Making Hay

The family that hays together stays together!

The family that hays together stays together!

This weekend we made hay and had put it up in the loft.Farming requires a combination of strength and endurance to get the job done.

This weekend we were haying. First, we cleaned out 1/2 the loft pushing out loose hay and straw that had piled up over the years. The kids helped where it was safe to do so and then were relegated to very important jobs likes holding sunglasses and taking pictures. Yes, the bulk of the photos in this post were taken by my 5 yr old on an iPhone. I kept my good camera dust free and helped the kids feel included in our job.  Look at that mound of hay we pushed out of barn.

Mount Haymore.

Mount Haymore.

 

Moving square bales uses a pile of muscle groups and is a great all over workout. Here’s the lowdown.

Dead lifts- lift bales up to carry. Bales varied in weight from 45-70 lbs, so it’s a varied workout for sure.

Walking with an extra 40-80 lb. Bonus if you can farmer walk with a bale in each hand.

Clean and jerk to place bales

Press – Pushing bales into place on the stack

Quick dash back to the order end of the barn.

Repeat, repeat, repeat until you’re done.

 

How is farming a viable business??

I have been asked “How do farmer’s make  a living?”

 Here’s how it goes on our farm.   Most farms do not have a regular income stream. We are one of those operations. We are a family farm. The farm owned by my in-laws, brother in law and ourselves. We sell our products just a couple times a year and get paid based on market prices and quality for our products. Bills are mostly steady but we have our fair share of sporadic and unforeseen expenses – like the new combine we bought in fall 2013 that was NOT planned. On our farm we raise cattle, grow hay and  grain.  I’ll break it down by each category.

We are a purebred cattle operation. So get the bulk of our income from selling high quality seed stock the industry. That means we sell a few select cows every year through breed sales and we have an annual bulls the first Thursday of April annually. We do our best to breed sound cattle and take care of our customer’s needs. The annual bull sale is a real big deal for us. We sell 50-60 bulls with an average price somewhere around $4,000-$5,000 per bull. If you are curious check our farm website.

The bulls on display for buyers on our sale day.

The bulls on display for buyers on our sale day.

We also have a certain number of calves that we sell that end up in the product cycle to make beef. These are calves that aren’t the quality we want or cows that have ended their production cycle at our farm. We generally sell these cattle in October and February annually. We get market prices for these cows.

Summer is the season for haying at our place!

Summer is the season for haying at our place!

For our hay operations, we have 2 separate income streams. We lease some hay land to local farmers and we sell hay that we have harvested ourselves in the fall. Leases are paid twice a year. For the price of the hay we sell, it varies year to year depending on the quality of feed and how available feed is that year. So it’s pretty much supply & demand driven.

Here we are moving grain at -40 degrees in the winter.

Here we are moving grain at -40 degrees in the winter.

 

The grain operation gets more complicated. We pre-sell a portion of our our grain through grain marketing contracts through the futures market. This actually really big business!! We sell about a 1/3 of our crop before we harvest it, the rest we contract up after we have the crop off and a some we may sell straight off the combine to a local feedlot or elevator depending on the year and crop. The grain is delivered to the elevator for sale at various time of the year depending on delivery date negotiated in the contracts.

 

In Canada over nearly half of farms have operators that work off the farm. My mother in law works off farm and thanks to her, the farm made it through the financial crisis of the 1980’s.  My husband and myself all have off farm jobs that help with a bit of stability and in order to do extra capitol investments to make the farm more profitable before we settle into the farm. We will likely always have an off farm income to help with cash flow and stability. 

Father’s Day Fun & Fitness.

Meier Football

The family action playing football on Father’s Day.

I’m loving the pics coming through my news feed from my BC Dairy Farming Family. The fam jam took an afternoon off for a Father’s Day BBQ and a good old game of touch football. There are some very great benefits of having a large extended family. I come from a large family – 5 brothers & a sister. I have 24 nieces and nephews from my side of the family alone!!! I grew up with epic games of dodge ball, volley ball and some great mass bike rides. All seven of us played rugby throughout high school. Yes, my mother must  of had nerves of steel and a frequent fly card at the ER. Since we are Swiss Immigrants in BC there was a whole lot of time spent hiking (free fun for a family of 9, yes please!) and skiing in the winter.

Lately the family took it upon themselves to incorporate sports in our family get together. Easter was a great game of base ball, football yesterday, pool parties at my brother’s place over the summer. My family has it’s challenges with a huge love of food and keeping fitness balanced. I love to see how we are evolving to a more fit family. The adults are committing to fitness by running, taking fitness classes, and being involved in sport with their kids (hello Rubgy!!). We recognize that some times hard farm work just isn’t enough or balanced to keep us as healthy as we’d like.

In my corner of the world in SK, we are making great use of a big back yard for soccer games, indoor floor hockey games in the shop over the winter and a hole lot of good times playing chase. I look forward to all the different ways  we can incorporate a healthy outdoor fun into our family time as my kids grow up!!!

Keeping active practicing soccer drills

Keeping active practicing soccer drills

What do you do on your farm or with your family to incorporate fitness and fun in your lives??

 

A day in the life.

Charolais Heifters

Felfie with the girls.

I’ve had my non farming friends ask about our typical days. Well, there is no such thing as typical. Today hubby was sick so it was extra hectic. But here was my day today:

5:00 am wake up & workout
6:30 am leave for work. I have an hour plus commute in a carpool. Days that I drop the kids off at daycare it’s 6:25
8:00 am -5:00 pm work. I generally get a workout done over lunch 3 days a week in addition to one 30 minute workout at home.
6:15 pm get home & have supper. We live on leftovers and quick meals during the week.
7:00 bath kids. Put one to bed, one to snuggle with dad.
7:30 check cows and heifers for heat, feed bulls & cows with twins. Feed the cats
9:15 pm back inside. Pack and plan for tomorrow. Soccer day so the kids eat at the soccer pitch-picnic.
10:00 Bed.

Great day!! Usually hubby and I divide & conquer but today he needs rest. I’m grateful for my body being strong and my health to be Fit2Farm!

Beef Terminology 101

Image

So I get it. Cattle terminology can be a wee bit confusing. I put together a mini-dictionary of cattle terms. What cow terms do you want to know more about?

Calf– Baby cow

Cow– Momma cow

Bull– Male cow used for breeding

Heifer– Girl cow that hasn’t had a baby yet.

Steer– Castrated (Neutuered) male calf that will be grown for meat.

Dairy Cow– Type of cow used for milk product. Pretty much all the dairy cows in Canada are Holsteins – the black and white cows.

Beef Cow– breed of cow that is used for meat production.

Purebred Cattle– Cattle that are purebred and registered with their associated breed organization. Similar to pured dogs, horses etc. The cow in the picture above is purebred Red Angus Cow

Common Cattle BreedsThere are piles of different breeds, but the main breeds in Canada are Angus, Charolais, Hereford & Simmental.  Angus- Can be black or red. Charolais- Usually all white but can be tan to red.Hereford-They have a  white face and red body. Simmental – Black or Red can have a white face

Commercial cattle- Cattle that are cross bred usually a mix of 2-3 breeds. This gives the calves what is called “Hybrid Vigor” which makes them hardier. The tan colored calf in the picture above is a commercial calf, she’s half Angus, half Charolais.

Cow/Calf Producer– This if a farmer that has a herd of cows that producers calves. The calves stay with their mom’s all summer. They are weaned in the fall and then sent into the backgrounder lots.

Backgrounder Lot– A farm where calves are fed over the winter a diet that’s mostly hay/silage (ie. grass) before they are put on pasture again in the summer.

Finisher Feedlot- This is the final part of the beef cycle before the cattle are slaughtered. Cattle are feed for anywhere from 100-180 days on a diet that is a mix of silage, grain and supplement.

Silage- Grass that is harvested and fermented to be fed over the winter. In Canada we can’t keep the cattle on pasture year round due to snow, so we stock pile feed for the cattle over the winter.

Hay- Dried and baled grass. These are the green bales. Again, we harvest the grass and stockpile it to feed over the winter.

Straw- Dried and baled stalks from harvested grain. These are the yellow bales. This is used for bedding for the cattle. It’s a pretty neat part of the agriculture system where we used the grain from wheat or barley for human food and the left over stalk from the plant is used in the livestock industry, so we get the most use out of the land possible.

Supplement– Feed that is manufactured in mills to add to forages and grains. This commonly is a mineral/vitamin pack and a protein source that is a byproduct from another part of food production. Common supplement ingredients are canola meal (by product from canola oil extraction), wheat middlings (flour by products), distillers grains (malting by product)

 

A beginning in Agriculture Advocacy 

The why to my story

April 4, 2014

I have been inspired to start this blog about farming, food, and fitness in an effort to tie the three together. These three things overlap in my life on a daily basis. I’m a farmer, an agrologist, I love food, and I’m a fitness professional.

I struggle with all the stories out there about how farming is a scary and possibly evil profession nowadays. I grew up on a farm and the farming community is my life. I feel that in many ways farmers are being vilified and misrepresented in the media today.

The truth is today in Canada less than 2% of the population is directly involved in agriculture and farmers are in general scared to speak about our story. We’re a modest bunch by nature and we love nothing more to spend time with the land and our animals. But I feel it is important to share my story. Why I farm, why I choose to use the farming practices I do and to share the struggles farmers go through on a daily basis to feed the world. It’s a great privilege and a great responsibility to say that I help feed the world.

Drop me a line and ask me a question, I’d love to answer as best I can.

 heifers