Waves.. Dogs are on the deck, rain is coming so I am taking advantage this morning early to get a bit of garden work done. Come on in, I will wash up and put the kettle on for us.
O you want to have a little walk around, things are slowly melting out again since that last snow.. I know there are a few little things that are starting to grow and we are finally going to be able to plant out in the horse trough garden this weekend and work on the new garden paths for the front garden.
So yesterday in my email box came a letter from one of my official “provincial” livestock orgs and the whole thing was all about how to protect yourself from the animal rights and how to lock down your farm in many ways from the public.
This included signs, recommendation on wording and more..
I have to admit that I did a huh?
It seems to be it was not that long ago that everyone was talking about farm tours, about that as a small farmer and a connect with those who produce your eggs, your milk, your meat.. come to the farm.. pet the babies.. get your picture taken.
Now I have ALWAYS had an issue with this.. I can count on one hand the amount of my “friends” or those that visit the farm that are allowed to see everything and there is a dang good reason for this..
Its called Biosecurity and its real and its something that so many homesteaders, small farmers do not practise.. I am bad at it sometimes myself.. there are times where I let folks in the front yards without making them put on the booties. Where If I know that I have X rabbits in a clean hutch that I will take one out for a pet etc
The horse’s do go off the farm but they also get extra vaccines and they also have extra insurance for it as well. I used to have special travel insurance when I showed but now I have basic coverage for here on the farm. I have asked other people at times, what coverage do you have for when you have these “open days” and only two have ever answered me in detail.. the rest just get blank looks on their faces.
Strangely when you step out of the small livestock and into the horse world, this is the norm.. you need to show proof of vaccines, you need to show proof of insurance. You need to fill out and sign wavers when you arrive on the farms..
To be honest it should be the same way on the small homesteads, if you are really going to allow folks to stick fingers though fences or worst yet, going to allow people in with the different critters, example goat yoga or walking with the alpaca, then I would hope that everyone had to sign a waiver.. I don’t think many do but they should!
I had someone “petting” a friendly sheep, my focus was elsewhere and if I had not seen him back up and then move into again for “another pet” I would have missed it, I was just lucky that he was giving warning.
That ram was warning that person that he was getting ready to charge and because of lack of knowledge, the person though that the slow movement, care being shown was an invite to be friendly.. it was a interspecies miscommunication.
I know I shocked the person when I went over and reacted in a “BIG WAY” and drove the ram out and back.. but it truly could have all gone VERY Wrong.. I had a fellow sheep farmer who was hit by her ram and he broke her back. It was an eye opener to say the least, I had allowed myself to get to comfortable with the folks visiting as they come to the farm every year.
It was not their fault, it was not the ram’s fault.. it was mine.. as the farmer, I should know better than to put people and livestock together without full-time care and explaining going on between them.
I have been kicked, bite, rolled and stomped over my life time and pretty much everyone I know that works day in and day out with livestock has stories and war wounds to show..
The rooster that decided that purple was the color to trigger an attack.. the gander that thought you might have looked in the direction of his gal, the ram who has ewe’s in heat, the mare that is heat and who is a total sweetheart most of the time who will kick you if you look at her wrong on the “heat day”, the pig that has been a sweetheart always who snaps when a baby cries wrong.. and her hormones kick in..
However I do my best to keep certain lines that do not get crossed on the farm.. area’s that have the youngest is one area that I try very hard to keep totally only us, or a vet if needed but trust me, he is boot dipping and or wearing the blue booties.
Certain times over the past years, I have totally locked down the farm when certain bio threats are happening and are so easy to spread. Tires can and do bring things in.. boots, gloves and more.
But this was all about image, this was about the fact that we need to present the white picket fence image.
Strangely despite everything I said above, I don’t agree with the white picket or the hiding behind fences or locking in buildings without windows. Its spring here on the farm and I know that there is a mud on knees, there are wet feet that I am watching, there is a big shit pile in the one corner of the pasture where the horse’s dozed in the sun for months..
There is muck and mud and piles of bedding hauled out of the barns.. is it pretty.. no, it’s not.. but its real..
We need more care yes, and we need animal welfare yes, but we also need more real!
There is nothing wrong with real, you know!
Not all babies are perfect..
Not everyone is healthy all the time.. are we.. I mean really think about it.. why is there this image that every single animal on the farm must be this glowing picture of health..
If I asked you if everyone in your family was the picture of health all year-long, what is the odds.. someone had colds right? someone needed some kind of tooth care? What about nail care, some got a sliver? Or some slipped? Did someone hit their toes and break it? What about someone who gained weight over the winter or lost weight because they are nursing a baby and running after a toddler?
Or what about your house hold pet.. cats that need help with bite that got infected, or a dog that eat the wrong thing and is throwing up or a split paw or a pulled nail.. we all know that if own pets that there are times we need help, that we take them to the vets.
SO why the heck have we allowed ourselves to fall into the trap that a full-time milking animal be it cow, goat or sheep is to look the same as a dry animal.. they don’t.. they are in full production.. they have a hippy look to them.. it’s not wrong.. it’s just not the same as a unbred animal would look…
Does a mother of four who is in her mid 30’s look the same as a 20-year-old in their prime with no children.. no.. and yet we expect the older females of our flocks and herds to look the same.
I have even had people say.. what is wrong with that chicken! Is it unhealthy, does it need a vet, o my god.. put a sweater on it.. yes I swear, someone say the sweaters on facebook and told me to put a sweater on my chicken.. Sigh!
Its called moulting.. all birds that live longer then a year do it and they do it every single year! Instead of going, did a fox attack chickens due to the feather explosion in the yard.. or going.. that chicken must be cold..
Maybe we could have a chat about the fact that small farm, homesteads and so forth are the fragile keeping grounds of the rare breeds, the heritage breeds and that the best way to save them is to breed them and eat them.
That sometimes we should take pictures of birds in moult and share them on our social media instead of only sharing the perfect photos of the full fluffy butts.. I mean I love a feather fluffy butt the same as the next chicken loving gal.. but I swear I am going to put up birds with missing feathers and moulting chickens this year.
Then yesterday on the radio came a hour long program by a ag lawyer talking about how farms are getting swarmed.. they will have numbers of people arrive in protest and refuse to leave and often take animals when they do so, without the farmers permission.. they simply overwhelm the farmer. .. that they have started having to send out alerts to farmers that activsests are planning and talking on the net.
In this case they were focused on dairy and they would steal the calves and then post photo’s of them afterwards. Its my understanding that this also happened with piglets as well.
A friend of mine in alberta had her dog taken and re-sold (or so it appears) from her ranch yard.. I feel so badly for her, it seems like every year all over the place, dogs are taken for re-sale (if they are lucky) and for fighting rings if they are not lucky enough to be rehomed.
Whole litters taken from backyards, someone tried once to steal my Freyja and they would have gotten my mom’s much more friendly house dogs if my farm girl had not let loose in barks and ran away.. stranger should not touch.. I yelled from the window and then left as I went storming out. That same day they took X amount of dogs from the town.. we were just lucky, it was totally random.
However my friend had shared on social media that she was traveling, and I know that while it “could have been ” random, I can’t help but wonder if her farm got targeted due to there being a farm sitter in place. As far as I know at the moment, they still do not know where they much loved dog is.. my heart breaks for them..
I would be so upset if someone came and stole my lambs right out of my barn.. Camera’s have come a long! long way. Tiny little battery camera’s will get the job done. Get one that shows your lane, one that shows your barn and more.. and put up the signs.. Smile, you are on camera!
So in a nutshell..
Stop having open house farm days, they are being targeted
Follow proper and safe Biosecurity on your farm when you do have people come visit.. they come to visit in the house.. beware and speak strongly to those that they can just wonder around looking at things.
Show real life as well as the pretty on your social media, we need more REAL
Put up camera’s and use them on your farms
Lock things up.. I know its a pain to do so.. but put things under lock and key goes a long way to help makes sure things stay safe. As does chaining things up. I know they can be cut.. but it sure slows folks down at the least!
Don’t tell people if you are going to be away or if you have a farm sitter stopping by, write about your great time after you get home. I do it all the time, folks think its happening in the moment.. but its after I am home..
If they are going to be living on the farm full time that’s a little different but make sure that is shared in such a way as folks understand that.
Its a new world we live in folks.. and its a tricky one to find balance in.
Stay safe out there.. and keep your livestock just as safe!