Read the Progressive Dairy Canada digital edition


Read comments from Progressive Dairy editor Karen Lee, ranging from the origin of specific magazine articles to thoughts about industry trends.


Most dairy producers I’ve talked to tell me they farm because they love the outdoors, they love working with animals, they love operating equipment and they love working in the fields.

Rarely do I hear it’s because they love producing a high-quality beverage for infants or the elderly.

Does that mean the quality of milk produced is not a priority of the farm? Certainly not.

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I’ve always said farms are like snowflakes: There are no two alike.

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to see a lot of farms. When I started in this field about a decade ago, I probably should have begun a tally of every farm I visited. I’m guessing by now it would be in the hundreds.

Some of my most memorable visits are to farms in other parts of the country, or other countries, for that matter. Each region, climate, government, economy, etc. impacts how each dairy is set up and operated.

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Which came first, the chicken or the egg? That’s a hotly debated question, one that can puzzle a small child and stump an adult to come up with the correct answer.

Today I find myself with a similar question: what comes first, the calves or the milk replacer?

You see…the calf barn for our small farm is now complete, thanks in large part to my husband who built it in his spare time with occasional help from family and friends.

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Back in 2009 when the U.S. was struggling with low milk prices, a camera crew from a local news station stopped by my family’s farm to talk to a dairy producer to see if times were really as tough as everyone said it was.

When the interview was over my dad walked the camera crew around the farm. He showed them the freestall barn and milking parlour. They went to see the baby calves and the heifer barn, and finally he took them past the dry cow barn.

The news anchor was soaking in this newfound knowledge of the dairy industry and when he saw this pen full of 50 dry cows clearly separated from the rest of the herd, he couldn’t help but ask, “If you need to produce more milk to cover your expenses, why don’t you milk these cows?”

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We all know the welfare of animals is a growing concern for the general public and certainly an interest to producers. I recently heard an interesting philosophy which helped me gain a better understanding of the origin of varying viewpoints of welfare and how today’s farmers might be able to address them.

As David Fraser from the University of British Columbia kicked off the Dairy Cattle Welfare Symposium in Guelph, Ontario, recently, he suggested that in the past half-century the perception of farm animal care has gone through its own industrial revolution.

Similar to society’s shift in the 1700s, the use of advancing technologies converted the agrarian model of emulating nature to an industrialized model of controlling nature.

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As harvest progresses, the visual evidence of this summer’s drought throughout eastern Canada will soon be left only to memory.

However, the effects of 2012’s hot, dry weather will likely be felt for a few years and by more than those who witnessed the withering plants first-hand.

Like those of you in Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, I spent most of the summer praying for rain. I had watched as one shower that occurred shortly after planting made my soybeans sprout out of the ground, only to then see them sit there almost stagnant for weeks on end as the sun rose and set with not a rain cloud in sight.

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