THE BIRDS, THE BEES AND THE BOVINES 🦅🐝🐮

Okay we are all grown ups here so it’s time for “the talk”. Reproduction is one of the basics of life and livestock farmers count on it to improve the health of their animals, acquire replacements and increase the size of their herds.

BREEDING 101

Cattle have been domesticated for hundreds of years. There are no wild dairy cows to be found. Modern day cows have an estrus cycle of 21 days and a gestation period of 9 months. A cow isn’t shy about letting a farmer know that she is in estrus (heat). She will bellow, “ride” (jump on) other cows’ rumps and let other cows jump on her up to 55 times during this period. She is wanting to get bred.

*Vegas in a “standing heat”

A bovine is born either a male (bull) or a heifer (female). Heifers start cycling and are typically bred for the first time at 13-16 months of age if they have met the target size. Add a 9 month gestation on to that and they will have their first calf at around 2 years of age when they are full grown. When a heifer has a calf she becomes a cow and produces milk for the first time. Veterinarians continually monitor a cow’s reproductive health and a farmer plays close attention to a cow’s diet and body condition before any attempt to breed a cow is made. When the decision is made to breed a cow the farmer has the choice of using a bull or artificial insemination (A.I.). Our farm uses A.I. but it comes down to the individual farmer’s breeding goals and management style. Both methods have their benefits. In fact some farmers use both. I will outline some of the reasons why we use A.I. on our farm:

Straw of semen*a straw of semen

SAFETY

A full grown mature Holstein bull is not a pet. In fact I had a family member killed by his “pet” bull. Sure they start out as cute little calves, but in a couple of years Holstein bulls become massive beasts standing up to 65″ at the shoulder and weighing in at 1,600 lbs. Proper housing facilities, handler training and experience are needed when working with bulls. Proper footing is also an important consideration when you are using bulls to breed cows. You really need to brace yourself when 1,600 lbs mounts your back!  That being said, some farmers routinely use bulls to breed their dairy cattle without major issues.  They just need to be very careful.

STDs

Sexual transmitted diseases are not just a human problem. STDs are alive and well in the animal world too. STDs can be shared between bulls and cows during breeding and they can cause reproductive mayhem in a herd.  Artificial insemination avoids this problem. In fact, bull semen is stored in liquid nitrogen at down to -300 degrees Fahrenheit and not many diseases can survive temperatures that cold. Semen is also screened before it is used for breeding.

IMPROVING THE NEXT GENERATION

The goal on livestock farms is to make the next generation of cows stronger, healthier and superior to the current cows in the herd. With artificial insemination a farmer can play match maker and pick a specific bull to breed each cow or they can use a computer program to do it for them. It is amazing what kinds of traits you can use to improve your herd .  For example, you can choose a bull that will give the next generation a better set of feet and legs or a stronger immune system . The resulting offspring will potentially have a longer and healthier life. You can even used sexed semen to greatly increase the chances of having heifer calves.

CONVENIENCE

With A.I. there is no need to house and feed your own bull for breeding. A.I. bulls are housed at their own quarantined barn where they are pampered beyond belief. I simply make a phone call and a skilled technician will come breed my cow with the bull of my choice. Alternately, a farmers can store bull semen in a tank and breed their own cattle at their convenience.

Reproduction is an important part of every dairy farm. Just remember that a healthy cow is a fertile cow and THATS NO BULL. 🐃

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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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Ashes to ashes…….

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There is an empty calf bottle sitting in my milk house. It is not because I forgot to fill it. It is because I lost a calf this morning. You’d think that I’d be used to it by now because every livestock farmer has had it happen from time to time. Like my dad always told me, “when you raise livestock, you also will have deadstock”.  The truth is that you never really get used to it. Bringing new life into the world is a privilege that isn’t taken lightly by farmers. This morning’s early calving was no exception.  

I knew that it was Dorito’s first calf and my instincts knew that she needed assistance. The calf was very much alive while I gently checked to see if it was in the proper position. However, my hope for a healthy calf faded as I carefully help deliver Dorito’s calf into the world. All the signs of life that I had just seen moments ago were gone. I used all the tricks that any farmer would do to try and revive it.  I even gave it CPR by blowing in its nose and pushing on its chest. To my surprise it did take a few short breaths before passing on, but it was too late to save it. The milk truck was arriving in an hour so I had to carry on with the morning milking even though I was still shaking with adrenalin from the calving and the loss of the calf. As I milked, I looked back to the calving pen and watched the mother instinctivly lick her dead calf. I was half hoping to see the calf miraculously spring back to life from those loving licks, but it was not to be.

The calf was not sired by a fancy bull and her mother was just an average cow, but she would have been cared for just the same as any other animal on our farm. PETA would like you to think that farmers don’t care about their animals and all that we care about it profit. I assure you that on most farms this is not the case. Yes my cows provide me with a livelihood, but they are more than just milking cows. I can trace every cow back to my grandfather’s original herd of cows that he got from his parents. There are mothers, daughters, sisters and grandmothers from the same family milking in our herd.  I know each cow’s unique personality and I promise you that they are all respected and loved. 

Perhaps I am too sensitive to be a farmer and I shouldn’t have taken this tragedy so hard. I feel like I want to quit my job and do something different. However, the more that I think about it, compassion and sensitivity are probably good traits for a farmer to have. It’s probably time to quit farming when you stop feeling sad at the loss of an animal. My calf’s death does not compare to the death of a person or even a pet, but as a farmer I took a quiet oath to nurture life on my farm at all times. I feel like I let this little calf down even though there was nothing that I could have done differently to change the outcome. After milking, I will bury my calf in the corn field and say a little prayer.  I am sorry that I couldn’t save you little calf. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…… 

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    Bovine Beauty Queens 

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    My cows were beauty contestants today! Every few months a classifier from Holstein Canada compares each of my cows to the “perfect” cow. 

     

    The perfect Holstein cow.


     
    They use a hand held computer that has all my cow information on it such as her age, her calving date, how many lactations (time between calves) she’s had and previous scores. Every inch of the cows is graded. They look at everything from the length of her teats and the texture of her udder to the strength of her back and legs.  

    Dorothy’s score card

       We use this information to breed our cows to a bull that will hopefully improve any traits that are weak. A computer analysis will help us choose the best mate for our cows, or we can pick one from a bull proof chart (also in my photo section). Bulls are also chosen to improve health traits as well as milk, fat and protein production. You can even choose sexed semen to help guarantee a heifer (female) calf. It’s all pretty complex, but it is an important part of our farm. 

     

    Bull proof sheet.

     

    The winner on this round was Dorothy at 92 points out of 100! Her points may go up as she gets older.  Dorothy is a pretty nice looking cow, but we treat every cow like a beauty queen on our farm. Each one is as important as the next!

    Edward the Classifier

     

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    What is an AGGIE?

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    Even though I have been out of school for just over 20 years, I still get the back to school jitters just as we are finishing up the grain and hay harvest in late August.  If you don’t frequent farming circles then you may not be familiar with the term Aggie.  Simply put, an Aggie is a nickname for a student of agriculture.  I remember attending an open house at the University of Guelph when I was about 7 years old.  I saw a number of students wearing shiny leather jackets with the name Aggie in big bold letters across the back.  I remember my dad telling me that I might be an Aggie someday if I work hard in school.  Low and behold it happened.  I graduated in 1994 with an honours degree in Animal Science at the OAC (Ontario Agricultural College) at University of Guelph. 

     

    Yes, it still fits !

     
    Aggies are a diverse crowd.  Many have farming backgrounds.  In my class I remember students that came from every kind of farm imaginable. There were crop farms, cattle farms, horse farms, pig farms, sheep farms, fish farms and even a winery.  However, being a farm kid isn’t a prerequisite to becoming an Aggie.  In fact, a number of my classmates came from non-farm backgrounds, but we still shared a love for all things agriculture.  Some students even used the agriculture program as a stepping stone to get into veterinary school since many of our courses overlapped. 

    You may be wondering what an Aggie might learn at school.  Well, you may be surprised by the vast array of topics that an Aggie can take.  For me in the animal science program, my courses were very science based.  We took many of the same courses a regular science student would have taken in our first couple of years like microbiology,  biochemistry, organic chemistry, physics, calculus, statistics, botany etc.  In our final couple of years our courses became more specific and were related more to animals and agriculture.  For example, we took quantitative genetics, animal nutrition, animal physiology, animal behaviour and animal ethics courses.

    What can you do with an Aggie degree or diploma? Almost anything! Did you know that 1 in 8 of all jobs are in agriculture and 2.1 million Canadians are employed in agricuture?   In 2013 there were 56,000 career opportunities for people with an education in agriculture, but sadly from 2011-2020 it is estimated that 38% of jobs in Canadian agriculture won’t be filled.  (source http://www.agmorethanever.ca).  I have friends that went back to their family farms or into research, government, sales, marketing, teaching and a vast array of other jobs. 

     

    This is our class crest. The stallion was our mascot.

     
    There are many stereotypes when it comes to Aggies.  It’s true that many of us know how to two-step, or square dance. Heck, some of us even drive pick up trucks and listen to country music. However, the next time that you see an agriculture student wearing one of those distinctive Aggie jackets, I challenge you to say hello. You will find that Aggies are generally some of the most polite and well rounded people that you will ever meet. They are the future of agriculture and you can rest assure that your food is in good hands. 

    Me and the canon at the UofG open house in 2013. I’ve painted that canon more than a few times, but that’s a story for another day.

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    The Dark Side of Social Media and Agriculture

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    Perhaps you know me personally, or perhaps reading this article is the only introduction that we’ve ever had.  To bring you up to speed, I am a third generation dairy farmer. I am not a lobbyist nor a politician. I buy my groceries at the store like everyone else because yes, I am a consumer too. My family has a small dairy farm in Southern Ontario. I am proud of our farm and it is a privilege to be able to work with dairy cattle. 

    I started a public Facebook blog early in 2015 to help educate the public, counteract misinformation, and to share my own personal story about dairy farming. I recently branched out by using Twitter to help reach even more people. Overall my efforts have been extremely rewarding; I’ve had great feedback from farmers and non-farmers all over the world.  However, I’ve also had some feedback that I never expected. 

    I am very proud of the high standards of animal welfare that we practice on our farm and it is often the core of my posts and tweets. You’d wonder how something so positive could be twisted into something so negative. Yet some extreme animal rights activists have taken it upon themselves to reshare my posts, altering the context to serve their own agendas, all the while hiding conveniently behind false identities. Initially I kept screenshots of these hijackings with the intention of using them in my blog.  However I was given the advice not to repost their tweets as it only gives these cowards the attention they crave.  So, as a compromise and to give context to this blog, rather than publish the screenshots, I will simply provide quotes. 

    Here is my original posting of a nice letter that was left in our mailbox by an anonymous person.  I am so proud of that little note. I keep it displayed to remind me that what I do is noticed and appreciated by others. 
     
    When I sent out this tweet I was happy with all the positive vibes that resonated through the Twitter community. However, I must say that I was shocked to see how an extremist twisted my tweet into something to snuff out my enthusiasm and further their own cause: “It’s not about animal welfare, that person who wrote the note should watch when they r mutilated & killed.”

    Next, there is this photo that I shared to show how we walk our calves between our two farms to allow them to enjoy an extended length of time on pasture. They truly have an amazing life here and I was trying to share with the general public our dedication to providing our animals as nice a lifestyle as possible.  
     
    I couldn’t imagine how an extremist could turn such a wonderful moment into something so evil: “Poor innocent non-human slaves, born into exploitation and when no longer profitable, sent to slaughter.” 

    There are many other examples that I could share with you, but it only saddens me to go further. I almost feel like I am stooping to their low standards by writing this blog in the first place. 

    This experience was a real eye opener for me. I feel violated.  I have friends and family that are vegan or vegetarian. I respect them and love them even though we have differing opinions. To be honest, you can learn a lot by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and by trying to understand their viewpoints. I am all for open discussion and dialogue, but only if it’s polite and backed with educated facts. Feel free to express your personal views, but please educate yourself first and don’t attack me to try to gain a following.

    There is no reasoning with extremists of any type so it’s not worth my time to engage with them.  If nothing else, my experience has actually encouraged me to be more aggressive posting positive things about agriculture.  I encourage farmers across the world to stand together and do the same.  My grandmother always told me to do unto other people as you would have them to do unto you. The world would be a better place if more people followed that advice. 

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    Cows Take Tests Too! 

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    It’s been a while since I graduated from the Animal Science program at the University of Guelph. I miss my time there for many reasons, but I definitely don’t miss writing exams! You would think that I would have escaped the stress and preparation of testing when I finished University and became a full-time dairy farmer.  On the contrary, the cows and I have a test about 10 times a year!

    Almost monthly, a milk tester from CanWestDHI (Dairy Herd Improvement) comes to my farm and tests us. She tests my ability to manage my cows and she tests the quality and quantity of my cow’s milk.    We attach a special graduated cylinder to our milking machines.  As the cow is

    The flask being filled with milk

    milked,  a measured amount of milk drips into the flask to determine how much the cow produced . This number is recorded in a laptop computer. The milk tester then takes a sample of milk from the flask and puts it in a small plastic container for further analysis.

    Milk sample containers and laptop

    At the lab, the milk can be measured for a number of things such as its protein, fat and lactose content. It is also tested for its white blood cell count. A high white blood cell count (Somatic Cell Count- SCC) may indicate a possible infection in the cow’s udder. The lab can also analyse what kind of bacteria caused the infection and then our veterinary can make suggestions on how to treat the potential problem. We can also confirm the pregnancies of our cows by testing their milk. The pregnancy test checks for levels of glycoproteins that are produced during pregnancy. There are also a variety of cattle diseases that milk tests can check for. If you want further information, you can check out the CanWest website.

    CanWestDHI

    Shortly after the milk test we receive a very long and detailed report. These

    A small sample of the report

    *A small sample of the report

    reports are invaluable to a dairy farmer. They give you individual cow production information and trends. They help you set goals to improve your operation and they help keep your cattle healthy through better management.  For example, if the milk test indicates that my cows are not producing as much fat in their milk as I would like to see, I could make changes to the herd’s feed ration, or breed low producing individuals to bulls that will hopefully improve production. A bonus to milk testing is that we can have an official production record on each cow.

    It may be a chore to prepare for routine milk tests, but it is one of the most important management tools that a dairy farmer has. The best part for me is that the cows usually pass their test with top marks and they didn’t even have to study!  The girls are thankful that it’s not a psycowlogy, or a cowculus test and they don’t need to use cowculators. Now wouldn’t we all want to write a test where the only prep work was eating as much as you can!

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    Giant Marshmallows

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    Giant marshmallow?

    Farmers truly are the original stewards of the land. It makes sense that we take out what we put into our land. We all know that livestock farmers have been recycling for eons. We grow crops, the crops feed our animals, our animals eat the crops and the manure that the animals produce goes on to fertilize new crops. It’s a perfect cycle. Did you know that farmers recycle other things too?

    On our farm we produce giant marshmallows!  No, they aren’t the kind that you roast over giant campfires. They are the kind that our dairy cows eat. Harvesting high quality hay for dairy cattle is a complicated process. It requires timing, skill, hard work and a lot of luck. Dairy cows need high protein hay to produce milk. That means that hay needs to be cut young (at early bud stage for alfalfa) and harvested without any rain and at the perfect moisture level. Waiting for it to dry naturally in the sun isn’t always an option. Besides, dry hay can often lose precious protein when its leaves are shattered off during the process.

    On our farm we cut our hay into rows and bale it up into large round bales the following day at around 50% moisture. If this hay was stored in our barn it would spoil quickly and probably burn our barn down due to spontaneous combustion. This is why we create our marshmallows! Each bale is wrapped in plastic. They can be wrapped individually or in rows. The plastic seals the bale and prevents any air from getting in. This seal prevents spoilage and begins a fermentation process to preserve the bale for future use.  An added benefit is being able to keep the bales outside to save on expensive indoor storage. To be honest, the cows love it. It’s like cow candy! Obviously, the plastic is cut off the bale before the cow eats the hay.

    Our hay being wrapped in plastic

    So what happens to all of this used plastic? Thankfully it can be recycled. On our farm a company picks up the plastic for a small fee.  In turn, they take the plastic and convert it into plastic posts for fences or boards for things like picnic tables.

    Some of our used plastic reaady for pick-up

    So next time you’re sitting around a plastic picnic table think of the plastic from the bale that the cow ate……and of course think of the farmer that grew the hay that the cow ate….then there’s the manure that grew the hay that the cow ate….and back to the cow that made the manure to grow the hay! Phew! Are you confused yet? I told you that it was a perfect circle of recycling.

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    That’s one important little bottle!

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    Have you ever worried about the quality of the milk you just purchased from the store? Are you filling your families bodies with harmful bacteria, chemicals, or antibiotics? I am here to put your minds at ease. 

    Every second day, a milk truck picks up the milk from our farm. It is visually inspected and smelt by the driver who is a trained milk grader before it even leaves the tank.  Our farm is required to have a Grade A status, a liscence and meet strict guidelines before we can even think about shipping our milk. More recently, all dairy farmers must complete and maintain records through a new CQM (Canadian Quality Milk) program. We also get routine and surprise inspections to keep us on our toes. Its a lot of work, but it is for the benefit of everyone. Dairy farmers follow careful milking procedures and sanitization protocols every day and the milk is cooled to approximately 4 C at the end of each milking. Everything from the rate of cooling, to the temperature of the cleaning cycles are closely monitored electronically so that farmers can prevent problems from occurring. 

    We work closely with veterinarians. If our cattle get sick, we must adhere to strict protocols and withdrawal times for antibiotic use. Also, in Canada it is against the law to give cows hormones to increase their milk production.

    Most importantly, a milk sample is taken from every tank of milk that is picked up from a dairy farm. The milk is sealed in a bottle (just like in my photo) with the farm’s identification number on it. This milk is tested for a number of things. Firstly, it is tested for the amount of fat, protein and other solids that are present. These results are used to help determine what we get paid for our milk. Secondly, the milk is tested for bacteria, somatic cells (white blood cells), antibiotics and the freezing point.

    There is bacteria on everything around us and that is why milk is pasteurized. Even the cleanest, and best managed farms have potentially harmful bacteria in their milk so it is never wise to drink raw milk before it is pasteurized. In fact, it is illegal for me to ever sell you raw milk straight from my cows and I would never think of it. Why take the chance? Thankfully, somatic cells are present in our bodies and in our cows to help fight infection. They are a natural part of milk, but if the number of cells gets too high, it may indicate a problem. There is a limit to the number of somatic cells and bacteria that is allowed in the milk we produce. Heavy fines are put in place to penalize farmers that go over the set limits and their milk will not be picked up until the issues are addressed. Antibiotic residues are strictly prohibited. If a test indicates that the milk has antibiotics, the entire truck of milk will be discarded. The freezing point of milk is -0.54C. If the milk varies significantly from this number, farmers are fined because it could indicate the presence of extra water in the milk. Finally, the processors also take a sample of milk from each milk truck that enters their dairy as a double safeguard.

     I hope that I have eased any concerns that you have about the quality of the milk you may consume. Canadian milk is one of the purest and safest foods on the market. As I always say, farmers are consumers too. My family proudly buys and drinks the same milk that you get from the grocery store so lets all take a glass of milk and make a toast to celebrate Canada’s dairy industry!

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    My Favourite Cow

    Not long ago, I had the pleasure of giving a few of my city friends a tour of our farm. It was their first time ever seeing a cow up close so it was a treat for all of us. It brought me so much joy to see the smiles and amazement on their faces as they petted their first cow. I entertained all of the usual questions, but there was one particular question that I wasn’t sure how to answer. “Farmer Tim, which one is your favourite cow?”. I guess I had never thought about one particular cow being my favourite.
    After they left, I pondered that question again while I did the evening milking. There have been many great cows pass through our herd. As a kid, I remember Tulip. She was a huge cow with a pure white head and a very pendulous udder. I loved her because she came when you called her. Then there was Cranberry, out first red and white Holstein heifer. I spent many hours camped out in her pen while she was a calf; determined that I would make a pet out of her someday. Of course I could never forget Star. She was born almost two months pre-mature in the pasture field one hot summer night. As I carried her tiny body across the field into the barn to put her under a heat lamp I remembered spotting the most beautiful shooting star that I had ever seen. Thus, the name Star!⭐️ More recent favourites are cows like Tempest. Tempest does not live up to her name. She must be the most docile creature that ever walked the face of the earth. In fact, my kids have ridden her like a horse and they have fallen asleep beside her when they were younger. There’s the award winners in the crowd too! Majestic Mayhaven Francine was grand champion at a big dairy show in England many years ago. Her photo graces the sign at the entrance to our farm. In my youth there were countless 4-H calves that always did their best to bring home ribbons at the fairs. There are envelops arriving monthly in the mail letting me know that certain cows have been awarded certificates for life time milk production, for mothering exceptional daughters or producing high milk, fat or protein yields. Surely, I must have a favourite amongst those talented girls! Sandi just got a gold seal for producing 100,000 litres of milk in her lifetime! She’s definitely got to be in my top ten!
    As you can see, picking my favourite is no easy task. Of course there are certain times when I could tell you who isn’t my favourite cow. Take Dame for instance. She loves to slap her (not always clean) tail across my face almost every time I milk her. Then there’s Dorothy who never fails to kick the milker off at least once day! However, all it takes is gentle lick, a soft moo, or a sultry flutter of those long eye lashes and all is forgiven.
    Cows are remarkable creatures. Each one comes with her own unique personality. It’s that amazing diversity of personalities that makes my cows so wonderful to work with. It’s also what brings a group of cows together to form a herd. Now if the question was, “Farmer Tim, what herd of cows is your favourite”, I could easily answer……this one!

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Farmer-Tim/614335515362749

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