Carlyon Family Blog

Flossing Cows Teeth March 9, 2016 08:44 2 Comments

 Hi there – its Janet again – the mom and chore person

Sunday morning we are out feeding cattle and as we put out big hay bales with twine on them I get the  chance to floss some teeth on the cattle! Now you may wonder how that can happen so I will tell you. We can do this every week so we are sure to get some teeth cleaned every time. So important for those cud chewers!!
So every week the tractor operator (husband) moves bales into the feed area and it is my job to remove the twine around the bales before they go into the feeders. For the twine I need a large exacto type knife to cut thru all the wraps of twine around the bale and then pull it all off and roll into a nice ball. So as I am cutting the twine the hungry critters start munching on the bale and usually manage to grab a string or two in with the hay and start chewing. This is the moment we wait for. If I am lucky I can grab the tail end of the string as the animal moves away from me and pull it out. If I am not lucky I get to chase the animal around and try to step on the string tail and get the partially chewed string back. This is how they get their teeth flossed. It usually manages to get between their teeth and as I pull, it cleans! So this string or twine is a very pretty blue and must taste good as the animal keeps chewing and as I try to pull it seems to be stuck. And then it suddenly opens up its mouth and a big chunk of string and food comes out. Hurray! Success! I just cleaned between some teeth and it won't get cavities!!!
As I move to the next bale I see ice patches on the bale and curse winter storms. These bales are not nice to remove the twine from  as everything is frozen in place. As I cut down the bale I proceed to kneel down to get to the bottom strings and inadvertently kneel on a frozen lump of 'something' under the snow and feel my knee bruising. OUCH!! Just as I re-adjust my knee rest, my dog Rascal comes close to me (he loves it when we come down to his level) and some cows are coming close to sniff him. He then proceeds to lick my face and I get an instant ice cheek!! As well I as a nice smudge on my glasses! Blurred vision and icy cheeks. Yeah!

Feeding Hay to Steers

We continue on to feed all the groups of cattle, fighting with frozen strings and wrap, and finally everyone has enough hay to last a week. This is a Sunday morning ritual at our farm all winter. They also get a nice bale or two of straw all spread out in their bedding area.  All of the steers, heifers and cows look so content when they go for a lay down in the bed of straw. Now we can go in and enjoy a nice cup of hot chocolate to warm up frozen fingers and toes, and maybe get in a Sunday afternoon nap. We can relax knowing that everyone is fed up for the week and bedded down in comfy, clean straw. As for their teeth….flossing them is for the birds – just a little farmer humor!!

Labeling Defined Triple Lyoness Style September 4, 2015 19:34

Now we're back to me, Andria, restarting our blog posting rotation. 

There are so many terms out there used to describe meat products, to increase sales and to inform consumers, but for those who do not fully understand what they mean, these labels can be confusing and even discouraging. There are a couple key words we like to use to describe our beef, chicken and turkey products and I thought I would take some time to write about our labels and what they mean to our family and the way we raise our livestock.

The first label/term that we use is 'free-range'. There is some confusion out there regarding the difference between 'free-range' and 'free-run'. 'Free-run' refers to the animals being able to freely move around their enclosure/barn/pen. It usually refers to laying chickens being in barns, not in cages. When we use the term 'free-range', we mean that our livestock is able to freely move around their pasture. Our beef, chickens and turkeys are all finished 'free-range', but will spend some time in enclosures, therefore classified as 'free-run'. When our chickens and turkeys first arrive on our farm, they will spend up to three weeks in a barn before we gradually move them onto pasture. We do this because young animals need the extra protection to keep warm and keep predators out until they are more mature.

We follow a similar pattern with our beef steers. When they first arrive on our farm, they will spend a couple days in our corrals with easy access to hay and water, extra grain, shelter and bedding. This time allows the animals to adjust to their new surroundings and by keeping the same group together that we bought them as, decreases their stress level. 

The next term that we tend not to use, but is fairly common is 'antibiotic free'. We do use antibiotics on our farm in our beef operation. All steers are given antibiotics when they first arrive because they are exposed to new sources of stress. These sources include, new environment, new herd mates, exposure to new diseases and parasites, new diet, and usually they have just been weaned from their mothers. The antibiotics help boost their immune system during this time when it can be weakened from stress. In the winter months, its really easy for an animal that's a little sick to get really sick, really fast. During our daily checks, we look for any animal that looks droopy, slow, skinny or just a little off. These animals are brought in, treated, treatment type and date recorded and either kept in a protected pen if really sick or put back with their originating herd. The records ensure that none of our animals are sold inside the antibiotics withdrawal time.

Now for 'hormone-free'. Our chicken is hormone free. All chicken in Canada is hormone free. They are big and grow fast because of genetics and breeders selecting the breeding lines. On the beef side of our farm, some steers are hormone free and some are not. Each spring when we sort the steers into groups of smalls and bigs, we select a few steers that catch our eye. All the others receive hormones and are sold to a feedlot. We hand-pick the steers we want to finish and market directly to our customers based on a few key items. The first ones are a solid frame and good conformation. We also like ones with a calm disposition. The third and most important item we base our selection on is their health record. We check our records and make sure that they were not sick and did not receive antibiotics over the winter. This means that when they are processed, it has been six to ten months since they have had any antibiotics in their bodies. Therefore, our marketed beef is 'hormone-free'. 

The last terms I would like to cover are 'grass-fed' and 'grass-finished'. All of our beef steers (and even our cow herd) are 'grass-fed'. In the winter they have free access to grass hay and in the summer, they spend their days roaming our pastures, grazing grass, so they are grass-fed. The steers that are chosen to be marketed to customers are finished on pasture but also receive grain twice a day. So they are grass and grain finished. 

If there are any other terms that you would like explained, email us or comment below! 


Life of a Farmer June 19, 2015 13:21 1 Comment

Life of a Farmer

I was told it was my turn to write the next blog – so it is me ‘the mom’ Janet following after all three of the girls have posted a blog in the past few months.

I hope this time finds you enjoying our spring/summer weather. Here at the farm, things are going well, with the exception of a severe lack of rain!! Our pastures and hay crops are really hurting, as are many of the grain crops in the neighborhood. This problem is by no means local as most of Alberta and Saskatchewan are way below their usual precipitation for the season so far. It is hard to comprehend what this may mean for us and every other farmer out there!

Shortage of feed is a major immediate concern as everyone is struggling to line up alternate feeds for the coming months and for winter feeding. We keep praying for a decent rain to come down on our fields!

In the other day to day stuff, we are getting close to our first round of chicken butchering, and getting ready for our market on June 26th. This is a busy time as we try to keep our sales list updated and line up helpers for catching chickens and then 2 days later again for the sale! The day after the finished birds leave the farm we get our next batch of day old chicks! So there is only one night without chickens! Not much of a break. They are so cute when they arrive, but boy do they change fast as they get ready to head outdoors at around 3 weeks old.

The turkeys are doing great- except for a darn fox got in a few nights ago! He managed to dig under the fence, past the electric wire that runs along the bottom and then kill off a few of our lovely birds! Our ‘guard’ dog is getting lazy and we need to get him back in his game. But that is the hazards of raising the birds outdoors so they can eat all the grass they want.

Life of a Farmer

Pig Tales May 3, 2015 12:41 1 Comment

Hi, I am Jessica, the middle child (insert middle child joke here), and I am an avid outdoor and animal person.

Over the past two years, I have had a slight fascination with pigs. Fat pigs, skinny pigs, the ones that fit in teacups.... but more realistically- pigs that I could keep and raise during the summer. This February I went to Cuba with ALES Alternative Reading Week, I saw the Cuban pigs on the farms we visited and seriously got interested. At the beginning of April, a young farmer neighbor and I received our order of Yorkshire x Berkshire weaner pigs.

I had made a pen inside a barn at the farm, ordered feed and used a tub for water. I was prepared. When I went to pick them up, I was not nearly enough prepared for the sounds they make when you finally catch one of their short slippery legs. They did not "oink" at that point. The sound they made was a lot closer to a train slamming on the brakes and hearing each rail car screech against the tracks. In effect, you are nearly deaf by the time you get three pigs from the barn into the truck. I was laughing so hard I could barely hold on to the pig itself.

The pigs are now outside and putting their natural rooting behaviour to use. They can rip up a patch of grass the size of the kitchen table in about 5 minutes. I have also found out that they will tolerate a good back scratch. I decided on getting all three the same sex in order to have more uniform growth rate and decrease competition for feed. Of the three gilts (young females), one is pink, and two are black. The pink one is experiencing issues with having pale skin under the Albertan sun. She is a little sunburned. When I found this out I was scratching her back and realized, she was a little redder than the previous day. She clearly enjoyed what I was doing and flopped down on my feet.

So far, this pig adventure has confirmed that I did have a secret love for the swine species. It has also opened my eyes to the fascinating and amusing natural behaviour of pigs. Needless to say I think I'll probably keep this summer pig raising thing going in the future.

Follow me on Instagram @jacarlyon_11 for pictures and videos of my summer pig project!