How are dairy farmers paid in Canada? 

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My father was a dairy farmer back in the pre 1970’s. He told me stories about how he would sell his milk to a nearby processor. The problem was that he was getting paid less for his milk than his neighbour across the road who sold his milk to a different processor.  It was a very unfair system and it was a discouraging time to be a milk producer.  

My dad milking in the early 1970’s. Photo credit:University of Guelph

Thankfully in the 1970’s Canada adopted the supply management system to help solve the fluctuating incomes of both the processor and the farmer. It helped to stabilize prices and maintain a constant supply of milk. It also ensures that milk was sourced from local family farms.
Every country has its own unique climate and infrastructure to deal with when it comes to the production and transportation of milk. The Canadian Dairy Commission uses a cost of production formula (COP) to address the expenses that dairy farmers have for producing milk in Canada. It takes into account costs like purchased feed, fuel, repairs, hydro etc. It also factors in the current economic conditions and the ability of consumers to pay. The formula helps to ensure that farmers get paid fairly based on their cost of production. It is important to note that Canadian dairy farmers do not rely on government subsidies so there are no hidden costs to consumers and the retail price in the store is set by the retailer – not the farmer. The amount farmers get paid for their milk depends on how much fat, protein and lactose is in the milk. Milk used for fluid consumption is worth more than milk that goes into less perishable products like cheese and butter and because milk is pooled the revenue depends on the end use of the milk. For more on this check out the Harmonized Milk Classification System.

Canadian farmers bid on quota. In basic terms a kilo of quota is approximately equal to one cow and allows a farmer to produce one kilogram of butterfat a day. The price of the quota varies across the provinces, but the amount of quota we hold determines how much milk we can ship. This helps to ensure that there is no flooding of the market, but it also ensures that there are no shortages either so that the domestic market is always filled. When the market grows, more quota is alloted. If you want to milk more cows you need to bid on more quota. There is a bit of flexibility each month to take into account things like changing cow numbers, feed quality changes etc., but farmers are expected to do their best to ship within their quotas. Programs have been put in place to help new entrants access quota so that they can start producing milk. Incentive days can also be issued at certain times of the year to encourage farmers to produce milk beyond their quota holdings. For example incentive days are often issued in the fall because historically at that time of year production drops while demand increases.  

There are a number of requirements that farmers must meet to be able to produce milk in Canada. First of all a liscence is required.  There is also a strong system of routine inspections and high milk quality and animal welfare standards that must be met at all times. Farm premises must also be Grade A at all times. Hefty fines and high milk quality standards discourage producers from not following regulations . Recently, the Dairy Farmers of Canada implemented their Pro-Action initiative. It ensures that all dairy farms across Canada meet the same standards when it comes to milk quality, food safety, animal care, traceability, biosecurity and the environment.  

In these days of global uncertainty, supply management has done its job of maintaining a constant supply of high quality milk from well cared for cows. It has allowed dairy farmers to make a decent living and invest their money back into their farms and their communities. It keeps the milk supply local from family farms and consumers receive a safe and nutritious product at a fair price. Farmers across the globe work hard to produce safe and nutritious food for consumers and they deserve to be paid fairly for that hard work and commitment.  

For more about Canadian dairy farming follow me on Facebook: Farmer Tim

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Celebrating 20,000 Likes – What I’ve Learned From Social Media So Far

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Time flies when you are having fun! Just over two years ago I took the leap into the crazy world of social media. It’s been an amazing journey and I am deeply humbled by your support.  I never would have imagined that a shy, small town farmer from rural Ontario would get this far.  I have harvested some great advice and gained some great friends along the way.  Here are just a few things that I’ve learned from farming the fields of social media. 

1) Non-farmers don’t get the credit that they often deserve. Generally they know more than you think about agriculture and most of them are huge supporters of farmers. They hunger for knowledge and are keen on asking questions. Feed that hunger, always listen to what they have to say and above all treat them with respect. We can learn a great deal from each other. At the end of the day we are all just consumers looking for answers and seeking out the truth. 

2) A farmer is a farmer is a farmer no matter where you are in the world. The topography and climate may change, but I’ve found that farmers deal with the same issues everywhere. We all share the same passion and we need to support each other. 

3) Don’t feed the trolls. There is no point in arguing with extremists. Don’t get sucked into debates that will go nowhere. Save your time and energy for people who are willing to listen. Share good news stories and don’t dwell on negativity. 

4) Opening the doors of farm life on social media works. People want to hear our stories. They are listening and learning. The good news of agriculture is spreading. Keep the momentum going – share YOUR story. Check out Agriculture More Than Ever for more information about becoming an agvocate. If I can do it so can you! 

5) People can be cruel. That goes for both farmers and non-farmers. Enough said. 😒

6) My Farmer Tim puns must not be that bad or maybe you all are just gluttons for pun-ishment 😜

7) Be yourself always. Open your heart to the world. Be honest, be compassionate and most of all be kind. 

Thanks again for the support. I couldn’t do it without you. 🐮❤️

Follow me on FaceBook: Farmer Tim

HOW VANILLA GOT HER SPOTS 🐮

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Holstein cows are famous for their black and white and sometimes red and white spots. Their spots look amazing but they also perform an important function. They act like a fingerprint. Each set of spots is unique and they help the cows indentify each other. However, we sometimes have a calf that is born mostly black or mostly white. This can cause confusion because there is no way for the other cattle to identify them as Holsteins. These solid coloured calves also known as “Blanks” are often shunned from the herd. They are bullied and pushed away from feed bunks and water troughs. It breaks my heart. 

Reusable laminated cow spot.


Thankfully there is a solution. I’ve made some laminated reusable spots. I have a set of white ones for calves that are born mostly black and a set of black ones for calves born mostly white. Heavy duty Velcro attached to the back of the spots holds them in place. I introduce the calves with the artificial spots to the rest of the herd.  Surprisingly, it’s takes only 12-24 hours for them to be fully accepted into the herd’s social hierarchy. Once I am sure that they are accepted I take away one spot at a time over a period of days. Eventually,  the herd adapts to the missing spots and the calf is finally accepted without the spots. 

Vanilla with her artificial spots.

 

Vanilla without her artificial spots.


The internet is full of misinformation. As a dairy farmer I feel that I need to speak up and tell my story and share the truth – EXCEPT ON APRIL FOOL’S DAY!!!! Did I fool you?  Some of you probably thought that I went off the deep end. 😜 Well, let that be a lesson to you. Never believe everything that you read on the internet. If you want accurate information about agriculture then talk to a farmer but you might want to avoid talking to them on April 1st. 😉
Here’s a link to Vanilla’s real story: Vanilla is born 

Some other reasons that cows have spots: Cow spots

For more fun & facts follow me & my farm on Facebook: Farmer Tim

Photo credit: Karen Dallimore

Cash Cows Are Well Cared For Cows

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a Cash Cow is defined “as someone or something that makes a lot of money for a business, organization etc.”  A quick search of Wikipedia told me that “the term cash cow is a metaphor for a “dairy cow” used on farms to produce milk, offering a steady stream of income.”


Of course every cow on a dairy farm is a cash cow to a dairy farmer. However, cows are a huge investment. It takes about $2,000 Cdn dollars to raise a heifer to the point that she is old enough to produce milk as a cow and it takes a long time after that for farmers to see any return on their investment, especially when you factor in the ongoing costs for things like feed and veterinary care. As an aside, the most money ever paid for a cow was 1.2 million dollars the the Canadian cow Missy!

If you buy a new car you do your best to take care of it so that it will serve you well for many years. You change the oil, you get it waxed and you rotate the tires. The same goes for dairy cows. Farmers want to look after their investments so that they are profitable for the long term.  Profitability and animals care go hand in hand. They give cows well balanced diets of high quality feed, routine veterinary care, scheduled hoof trims, vaccinations and protection from predators and the elements. Cows even get a two month rest period as a “dry cow” between calvings.  It takes a lot of TLC and hard work to keep cattle healthy and profitable. 

“Profitability and animal care go hand in hand.”

Dairy farmers don’t just look at their cattle as a short term investment. Many dairy farmers can trace their cow families back many generations. They are proud of their cattle’s genetics. Good genetics bring profits through longevity and high milk production so great care is taken to help their cattle reach their full potential. In Canada we do welfare audits with our proAction initiative to ensure that cows are being treated humanely because we love our cows. It’s not only the right thing to do it is also the logical thing to do. Profitable cows are cows that are treated well by compassionate farmers.   🐮❤️

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IF YOU CAN’T SAY SOMETHING NICE…

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I’ll be honest with you. Last week I was one click away from shutting down my Facebook  page for good. I was feeling burnt out, demoralized and discouraged. I’ve had two orchestrated attacks by animal rights extremist on my page over the last few weeks. You probably didn’t even notice. The attacks often occur in the wee hours of the morning and I’d awaken each day to my page full of hate and propaganda. It was offensive and stressful. The attacks would drag on for days. I felt violated by a bunch of strangers. I lost sleep over it.

I was brought up to be open minded and kind hearted. I treat people with respect even if I don’t agree with them. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt only to realize that some people will never return the favour. It’s my choice to share my life and my farm with the world and I expected some back lash but never to this extent. If you don’t want to take the time to learn about the how and the why of animal care please don’t bother commenting on my page. If you don’t want to read my answer then don’t ask a question. I’ll save my precious time for those who do. You call me a murderer, a rapist and selfish, but you don’t know me. You know nothing about the care I give my animals. You know nothing about my compassion and respect for life or my knowledge about farming. You watch extremist propaganda videos and assume that all farmers are the same. You haven’t even taken the time to read through any of my posts. Your comments wouldn’t be so ignorant if you had. I kindly take time to answer your questions only to have my response criticized. You don’t want to listen. You want to promote your agenda.

“If you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all.”

Facebook is full of trolls. An Internet troll is someone who purposely tries to stir up trouble on social media. Here are some hard lessons I’ve learned when dealing with trolls.

1) If you are unsure that they are a troll then give them the benefit of the doubt and address their concerns in a polite and positive way. Sometimes it is hard to tell an extremists troll from a genuinely concerned consumer. Regardless, always answer politely because the world is watching and you are representing your industry as a professional. Remember that there is nothing wrong with someone politely disagreeing with you in the first place.

2) If they continue to be negative and disrespectful then ignore them.”DON’T FEED THE TROLLS!” Their goal is to rile you. They thrive on pushing their agenda and arguing against reason.

3) Hide their comments if you wish. It’s YOUR page. You and the troll can see it, but the rest of your followers can’t. With their comments hidden the troll’s agenda cannot be fulfilled. It’s their turn to get frustrated.

4) If all else fails ban them from your page. I hate doing  it, but there is only so much negativity that one person can handle. Don’t worry, their friends will soon be back to take their place. 😒 (Hint: you can often tell a lot about a follower by creeping their personal page. Trolls are often proud of the fact that they are bullies.)

5) Keep focusing on the positives. You have lots of people on your page who are willing to listen and discuss things politely even when they disagree.

6) Seek some support from fellow bloggers. They have all undoubtedly dealt with trolls and they can give you valuable advice and support.

I don’t hate the trolls. I actually feel sorry for them. Some are just misguided and some may even have some good arguments, but no one wants to listen to a one sided arguement full of hate. There will come a time when blogging will get to be too much for me, but I’ll quit on my own terms. I won’t be silenced by the trolls. I won’t let them win. I was bullied as a kid and I refuse to be bullied in an on-line world as an adult. Life is too short to focus on negativity. Caring for my animals and my family keeps me busy enough.🐮

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A Farmer’s Hands

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by Farmer Tim

A farmer’s hands have felt the first heart beats of a new born calf as it was carried to the safety of a warm barn. 

A farmer’s hands have been cracked and calloused by long days of dedication to a job that requires a work ethic second to none. 

A farmer’s hands have shielded eyes as they longingly searched the horizon for the rains to come quench the partched soil. 

A shake of a farmer’s hand will close a deal in a world where a person’s word means more than any binding legal agreement ever will. 

A farmer’s hands have sown seed and harvested the rewards from long days of patiently nurturing the land. 

A farmer’s hands have hugged children at the death of a pet and comforted them as it was buried in the back 40. 

A farmer’s hands have wiped away  tears at the loss of livestock after knowing that they did their best, but still wished that they could have done more. 

A farmer’s hands have bled from skinned knuckles during the hurried repairs of a rushed harvest season. 

A farmer’s hands have wiped away the sweat from a brow as bales of hay are piled on the hottest day of the year so that livestock can have feed for the long, cold winter. 

A farmer’s hands have been frostbitten by the cruel winter winds as they broke the ice on a frozen water trough so that their livestock could drink.  

A farmer’s hands have been folded in prayer to give thanks for a bountiful crop. 

The unforgiving sun has turned a farmer’s hands into leather from long days of picking stones and digging post holes. 

Caked in grease, a farmer’s hands ache from tightly gripping the steering wheel of an old tractor while making countless trips up and down a field. 

A farmer’s hands may not be soft and manicured, but they tell a story. It’s a story of pride, hard work and dedication. Their hands  can be strong when challenged yet gentle when needed. They are something to be proud of. You can tell a lot about a person from their hands. What story do yours tell? 

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Only a Farm Boy


It’s amazing how the people that you meet growing up help shape you into who you are today.
I was going through a box of old books last week and I came across my copy of Only a Farm Boy by Frank V Webster. It’s the novel about a boy who grew up, moved away from the farm and became very successful. He was no longer “just a farm boy.” It was given to me by one of my favourite public school teachers with the hopes that I would aspire to become someone more – not “just a farm boy”. She meant no wrong by it because as a teacher it was her job to challenge me and I was one of her star pupils. Throughout life I’ve struggled with who I am. I’m an academic at heart with a thirst for knowledge and a desire to teach, but I also have a very close relationship with the land. The blood of generations of farmers before me pulses through my veins.

To make a long story short I’ll always be a farm boy, but I’ve learned that farming can take you farther than you can ever imagine. Agriculture is changing rapidly with technology and innovation so there is no end to learning new things. I’ve fulfilled my desire to teach not only through my blog, but with school tours of our farm and with student volunteers. Farming is a job to be proud of. It’s a big responsibility to be one of the few who feed the many. I’m thankful to my public school teacher for pushing me to be more and helping me realize that you don’t have to leave the farm to be successful. It isn’t so bad being “only a farm boy”. 😉 Always be proud of who you are.

 

You might be farming in the winter when….

It’s so cold that the cows are producing ice-cream! 

The farmers are making snow angels. 

Livestock farmers leave colourful bootprints in the snow. 💩👞

Jack Frost leaves his mark on your barn windows. 

The cows are sporting frosty “moo-staches”. 

The Belted Galloway are the only ones not complaining about the cold. 

The cows are wearing toques (a Canadian term for a winter hat). 

Snow plowing has a different meaning. 

The cows wonder what happened to the grass. 

Hay bales turn into snowmen. 

A shovel becomes  your most important tool on the farm. 

Milk truck drivers become heros!

Farmers and cows are both longing for spring. 

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Last photo credit to Karen Dallimore

The Mathematics of Agriculture 

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[(family + pride) x hard work] – cruelty = farming 

The mathematics of agriculture isn’t always as simple as I make it out to be in this equation. It’s not as easy as cows using cowculators and farmers using protractors. There is a lot of other things that could go into the equation. Things like weather and the economy can really mess up the calculations. So let’s keep things simple and break this equation into parts. 

Family 

Family is the heart and soul of the farm with 98% of farms being family owned and operated. Many of these families have passed their passion for the land and livestock down for many generations. That brings me to the next factor in the equation. The addition of….

Pride 

Unless you are a farmer there is no way to explain the pride that we feel to be among the few that feed the many. Whether it is bringing new life into the world or growing fields of crops from just a few seeds it’s a privilege to do what we do. Knowing that our hard work nourishes not only our families but also the people of the world is one of the main reasons why we farm. Let’s talk a little bit more how that hard work factors into the equation.

Hard Work

There is a reason why there aren’t many farmers left in the world. Not everyone is cut out for the long hours of physical labour. With cows to milk and animals to care for every day, down time is a luxury. If you happen to be lucky enough to get away for a break from the farm there is always the weather and the crops to work around. Farming is a 365 day a year job so you better enjoy what you do! That leaves us to the only subtraction in the equation…

Cruelty 

Unfortunately there is always a fraction of cruelty in every equation but it’s not the norm. We’ve all seen the twisted videos that extremists use to try to convince consumers that farmers are all animal abusers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Livestock farmers enjoy caring for animals. That’s why they dedicate their lives to farming. People abuse pets and even other people but that doesn’t make all people abusers. The same goes for farmers. You can’t paint everyone with the same brush. The actions of a few bad apples don’t represent the true picture of farming. Not only are happy animals productive animals, taking care of them is the right thing to do.  

Farming

It’s time to solve the equation. When we add the pride of farm families, factor in their hard work and remove any notion of cruelty we are left with farming

[(family + pride) x hard work] – cruelty = farming 

Love is at the heart of every farm and compassion is in the heart of every farmer.                                                                         ~Farmer Tim

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A Silent Oath

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I miss my family.  Just 24 hours ago I was busy helping my wife and my two kids prepare for a rare family vacation.  It was only going to be three days long, but to a dairy farmer it was a big deal.  My kids and I were joking with each other about who was going to catch the biggest fish and we even made a special trip to town to pick out some fishing lures that we though would land ‘the big one’.  My wife is a veterinarian and I still remember the conversation that we had weeks ago when we were trying to decide on a date to get away.  With her job she must book holiday time weeks in advance.  A dairy farmer on the other hand never knows what he or she will be doing days, let alone weeks from now.  Will there be cows calving, will crops be ready to harvest, will I be able to find help to cover my work load?  Things don’t always go according to plan, especially when you are a farmer.

I spend the last few days preparing to go.  Thankfully, a cow that was due during our trip calved early so that was one less concern.  I even had a window of opportunity to take off some hay the day before our holiday so that my thoughts would be on spending time with my family and not on the crops quickly maturing in my fields.  I made sure that my bookwork was up to date and my equipment was in good working condition to help lessen the chance of things going wrong while I was away.  Extra feed was prepared, pens were cleaned and the cattle were well bedded to take some of the work load off my relief help.  There were no storms in the forecast so I didn’t need to worry about the implications of a power failure.  A sick cow was on the mend so that brought me some peace of mind knowing that she shouldn’t be an issue.  I left pages of notes with instructions of what to do and who to call if things went wrong.  We managed to find someone to house sit and look after our four cats, two dogs and a coop full of chickens.  I updated the list of cow names and numbers and left strict instructions on how my calves should be fed .  I know each and every cow like the freckles on the back of my hand, but to my relief help the cows are strangers.  On my farm, each cow has her own milking stall.  They are pretty good at coming into their stalls at milking time from the pasture field, but it helps to know their personalities and little nuances.  All I could do is hope that they behaved and that my help wouldn’t get frustrated finding their correct stalls. No matter how well you prepare it is still stressful to leave.  Some people can hardly handle leaving a pet home with a sitter or in a kennel.  Unless you are a dairy farmer you have no idea what its like leaving an entire herd of cows.  You are leaving the animals that you care for and your livelihood in the hands of someone else.

The day before we were about to leave I got a text from my relief milker. He wasn’t able to come, but he had a good excuse.  My heart sank.  How would I tell my kids and my wife?  They were so looking forward to taking me off the farm because it is such a rare event to get away as a family.  Finally I got up the courage to tell them and my efforts earned me a sad face from my daughter and a cold shoulder from my son.  The bleak reality that daddy had to stay home to look after the farm had sunken in. There was no other choice and I hid my tears until I saw my wife drive the kids down the lane with our canoe in tow.

Farmer Tim taking a moment to fish in his farm pond while missing his family.

Dairy farming is lifestyle.  Everything you do involves working around the weather and making sure that your cows are milked twice a day, every day, 365 days of the year.  When you become a dairy farmer you take a silent oath to care for your animals and love your family at all cost.  The problem comes in balancing family and farm.  Larger farms may be able to justify having a full time employee who can manage things when the farmer needs to be somewhere.  For a small family dairy farm like mine it is almost impossible to be able to pay for full time help.  Part time help is great, but it is increasingly difficult to find.  If you are lucky enough to find help they are often lacking in the work ethic and skill to stick with the job. My kids are old enough to take care of things if I need to miss a milking, but its not a family vacation if one of the family members needs to stay at home. 

I am not looking for sympathy.  When I became a dairy farmer I knew what I was getting into and so did my wife when she married me.  Its a choice that I have made and everyone makes sacrifices for things that they are passionate about.  Thankfully my wife is incredibly understanding and my kids are forgiving.  They understand when I need to miss a soccer game because it falls at milking time.  They know that a cow calving or a sick calf is a good excuse to miss a school event and that an upcoming rain storm means a late night of bringing in hay.  They also know that the farm has given them a life unequalled to any other.  It has brought us close as a family because we work along side each other each day and it has taught us valuable lessons on nurturing life that no vacation could ever teach us.  I will try again in the fall or winter to get away with my family because even farmers need a holiday and I will actively seek some part-time help for when my kids are back at school.  I need to remember that the definition of a family farm is a farm run by a family.  Hopefully a well deserved vacation will someday take my family from the farm, but I know that it will never take the farm from my family.

Me, my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law, my two kids and my wife on a rare canoe trip a few years ago.

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Twitter: @MayMayhaven

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