Is it that time of year already? Most of the harvest is in now and Thanksgiving is upon us. I am not sure if the legends of the first Thanksgiving are true, but they do give us an idea of the reasons for the celebration. It was an opportunity to be thankful and to share with others.
Those to whom we need to be thankful this season are the farmers. If you have food on your table, in your fridge and cupboard, thank a farmer. Sometimes what arrives at the house from the grocery store hardly resembles something that came from a farm, but, nevertheless, it originated there. Perhaps it comes from a local farmer or one from Alberta, California or Mexico, but thank a farmer. The food we eat may come from a large operation, or it may come from a small, one family farm. Regardless, we thank a farmer. We thank a farmer for the long hours, the risks, the financial burdens and the worries, for without them, we would have no food. Few people in today’s world can grow or have sufficient knowledge to produce much in the line of their own food. Thank a farmer. From the turkey on your table, to the potatoes, the cranberries, the squash and the pumpkin pie with whipped cream, we thank a farmer, for without the farmer, we would starve.
Growing up on a farm was and still is, I believe, a good way of life. The business of farming has changed a great deal over the years, but it continues to offer a unique set of values and style of living. I remember growing up with always having something to do, and my time, year round, was full. I learned the circle of birth, growth, maturity of death in life. I learned how to work hard and play hard. The values that are passed on from one generation of farmers to the next are good solid ones and are a firm base. Farmers value the land, respect the weather, and follow the patterns set down by nature.
The next generation of farmers is being raised on our farms right now. Very few farmers were not raised on a farm. Agricultural programs at colleges and universities are full of students who are farm raised. Farming is not a career aspired to by the youth of today unless they are the sons and daughters of farmers. And the lure of a weekly pay cheque, steady income, weekends off and summer vacations is strong for potential farmers. Who will take over the stewardship of the land and feed us when this present generation retires?
The new farmers will face many challenges in making his or her way in life. The high cost of land, machinery and buildings are daunting impediments but they are usually overcome one way or another by each generation. Growing up on a farm teaches them that it is rarely easy, the work is never done and the pay isn’t guaranteed. There is however, satisfaction and knowledge that the work they do as a farmer is important and worthwhile, for the family, and the community. And it’s a way of life that must be preserved and passed on to the next generation.
Forty or fifty years ago, farmers around here started to plant the same crops on the same field year after year, usually cash crops. Adding the proper amount of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides allowed the crops to flourish for many years. However, Mother Nature and monoculture farming do not get along. Even with the additions of chemicals, crop yield decreased and input costs skyrocketed. Crop rotation is absolutely necessary to maintain the precious soil that sustains our earth. It also is an aid to another growing problem, herbicide resistance.
We have all heard about antibiotic resistance bacteria affecting our health centres. The same thing is happening in the plant world where the herbicides, having been used for years, are no longer effective in weed control. This is especially true in many US states and the problem is heading toward Canada as well. The answer is not in finding new herbicides but in crop rotation and other farm management techniques that have been around for centuries.
Crop rotation can reduce the impact of insect and diseases leading to higher yields, lower input costs, manage crop residue and provide diversified marketing options, as well as decrease herbicide resistance. And there are excellent resources to aid as you decide how to adapt to these changes. One excellent Canadian resource is www.mixitup.ca which outlines the problem of resistance as well as solutions and practices. A couple more resources are from Penn State: http://tinyurl.com/k4o6g75 and from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: http://tinyurl.com/ophh7z6 There are many other resources available on-line and in print.
Now, while your crops are growing in the fields is the time to be planning for next year and to make the necessary changes to keep your operation efficient as well as profitable.
The Earth is a huge boulder flying through space at incredible speeds, seemingly inert and unaware of the presence of any life upon its surface. Yet, there is a great deal of evidence that this life, as in human life, has done a great deal to affect the planet, especially in the last 150 years. We know that things are changing: carbon dioxide, methane and other ‘green house’ gas levels are increasing in our ever so thin atmosphere. We’ve been pumping, spraying and burning unchecked for a long time and so it is logical to assume that we do influence our environment, including climate. How much influence is another question?
Long before the industrial age, the Earth went through warming and cooling periods. Supposedly the earth was warmer during the millions of years of the dinosaurs. The last ‘Ice Age’ ended 10,000 years ago, give or take a day or two. And there was a ‘mini-ice age’ in the 14th to 18th centuries in which crops failed, glaciers grew and winters were long and harsh. Its causes have been attributed to sun spot activity, volcanic activity or ocean activity, or a combination of all these and perhaps other yet unknown elements. While we cannot say with 100% accuracy why it happened then or what is happening now to our climate and the rest of our environment, we cannot deny that something is happening and most probably, we, as human beings, have had some part to play.
It’s only logical to do our part in doing what we can for the environment. Following the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ motto makes sense. Making informed choices about our small corner of the world does make a difference. We don’t need to wait until there are definitive answers before we make changes at home, business or farm. Nor do we need to wait for a government to lead us. It is simply time to make small changes on a personal level so that we can “be the solution.”
For some more information, there’s an excellent article in the current edition of Better Farming.
Fossil fuel prices have risen again and will probably continue to rise. It is most noticeable at the gas pump, but certainly natural gas, propane, diesel and furnace oil prices will follow, if they haven’t already. Another winter like the one we just experienced is sure to dig deeper into our wallets once heating season comes along again. Perhaps it is time to explore the possibility of capturing a non-fossil fuel that many farmers already produce on their farms: methane. The wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine, but cows, pigs, poultry and people always poop.
Methane is a renewable, non-fossil fuel. If you have livestock, you have the raw material to create methane: manure, which, in many cases, is already churning and bubbling in closed pits. Once captured, methane can be used for everything from cooking and heating to electric power generation. The scale of your plant can vary a great deal as well. Small bio-fuel digesters are built and used in some developing countries to provide gas for cooking. Germany is a leader in bio-fuel research and development in power generation. As for safety, the protocols for the use and storage of methane are similar to that of other flammable gases.
Of course personal research is necessary to determine your best solution and there is a great deal of information on-line. A good place to start is the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture which lists incentives and requirements of a bio-fuel generation. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/biogas/incentives.htm
Being prepared is of utmost importance to a farmer. It’s important to have a spare, because things eventually wear out or break down. One thing that we can’t always be ahead of is weather. Weather prediction in Southern Ontario is difficult at the best of times because of the number of variables involved. Being surrounded by the great lakes, a small change in wind direction can lead to major changes in weather events.
Fortunately, we can get up to the minute results on-line. There are two internet sites that are worthy of your favourite list. The first is Farmzone at www.farmzone.com. This site is a specialized site of the Weather Network. In addition to the regular information, maps and forecasts, of interest to the local farming community are a drying index, degree days, and heat units expected. As well, there’s a link to market information on futures grain markets.
The second is at www.wunderground.com. The Weather Underground is made up of over 34,000 personal weather stations across North America that send data into the central station where it is analyzed and plotted. This creates an impressive network of weather information. They also have apps for smart phones and tablets which bring up to the minute weather information to your pocket or purse. If you wish, you may join your personal weather station to the network.
We can’t (yet) control the weather but at least we can be more aware of what is sliding across the skies and prepare for it.
THE STAINLESS STEEL ADVANTAGE
Here at Dwyer Manufacturing, we specialize in the manufacturing of stainless steel products. Stainless steel is created when a minimum of 10.5% chromium is added to molten steel. Probably the most popular grade out of the many types of stainless steel is 18-8 which that indicates that the steel contains 18% or more chromium and 8% nickel. Stainless steel forms a ‘sacrificial’ layer of chromium oxide on its surface which protects the steel below. Scratches, and cuts ‘self-heal’ by forming a new sacrificial layer making this type of steel very resistant to corrosion and stains all the way through, and not just on the top layer.
There are many advantages to using stainless steel. In addition to corrosion and stain resistance, it has a high strength to weight ratio, which allows a thinner gauge material to provide strength equal to a thicker, heaver gauge of steel. It is easy to cut, bend, weld and machine. Once fabricated, it is virtually maintenance free and has a very long life. It is non-porous and therefore hygienic, hence its popularity in hospitals, restaurants and other areas where sanitation is essential. Aesthetically, it is available in a wide variety of finishes.
Here at Dwyer Manufacturing we believe that the many advantages to using stainless steel outweigh the higher initial cost of materials in a cost-benefit analysis over using regular or galvanized steel: strength, long life and low maintenance.
For more information see the Stainless Steel Information Center at www.ssina.com
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This year will mark the fortieth anniversary of the Ontario Pork Congress www.porkcongress.on.ca taking place at the Rotary Complex Stratford, Ontario on June 18th and 19th. The program showcases the latest developments, technologies, services and products for the swine industry. The Hog Jog on June 18th will raise funds this year for Stratford Wellspring Cancer Support Centre. Volunteers are still needed and participants welcomed. www.hogjog.ca
The Hospitality Tent this year features the musical talents of Kenny Munshaw and Fred Hale. As well, there is a complimentary BBQ lunch on both days and Sausages after 4:00 PM on day two. Stratford’s “Hog Wild Week” will finish with the Ribs and Blues Festival on the 20, 21 and 22.
There’s a little something for everyone at the Pork Congress and plenty to do and see to make it a full day. Come and visit us at the Dwyer Manufacturing Booth.
Liquid feeding of pigs is nothing new. As a young lad one of my jobs was to mix water with chop in a 40 gallon barrel which was doled out to the sows. When my dad shipped cream, it was the skim milk that was mixed into it. Liquid feeding was more of tradition at that time than a science.
Liquid feeding works and it is estimated that 20% of Ontario pigs are finished using this method. Scientific research is showing us that there are five main advantages to liquid feeding.
- Improvement in nutrient conversion
- Increased flexibility and control in the feeding program
- Use of cost effective liquid co-products
- Reduced environmental impact
- Improved animal performance.
As with a dry feeding system, or a wet/dry system, controls need to be in place in order to maintain proper hygienic quality of the feed as well as the system. Economically it makes good sense, especially in today’s volatile markets for feed and product.
Do contact us. We are happy to provide up-to-date information about liquid feeding systems, comparing various systems, and conversions. Also, please see the Swine Liquid Feeding Association website at http://www.slfa.ca
Most would not think about Dwyer Manufacturing when it comes time for choosing a wedding gift for a couple who are planning to marry this summer. We do however, have a few ideas that might be appropriate for the happy couple.
A stainless steel mailbox of any style can be made up and customized to suit any taste. Whether its a rural box-type or one that hangs by the front door, this is a very practical gift that will stand the test of time.
We are also happy to make a set of BBQ utensils that can be customized with the couples’ names, wedding date or even a wedding bell or two. If the newlyweds are gardeners a stainless steel garden planter might be in order. Again, a lasting gift that may be customized.
We are happy to work with you to design and make a unique gift for you. Please contact us with your thoughts and ideas.
A viable swine industry requires the maintenance of healthy stock from the farrow to the finish barn and everywhere in between. The prevention of diseases and maintaining production facilities disease free, the farms biosecurity, affects the financial security of the business regardless of its size.
Here’s an informative link to a guide provided through Ontario Pork. Keep Ontario pigs healthy and happy.