these days :) !

Friday, 3 June 2011

Learn the Lingo

"Every last one, route one, rural hearts got a story to tell. Every Grandma, In-Law, Ex-Girlfriend maybe knows it just a little too well. Whether you're late for church or AT THE 4-H SALE, hey words gonna get around. Everybody dies famous in a small town!" - Miranda Lambert (Kinda!)

What does good kids, good food, and good cattle all have in common?... They were all at the 2011 Eckville & District Show and Sale on Wednesday June 1, 2011!!!! :) Normally in a post like this I would merely tell you what the going ons at the show was but this year there is a much bigger story. A story about success of the underdogs, which I know everybody enjoys! The Grand Champion at our show was a breed that maybe some of you are not familiar with, a Buelingo! and to tell you the truth I wasn't that familiar with the breed either! After a little research however, (most of which consisted of talking to a very knowledgeable young lady, Jordan Hainsworth) I learned a few things about these intriguing animals! They are a composite breed made from several other different breeds, the main two in them however is the breed called Lakenvelder (more commonly called Dutch Belted) and Angus. The were founded in North Dakota by a man named Russell Bueling, hence the name Buelingo. When I was speaking with Jordan (who is now in her 7th year of 4-H!) she mentioned that she has always been asked crazy questions about her cattle such as are they from India! She said it is extremely hard to get people to take them seriously as hardly anyone has heard of them and the judges at shows sometimes don't even know what they are. Jordan and her younger sister Madison (4th year 4-H member) didn't give up on the breed however and it paid off! Maddy and Ned won the show on Wednesday taking Grand Champion honors and Jordan stood on top of her class with her Purebred Buelingo Gizmo. I think these young ladies should be extremely proud and we could all learn a valuable lesson from them. It's important to stick to what you do and on top of that to be proud of it. When we think about it all breeds really go through similar difficulties, even Angus, arguably the most popular breed right now, weren't always on top. Another point to keep in mind is that the more we know about other cattle breeds, including those that aren't as popular, the more we can learn about ours. Knowing about other breeds keeps your eyes open to alway be improving upon your own. This really is what the industry is about!!

Want to know more about Buelingos? You can "learn the lingo" at The Official Website of The Buelingo Beef Cattle Society

I encourage you to check this out and take this opportunity to learn about this amazing breed!! :)

Jordan at the top of her class!

Jordan congratulating her sister!

Madison and Ned - 2011 Eckville & District Show Champion

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Are you hungry?

As we all know farmers feed the world. That's why I think it is our responsibilty to be up to date on world hunger issues and what better day to be aware then on May 31, 2011 - National Hunger Awareness Day

There IS hunger in Canada

In 2010, close to 900,000 people were assisted each month by a food bank in Canada. This was 9% higher than in 2009 and 28% higher than in 2008. Thanks in large part to the effects of the recession, in 2009, 72,000 people per month walked through the doors of a food bank for the first time.

There IS hunger in Canada because...

Too many Canadians do not have enough income to pay for rent, bills, clothing for growing children, transportation, medication – and food. Food is unfortunately one of the most flexible household expenses, and it is often nutrition that suffers when money is tight.

Facts 2010

How many are being helped by food banks?
       - Number of people assisted by a food bank in March 2010:  867,948 - the highest level on record

          - Number helped by food banks for the first time: 80,150 - 9% of the total

     - Change in food bank use since 2009: + 9 %

  - Change in food bank use since 2000:  + 19 %

     - Number of meals served by food banks in March 2010: 
3,459,544 - 6.4% higher than 2009

     - Number of food banks in Canada:  
900+ food banks and 2,900+ affiliated agencies
     - Provinces that experienced the largest increases in use compared to 2009:

          - Manitoba (+ 21%)
          - Saskatchewan (+ 20%)
          - Prince Edward Island (+ 13%)
          - Quebec (+ 12%)
          - Nova Scotia (+ 11%)
          - Alberta (+ 10%)

     - Number of provinces & territories without a food bank:  0

     - Years since Canada’s first food bank opened in Edmonton:  29

Who are food banks helping?
     - 38% of those helped are children and youth
     - 51% of assisted households are families with children
     - 38% are single people
     - 11% are couples without children
     - 17% of assisted households have income from current or recent employment
     - 15% receive disability-related income supports
     - 7% are on a pension
     - 51% receive social assistance benefits
     - 85% live in rental accommodations
     - 6% own their own home

If you would like to learn more or learn how you can help please visit Hunger Awareness Day - Make a Change! or Food Banks Canada - About Hunger

Monday, 30 May 2011

Tools for Life

Growing up on the farm you gain a lot of experience that forces you to develop desirable traits as a human being. I think any farmer/rancher would tell you that these include the need for a good work ethic, compassion, and responsibility. I believe however that the most important characteristic you gain is a sense of community. We live in a time where, as farmers, we sometimes have to look out for and look after each other.... and we do. That's why when our community is plagued with loss everyone bands together to make a difference. Most people think that this is simple such as helping out a neighbour who lost some buildings in the wind storm, and it does, but it also means so much more. Recently our community has been hit hard with losses due to cancer. My family is lucky and has never lost anyone to the disease but we know a lot of people around where we live who have or whom is struggling with it at the moment. This is why when the "Relay for Life" came to Rocky Mtn House my friends and I decided to make a team and fund raise. I realize that it doesn't fix anything for the people who have already dealt with the pain but hopefully the funds will go to helping understand cancer better and to an eventual cure. The community did a wonderful job and raised over one hundred and sixty thousand dollars! We then spent our weekend walking around the football field in Rocky and remember those who have lost the battle with cancer. It was an emotional but worthwhile way to spend a weekend and gives us hope for the future. I think that growing up in a rural community really promotes this type of effort to help others as we learn the value of the people around us. By working with others around us we truly can overcome obstacles that would be impossible on our own. Together everyone truly does achieve more.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Wealth of a Nation

Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own. 
 - Samuel Johnson

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

4-H Looks Good On You!

In my last article I talked mainly on the importance of marketing and as an example I used the Eckville Show and Sale Catalog. I realized today however that I didn't do a very good job on explaining 4-H Show and Sales and what they are really or why we are marketing ourselves for them. When a 4-H member is involved in the market steer project what happens is we essentially raise a beef animal to go to market. We feed them so they finish on time and throughout the year learn proper techniques on how to care for them, sort of like animal husbandry stuff. We learn about implant usage, what different feeds do for the animal, health care practices and general management/ monitoring of our projects. At Show and Sale we compete in skill competitions, such as grooming and showmanship (our ability to "show off" the animal), and our animals also compete against each other in conformation classes. We work all year long towards this day to accomplish our goals and hopefully make a profit. We market ourselves for a better chance at premium prices and to help people understand the effort put into these projects. The sales catalog however is not the only way marketing is used throughout the sale. Before the sale we market by putting ads on the radio and the newspaper. These state that our leaders are always available to talk to potential buyers and anyone interested in just what we are doing. As a member I also go and personally talk to my previous buyers and new businesses in the area to invite them to the sale and to explain to them the importance of 4-H. we have Show and Sale committees set up to make the sale as "user friendly" as possible for anyone wanting to support the 4-H members. For example at our show and sale we have many options for buyers, if you don't want to have all that meat but want to support 4-H we have a buy back price. It is just a set market price that the calf you purchased will be "bought back" at and that way you don't have to worry about the hassle of finding a home for all the meat. At our Show and Sale you don't even have to own a trailer in order to buy an animal. We have transportation options after the sale for all buyers at their disposal and for no extra cost. Another cool option we have at ours is we make it extremely easy for friends/ neighbours/ companies to split a calf. Meaning that simply you get a partner in crime and go to the sale, pick a calf and each of you pay for half of it. That way you don't have to spend as much money if you're a smaller business and it is easier to work with the meat afterwards. I'm not sure what other clubs and their show and sales do for their buyers but these are just examples of what we do. Marketing is also used after the sale. The 4-H clubs always have a pull out section in our local newspaper with pictures of all the kids with their calves and a list of who the buyers were. Additionally most kids put a personal thank-you to their buyers in the paper as well. When you purchase a calf at the show you get handed a handwritten thank-you card with a picture of the member and their calf in it. I also like to get a picture with my buyer and my calf and talk to them a bit about 4-H and my project. Buyers aren't our only focus though. We also try to welcome the general public. After the show, before the sale the stalls are open to anyone who would like to go take a look. At this time we try to hang around our projects as much as possible to talk to anyone with questions. The atmosphere on show day is great for anyone just looking for a way to spend some quality time with friends! Our announcers always try to incorporate the crowd and keep them interested and our judges are always super informative on why they are choosing what calves. I know that when my brother/ dad and I go check out other shows we like to place the calves ourselves in the stands and have farmers bets! Good clean family fun! It's a great way to expose younger kids to 4-H and really shows teamwork within our clubs! I strongly encourage you just to go check out a show and sale just to see what it is like! I promise it will be a unforgettable experience!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

On the Market

Noun: The action or business of promoting and selling products or services.
I'm sure that in our life times we have all been told something along the lines of "it's extremely important to market yourself" or even something simple as "is that how you want others to see you?". This is because marketing plays a role in almost every aspect of life. Simply from letting people know who you want to be to running a major corporation, marketing plays a role. When most people "on the outside" think about agriculture I don't think they understand how much business sense really goes into it. If you've ever bought food after watching a commercial on it, for example, you've seen agricultural related marketing at work and even bought into it! Most farms have names and business cards, marketing at work. We get tons of magazines a year such as Cowsmopolitan, Cattlemen, and Northern Horse Review, marketing at work. The examples can go on and on and on because, well marketing is important! In 4-H about 4 years ago I was put in charge of the sales catalog, and boy was it an eye opening experience. Everything from collecting the pictures and write-ups to contacting printers to search for the best prices was different then I thought. The saying really holds true that you don't know how much work goes into something until you have tried it! Anyways I cut some deals and shook some hands and came up with my first sales catalog in 2008. It was just a standard green paper sales catalog but regardless I was pretty proud. The main thing about marketing is, however, that you always have to be improving. I tried to improve the sales catalog each year and on top of that encourage my club to write their blurbs better while improving my own as well. The catalog definitely improved and is now on glossy paper with a better design that looks much more professional! The write ups are slowly getting better and the juniors most certainly have improved! It's great to see!

The Sales Catalogs Through the Years

Me with 2011 Sales Catalogs!

If you are interested in checking out some sales and seeing how everyone is marketing themselves check out this link Alberta 4-H Livestock 2011 Show and Sales. It'll tell you all the dates, times, and places! :). My Show and Sale is on June 1, 2011 at the Eckville Arena. The show starts at 1:00, there is a free 4-H appreciation supper at 4:30 followed by the sale at 6:00.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Show Must Go On

Every May long my family and I usually like to take in Carolines Big Horn Rodeo, this May long, however things have been different. It was cancelled due to Equine Herpes, and it's not the only event facing a similar outcome. This made me wonder exactly what Equine Herpes is? I search through a few articles and here is the one I found most informative and least boring! It is from standardbredcanada.ca.


Neurotropic Equine Herpes Virus -1 Update

Equine Canada’s Health and Welfare Committee is notifying horse owners that Neurotropic Equine Herpes Virus-1 (nEHV-1) has been reported in horses in the United States, with confirmed cases in Alberta (1) and suspected cases British Columbia (3). This is the neurological strain of Equine Herpes Virus 1 (EHV 1). Outbreaks of nEHV-1 are contagious and have a high risk of mortality.
It is believed the initial cases were in horses attending a cutting horse show in Ogden, Utah, held April 29 to May 8, 2011, and that horses exposed to the virus at this competition have played a role in reported cases elsewhere.
The horse in Alberta did not attend the cutting horse competition. The horses in British Columbia, which all reside on the same farm, did. Quarantine and biosecurity procedures have been established and no secondary cases have been reported at this time, on this farm.
Please note that the nEHV-1 cases reported in British Columbia have not been confirmed by laboratory testing, but through clinical diagnosis. The three British Columbia horses that returned from the Odgen show developed neurological disease and are being treated intensively as if they had nEHV-1. Strict biosecurity procedures have been put in place to prevent spread of this disease from this farm.
Update from Alberta
There is one confirmed nEHV-1 case, which showed neurologic signs on May 1, 2011 and was isolated at that time. This horse did not attend the Utah show but was in direct contact with the horses attending the above stated show before they left Canada. This horse has been under veterinary care and is recovering very well and is in no danger. The origin of the source of contact for this horse remains unknown.
• As of May 18, 2011 there is one yearling confirmed positive for EHV-1, which showed only respiratory signs of the disease similar to normal influenza infections. This horse was in direct contact with tack from the horses returning from Utah. This horse is under treatment and isolation and is in no danger as this time.
• As of May 18, 2011 there is an additional confirmed positive case of a horse returning from Utah, which showed a mild transitory respiratory disease. This horse is under isolation and treatment and is in no danger.
• There are six–eight tests pending on horses similar to the above horse, which have attended the Utah show and have experienced mild respiratory disease. We expect some of these horses to have a positive test and have taken this into account on our comments below.
Therefore, at this time, there have been no horses affected in the province of Alberta or British Columbia that were not either at the Utah show or in direct contact with these horses, either before or after their return. The incubation period for this disease can be as long as 21 days but normally symptoms show within the first 10-14 days. Presently, we are within the 10-14 day timeframe.
Measures that have been taken
• Competitions involving the horses directly affected by the Utah Show have been cancelled by the Cutting Horse Association until further notice.
• All of the participants attending the Utah show have been notified and asked to isolate their horses.
• The Chief Provincial Veterinarian is gathering all information, monitoring the disease and is looking into the epidemiology of EHV-1 in Alberta at this time.
Ongoing recommendations
• All horse owners have been asked to carry out normal biosecurity protocols, which can be found on many websites, including that of the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association.
• Any horse owner who has potentially been in contact with this group of horses should monitor the temperature of their horses twice daily for 14-21 days post exposure and discuss any abnormalities with their veterinarian.
• The protection afforded by vaccination is debatable and we recommend that horse owners discuss it with their veterinarian, as every horse is unique and requires a different vaccination protocol.
The following is a statement from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)
Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) is a disease present in Canada and is not a federally controlled disease. Subsequently, in accordance with international guidelines, CFIA has no authority for requesting certification related to this disease from the United States Department of Agriculture when importing horses from the United States (U.S.). Import conditions for all horses entering Canada from the U.S. will not be changed in relation to the recent reports of EHV cases in the U.S.
However, as always, imported horses need to comply with all current Canadian import conditions. In addition, arrival of unwell horses at the border can affect the import process.
Equine Canada is working with the offices of Canada’s chief veterinarians to monitor the situation and keep members abreast of developments. They will post new information and status updates regarding nEHV-1 on their website at http://www.equinecanada.ca/.
Outbreak control of nEHV-1 is dependent on proper biosecurity or containment strategies. Owners are encouraged to speak with their veterinarian if they have additional concerns or questions.

Equine Herpes seems like a very serious issue and I hope they get it under control soon. I'm not too concerned about my own horse as she does not leave the farmstead very often. I think it's extremely important that whether or not we are big into the actual horse industry we take the time to understand what is going on. Horses are a big part of rural life such as using them for pleasure, ranch work, and simply as pets. The risk is low for horses like ours and maybe yours too but it is still important to know about the issues so that we can keep them completely safe. It's our responsibility. As for rodeos and other events that are going on, I think it is respectable that they take the necessary precautions to keep the animals safe and I realize that soon or later the show will go on :)!

Our Horses at the Farm

Any comments from people who are highly involved in the horse industry? What does everyone else think?

Friday, 20 May 2011

Tossing a Fruit Salad

My first thought when I saw the headline "China farmers face exploding watermelon problem" on BBC News was... WHAT!?! Their fruit is exploding?.... How can this be!?.... so I did what I always do, investigated. Here is what I found:
 Recently in Eastern China local farmers have been facing a new problem, their watermelon are literally spontaneously exploding! An investigation by state media found that farms in Jiangsu province have lost acres of fruit because of this problem. What's causing it? Apparently the overuse of a new chemical that helps fruit grow faster is the culprit. According to China Central Television, farmers were over spraying their crops with the growth promoter in hopes that they could get their fruit to market ahead of peak season. This of course would increase their profits! China approved the usage of the growth chemical under certain quotas and tests show that, so far, the chemical is safe. We are all aware however that the public is increasingly concerned about food safety. Experts say that a quality tracking system should be introduced that would detail every stage along the food chain. This would allow the public to be fully aware of where there food is coming from and ensure food safety.

This makes me think a lot about where our food is coming from and allows me to see the importance of buying locally as much as possible. Not only does buying our fruit and veggies at places such as farmers markets allow us to support agriculture in our own communities but it also provides more of a safeguard on what we are eating. It also is a small step towards making sure agricultural experts in other places around the world know that we want the highest quality without sacrificing health. When something goes wrong in other places of the world we are affected merely because of the media coverage available and the sheer number of people who tune it. People don't always understand that, in Canada things are slightly different. We don't necessarily use the same chemicals as China does. Therefore farmers everywhere need to be aware of the effects that their methods have on the rest of the world. Not to mention, you can get some really delicious products locally :)!!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Thank Goodness I'm Country

So lately I've been seeing people do alot of things like Wordless Wednesday or Question & Answer Days so I thought maybe, just maybe I'd create something cool of my own. I'm calling it "Thank Goodness I'm Country" and everyday it's just going to be a picture of everday country life on our farm. Hopefully it'll help give people a real virtual look at everyday life. They are pictures that just show why I truly appreciate growing up as a rural girl. It'll show everyone exactly why the country is so beautiful. I'm proud to be a farmers daughter and it's time everyone get the opportunity to see why through my eyes! I hope you enjoy it! Check out the first one under the new tab "T.G.I.C" :)

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Go Count Your Chickens

May means many things on the farm, calving time, the beginning of 4-H shows, spreading manure on the fields, general maintenance to get ready for summer and much more. Every 5 years however another task is tacked on, it's time for a census! The Census of Agriculture is a questionnaire designed to create an "up to date snap shot" of agriculture in Canada. It aims to collect useful data that will benefit in decision making for our countries agricultural industry. Questions cover topics such as land use, crops, livestock, agricultural labour,machinery and equipment, farm finances and land management practices. The depth of
coverage is said to allow the census to be a definitive source of information on the agricultural sector. I have heard a lot about the census lately mostly in the form of grumbling and wondering "what is it good for?'. The farm industry, as a whole, benefits from census data in many ways. It's actively used by agricultural producer group to inform their members about industry trends and developments. By knowing exactly whats going on in our country agriculturally it makes it easier to make international trad negotiations. Governments use census data to make decisions about programs, policies, transportation and marketing services. The ability to have a solid understanding of where we are now and where we have come from allows a greater control in facing the issues of today and tomorrow.Participation by in the Census of Agriculture allows everyone to have a voice. It will help to understand our present situation and assist in taking charge of tomorrow’s challenges. It will help to identify trends, issues, opportunities and challenges within the agricultural community and is "the backbone of Canada’s agricultural statistics program- Erik Dorff of Statistics Canada".


Sunday, 15 May 2011

Never Grow Up

I am just going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing most of you know the country music artist that goes by the name Taylor Swift, right?! I absolutely love her and I believe it is because of my age, her songs are just relateable to the stage of life I am in. A song off her new albumn titled Never Grow Up has lyrics that go a little something like this:

Oh, darling, don't you ever grow up, don't you ever grow up
Just stay this little
Oh, darling, don't you ever grow up, don't you ever grow up
It could stay this simple

I was listening to this song and realized for the first time that time really does fly by. Although the song isn't exactly what I'm going to talk about it's what brought it to my attention :)! Recently I attended one of my best buddies grad and it hit me, I'm growing up and have to be responsible and it's really scary! Just the pure fact of graduating and growing up is probably the most stressful (yet exciting!) moment I have ever encountered. What also hit me though was that I know I'm going to be okay. I met my friend that I'm speaking of through 4-H and have known her for years now. I think we are able to stay so close is because of our strong rural roots. We understand where each other come from and often face similar challenges because of the situation we are in! Also if we run out of things to talk about we can just talk about cows!!! It makes growing up easier knowing that I have a whole support system made up of people who understand me. It just another truly important facet of my life that agriculture has provided me with. <3

Saturday, 14 May 2011


A question from one of my blog post readers asked how we deal with our gopher problems... but the truth is we haven't had this problem for a long time so I wasn't exactly sure how we did it!!! Don't fear though, I asked my Dad!!! and since it is a teenage girls instinct to not listen right away (or so I'm told) I also did some research to make sure he wasn't way off base! Basically what dad told me was that he used a rotational grazing method. When you rotational graze the grass doesn't get as clipped and it leaves it a lot taller. According to my research this could very well have helped!! The Richardson Ground Squirrel (AKA Gopher!) doesn't feel comfortable in the taller grass as they can't see predators as easily and therefore become easier prey. They much prefer shorter grass and flatter fields. Therefore all our gophers moved to the sheep pasture according to Dad! He isn't sure what happened next but I have a theory on it! A momma fox and her litter moved in shortly after all the gophers were forced into one area and we believe she was a little more then a good hunter... she was a GREAT one! This worked out for us as she never touched the lambs, chickens, or the beagles! Now I am quite aware that everyone can't be so lucky and that a fox could also cause problems around the farm. However thats how ours worked out and we haven't had gophers for years! If you look after your fields with rotational grazing however it will become and uncomfortable environment and the gophers will hopefully relocate so you are at least saving your machinery from them on your main fields! To get rid of them without effecting the ecosystem, however, would be simply impossible. There is a reason that your gopher population is at the number it is and thats because whatever is preying on them has maintained them to that certain number. However I do believe that it is one sacrifice for another, the gophers will find another place to live and you are taking good care of the land and grasses by using rotational grazing! I hope this answered the question fully :)! I tried to get you guys a picture of our fox, and usually we see her everyday at the log pile but as soon as the camera comes out she disappears! I'll keep trying and as soon as I do I'll post it for you guys!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

A River Runs Through It

In the last decade or so becoming environmentally friendly has became increasingly important. Cooperative planning and management of environmental resources has change from something an individual was doing to something organizations, communities, and other groups actively engage in. The prevention of habitat loss as well the facilitation of resource recovery/replenishment has become a HUGE deal! Programs that we are all aware of, like Ducks Unlimited Canada, tirelessly work to make our resources sustainable for both our benefit and the benefit of Canadian wildlife! I think that all the effort is remarkable and it is definitely our responsibility to preserve nature, however, I don't think this way because of being so exposed to environmental stewardship. Instead I think this way because it was how I was raised. The Lobstick Creek runs right through our land and we also deal with Open Creek, both of which we are very careful to look after. We have always let the trees grow around it for natural protection and for habitats for creatures. We don't pasture it 24/7 but instead only pasture near it at select times. And finally, we don't water from it but rather use a standard watering system. I believe that farmers play a huge role in looking after the environment. Even though many organizations do a wonderful job of cleaning up areas and ensuring habitats for wildlife the pure truth is that most ducks are raised in a pond somewhere, probably on a farmers field, and the most highways are cleaned by 4-Hers, usually but not exclusively from a rural background! We should be insanely proud of what we do! A clean, healthy environment is a important part of our lives and we should be contributors to the longevity of it's life.

Lobstick Creek!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Identity Theft?

With this new age of computers, credit cards, and technology a huge problem of losing your identity has surfaced. People simply steal away who you are. It weird to think about how easily we can change into someone else.... this leads me to the question "what defines a person?" I believe that rather then by your name or how you look you are defined by cumulative experiences in your life. Experience shapes you and slowly molds you into who you are. Life isn't about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself. For many rural kids holding on to who we are, I believe, becomes a challenge. Today I attended an advising session for Red Deer College... I know, what a scary thought!!! The biggest change that I initially noticed wasn't that the school was much larger then I'm use to or that it was surrounded by city rather then fields. The biggest change was the people I noticed around me. They weren't your typical David Thompson High School rural kids... instead there were people of all different types! I then continued onto my advising session where I met kids going into a similar program as I am.... They were all super cool but different. They come from towns and cities, not the farm! As we grow up I think it is going to be harder and harder to hold onto our roots. The rural in us might be carefully molded to become business men and women. If this isn't true identity theft, what is? Thats why I think it's extremely important to always remember where you come from! Embrace your love for agriculture and allow others into your world, don't conform to theirs! I proudly told those kids where I lived and what we do for a living. Rather then mentioning school sports as a hobby, I mentioned 4-H! I'm always going to be proud of where I come from and who I am! What makes you the most proud of your up-bringing?

Monday, 9 May 2011

What's in a name?

Some of you may have noticed that the name "From The Bleachers" doesn't seem to have much to do with agriculture and that's because.... well it doesn't! The name represents more of a tribute to the people who are on the outside looking in. It is for consumers and the average joe who are merely interested in stories about our world! It represents a place of learning, a place where you can be sitting on "The Bleachers" looking in and be offered the knowledge to understand the industry! Often we go to agricultural events and maybe don't fully understand exactly what we are watching. For example when I was in horse 4-H we participated in an event called trail. Basically you went through an obstacle course with your horse and it was judged on how well you managed! For years I watched and even participated in trail and never really knew why! Eventually I asked and even had the opportunity to attend a clinic on how to judge it which helped with my understanding. "From The Bleachers" represents times such as those. Where the thirst for knowledge is great but we maybe don't know where to find the faucet! It's also kind of like a Thank-You. We all understand that at a hockey game the fans sitting in the stands are extremely important to the game. They are what keeps the game going in fact! At a concert you almost always hear the artist thank their fans because the fans make or break them... the examples of this concept go on and on! Agriculture is no different. We would be nothing without our consumers and people who are purely interested in what we do! "From The Bleachers" welcomes them into our world and accepts that everyone needs to learn somewhere, just as we ourselves did! As the blog continues not only am I going to teach about things I know but I'm also going to explore things I know nothing of because I'm in the same boat as some of you and need to learn! What are some topics you would like to learn more about? Let me know and I will do my best to inform and get pictures from local agriculturalist! : )

Sunday, 8 May 2011

It's Mothers Day!

There are many types of farming endeavors around the world, but they all have one thing in common; an inherent dependence on Mother Nature. No matter what there always seems to be one thing to talk about between neighbours in a farming community, the weather. It seems that it is always too dry, too wet, too cold, or too hot! Although I realize this are legitimate problems as I grew up on the farm I think that more importantly it truly show just how much Mother Nature affects us! In the winter it is hard to clean out the barn as things will get frozen up... many hours have been spent chipping away at ice to run the gutter in the milking barn! In spring it is essential that the weather cooperates in order to have a more successful calving period. There is nothing worse then saving calves from the cold. In the summer haying is dependent on precipitation as you don't want to put up wet feed. The success on almost every type of farm is directly linked to the darn weather!!! You can't stop farmers though! Every year we all manage to work around it and keep things going! It truly is something to be proud of! So here's to you Mother Nature for always giving us something to talk about, and for keeping life interesting as we overcome the challenges you design!

Our farm today! Hello moisture!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Blazing Saddles

Well folks it's the "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports"! Yes, it is time for the Kentucky Derby! Time for women to appear in fine outfits lavishly accessorized with large elaborate hats drinking mint juleps, time for horses to be paraded before the grandstands as the University of Louisville's Marching Band plays "My Old Kentucky Home", and time for a lush blanket of 554 red roses to be placed on another champions back. The pageantry and prestige is truly a grand celebration of the tradition of horse racing. Many of you may not see the relevance to agriculture today but the test of speed and athletic ability of horses has been a huge part of building up to where we are now.

Western culture starts with cowboys racing away after a gun fight, ranchers used horses to rope calves needing treatment, and farmers used them as transportation and a form of "machinery". The burdens of our past farming challenges were carried on the shoulders of our equine companions! I enjoy all things horses. Roping, reining, or recreation....it's all good! I however didn't know much about racing in it's entirety. Lucky for me locals in my area, Darren and Marilyn Pollitt, race quarter horses! They own Shady Lane Stables located just outside of Leslieville AB! Darren and Marilyn, although modest, have been extremely successful in the Quarter Horse Racing industry. They are the prestigious breeders of It's All About Speed, a horse with a stellar performance record! It's All About Speed has accomplished the following:
  • Champion 2Yr Old AQHRA
  • 2006 & 2008 AQHA Canadian Champion
  • AQHA Superior Race Horse
  • Most money won by a Canadian horse
  • New track record at 400 yards

It's awesome to see such successful horse racers in my community and I'm planning on continuing to follow their success and keep you guys posted! :)

Friday, 6 May 2011

One Man's Junk, Another's Treasure

I think my Dad needs to join AA.... Auction sales Anonymous. Every time we let him go off to the sale he not only comes home with stories of what all the neighbours are up to but also with receipts for his latest purchases. He truly is addicted! Today we headed into Rimbey to pick up the latest "treasures". As we hit the highway stories of the endless possibilities related to this new found stuff are told. We could do this, we could do that and on and on and on. It's really kind of interesting to see a 40 year old man get so excited! Auction sales oddly enough are a huge part of our agricultural life. And even though it's true that Dad sometimes ends up with junk, we also find good bargains that are worth our money if we shop smartly! Dad always compares it (and by it, I mean himself!) to Captain Jack Sparrow off Pirates of the Caribbean and his ability to find treasure! He says, on a good day, a treasure hunting competition between Jack and himself would leave "the Blackhursts" victorious!.... One of his greatest qualities is modesty! Another great aspect of auction sales is the socializing! We always get to see lots of community members there and it is always a great time! You will find people of all ages and for the most part they all have one thing in common... a love for agriculture! It's great to see and even greater when you get to stay longer due to the fact you're taking something home!

 <----- Loading up our treasures!

The Auction Grounds at Rimbey AB ------>

<----- The "Black Pearl" with all her booty!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Birds of a Feather

Well it's that time of year again... the time where Grandma gets in her new baby chicks! On our farm it is kind of a neat period as the chicken coop never gets any visitors other then when the chicks are there! I never use to find chickens interesting at all but as you grow up you get to see that there is value in everything. I like the chickens because they are something for my Grandma to look after whole-heartedly. With age comes new limits to what you are able to do, in the past my Grandma was completely hands on help on the family farm! She would help tag calves, milk cow, feed grain, chase the runaways, and help with any other chores that "needed doing". Her age has caught up to her in recent years and although she still likes to be part of most activities health has been a contributing factor on not being able to do everything. The chicken therefore are perfect for her! They are for the most part low maintence but still need to be checked on daily. She doesn't need help with anything concerning them so I think it gives her back her independence.. she also loves cooking and strongly believes that baking isn't the same without a farm egg! She has quite a few chickens (26) so she even started her own little egg selling business where all the neighbours are active participants! It's fun to see her enjoy them so much and makes me think chickens are a valuable asset to our farm!

Chickens aren't only valuable to us however and are making a difference all over the world!... yes you heard me correctly, they are making a difference! Heifer International is an organization that helps third world countries by allowing people to donate a variety of different animals to a community! When I was reading through the success storie at their official site ( http://www.heifer.org/site/c.edJRKQNiFiG/b.183217/?msource=kw7285#) one in particular caught my eye, and yes it involved chickens! Here it is:

It was a day to remember for the Orphan and disabled Children who are normally referred to as Most Vulnerable Children (MVC) of Zinga village, Bagamoyo district in Pwani region, Tanzania when pupils of International School of Tanganyika (IST) donated chickens and dairy goats through Heifer International's Read to Feed program. The event took place on February 9, 2011, at the village, located in southeastern of Tanzania. 'Read to Feed' simply means children raise money through reading books. The money raised is used to buy gifts of livestock for poor families in the rural areas. Through the Read to Feed program, the pupils of IST have been raising funds to support the MVC projects in Dar es Salaam and Coast regions.
During the handing over ceremony of livestock to orphans and disabled children of Zinga village, the chairperson of the MVC group thanked the IST for their valuable support. "We truly value your support and we are confident that these livestock will assist us in fighting hunger and poverty and enable our children attend school," said the lady Chairperson, Mwanamkuu Said.
The IST donation to Zinga village beneficiaries included 15 cockerels, 75 chickens and 12 dairy goats all valued at over Tshs. 2,000,000/= (US$1,800), including their transportation. 15 families were assisted with chickens (each family receiving 5 pullets and 1 cockerel) and 10 families were given dairy goats together with 2 bucks.
Prior to the receiving of the livestock, the beneficiaries acquired 5 day training on animal husbandry, which included training on feeding, disease control, pasture growing and construction of proper animal sheds.
Heifer International Tanzania's objective for this particular project is to enable MVC most of whom live on an income of less than US$1 a day to realize some extra income through sale of eggs, chicken, live goats and surplus milk to enable them to buy basic households and school requirements.
Over the last 6 years the IST has been in the forefront helping poor families in Pwani and Dar es Salaam regions through 'Read to Feed'. Over this period a total of Tshs 27,500,000 equivalent to about US $21,000 has been raised helping over 90 families with orphans and disabled children. So far 6 villages (Vianzi, Hoyoyo, Mwanambaya, Kerege, Mpijimagohe and Zinga) have been reached. Families keep dairy goats and local chicken after obtaining basic animal husbandry knowledge.

I encourage you to go check out Heifer International's site to see just how big of an impact agriculture can have on the lives of others! Another cool NGO centered around agriculture is Putting Farmers First (http://www.puttingfarmersfirst.ca/)

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Green Men!

Maybe some of you are similar to my family and your Canadian culture not only shines through your dedication and interest in agriculture but also in the "good ole hockey game"? If so you are most likely watching the playoffs and keeping track of some sports center top news! All the rage today is about the Canucks Green Men! Apparently Nashville has some problems with two guys dressed in spandex green suits doing hand stands and banging on the glass at their games.... who would have thought! Since the green guys are such a hit I decided to let you all know the story behind them. Ok so apparently the two guys originally planned on wearing their green suits to the Seattle Seahawks game but when that didn't work out one of them got his hands on a pair of Canucks tickets and they thought "why not wear them there?". Since no one could see them and had no idea who they were they acted crazy and started up a whole bunch of antics to get into the heads of the penalized players on the opposing team! Since they were such a HUGE hit they were pulled aside for their information and rumor is Mike Gillis then contacted them personally! He supposedly gave them FREE tickets beside the penalty box and have also been offered other endorsement style deals. I think it is such a cool story and can show how awesome things can happen out of pretty much nothing!

Oh and for everyone wondering if they can even see out of the suits it's said that it is hard to see a lot of on ice details but the players are recognizable.

If your interested in more about them check out their official fan page:

The Green Men reminded me of an article that I read in the March/April 2011 Hobby Farms magazine and their article on one of the most well-known sustainable-agriculture advocates in the U.S. today, Joel Salatin. He is a full time third-generation farmer in Virgina's Shenandoah Valley. His family farm services more than 3,000 families, 10 retail outlets, and 50 restaurants. When asked about how he found himself becoming a voice for sustainable and pasture-based agriculture he had this to say:

"It really started in about 1989 when our family hosted a Virginia Association for Biological Farming field day on our farm and Roger Wentling, a columnist for The Stockman Grass Farmer magazine, attended. He wrote a column about the day, and it stimulated Allan Nation, editor/co-owner of the magazine to come to the farm for a visit. He asked me to write a monthly column for his new and bankrupt magazine, and I agreed. A year later, he convened the first national grass-farming conference in Jackson, Miss., and asked me to speak. The rest is history."

That just shows once again how awesome things can originate out of hardly anything!

I think it's so cool for him to be speaking out about how we can all promote sustainable agriculture and educate our communities! When Hobby Farms asked him "How can small- scale and sustainable farmers educate their community about their practices and their community's food sources?" he had this to say

"I think awareness is really a matter of successful prototyping and leadership. My dad always said, "Lead by example." Although it's easy for us to think about being victims and point fingers at them and they, really it's just us. We've put ourselves in the situation we're in, and we're going to have to create the environment to get us out. That means that we need to do a great job at what we do.
If you have a dirt chicken yard, for example, that won't bring people to your cause. An overgrazed sheep pen or horse paddock won't endear you to the neighborhood. Our practices need to be more attractive, more vibrant, aromatically romantic. A backyard pig pen, stinking and dirty, is not the way to lead. If I could say one thing to hobby farmers, it would be that as a group, we cannot chastise industrial agriculture when we have dirt livestock yards and odors emanating from our few animals—or weedy gardens and dirty kitchens, for that matter. Small can still be stinky, unsightly and unsanitary.
We have to get our own act together so that neighbors and acquaintances can't help but be drawn to our farms for their sensual appeal and to our families for their vibrant independency and captivating kitchens. We must look inward first before we can ever hope to change our communities."

To read the full interview with Joel Salatin visit www.hobbyfarms.com/JoelSalatin!

I hope today's post has made you think a little about cheering for the Canucks and alot about sustainable agriculture and how you can promote it in your communities! :)

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch...

Yesterday was a huge milestone in my life as I voted for the very first time in the 41st Canadian Federal Election! Not only was it so exciting merely because I got to vote but also because of how things changed so much in Canada! In this historic election the Liberal Party of Canada fell into third place, and, for the first time since confederation, will form neither the governing party nor the official Opposition in Canada's government. Instead the New Democrats will be the official Opposition behind a third consecutive Conservative government. Not only that but it is exciting to see the youthful "vote mobs" out to lend an air of electricity to the campaign! In our rural community and in the 4-H organization that I participate in I was strongly encouraged to cast my ballot along side my peers.... and let me tell you, it was a oddly exciting experience, I mean I, a small town farm girl, just made a difference in the world with one X! Not to mention that Dad comparision of the atmosphere of Leslieville AB during election day to the old western movie gun fights atmosphere where everyone seems a little tense but intensly enthusiastic seemingly was a fair one!
Meanwhile back at the ranch the cows don't seem to know it's election day and continue on with everyday life which just happens to be getting out.... so Dad and I head to fix a fence after we're done casting our ballots. When we started fencing I guess the place we were at really made the elections hit home for Dad as he started reminising about the previous owner of the land. Our south quarter was previously owned by a man who fought in World War 2. Paul Peterson served in Holland, he left his family, friends and dreams to restore liberty to Western Europe and preserve democracy in Canada. When I think of his sacrifice I can't help but believe that we owe him the time and energy it takes to vote and find myself feeling blessed that Dad shares these stories with me. At election time environmental concerns and fossil fuel consumption are mentioned but who offers a real concrete solution or can find the funding to research a viable alternative? Longer term issues, stem cell research, the ability of the family farm to survive, the food supply in general, are not even topics of discussion amongst the main political parties. I think that when agriculture plays such a huge role in the lives of Albertans that there should be more emphasis on it when it comes to election time. That being said I research the platforms and voted the way I feel is best. I cherish my right to vote and am happy that it in fact will be counted!