Friday Rambles Around the Table – Visitors on the Farm

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!




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12 Responses to Friday Rambles Around the Table – Visitors on the Farm

  1. mariazannini says:

    Every homesteader and farmer needs to read this. Thank you! You are absolutely right.

    I never mention on social media that I plan to be away from home until weeks after it happens. Once, I made the mistake of trusting a neighbor. I needed her to pick up my mail while I was gone. I didn’t realize she was a bit of a gossip and she mentioned we were away to two laborers that were working on her house. We came back the next day and found our septic pump had been pulled out, but abandoned. Whoever tried to steal it, didn’t realize it was hardwired to the main and he must’ve got an awful shock, but he also damaged the pump beyond repair.
    Was it coincidence or insider information that led someone to try to steal the pump on the very night we were gone? I like this neighbor but I’ve never trusted her again whenever I leave town.

    re: bio security
    We’re careful when we bring in new animals. I set them up in a quarantine pen before I introduce them to the herd.

    I especially cringe when people come over to buy goats or chickens. They have to go in to see the animals they’re buying, but I try not to let them near anyone else. It’s touchy stuff, and few people understand.

    • I agree with everything you said.. the local thiefs around here happen every year and once I even had someone “back a truck down my driveway” two guys.. I meet them with my “walking stick” and my dogs.. funny.. how they JUST got lost and could I help them find their way.. No one in a moving type truck.. back all the way in my driveway to ask for directions.. Not sure what they planned on taking but they beat it quick!

  2. valbjerke says:

    When we used to sell weaner pigs, or goats or layers – I used to make people take their shoes off and wear extra rubber boots I provided before they took a step. The only ‘looking’ they got to do was to pick out which piglet/s from a particular litter they got. Nobody gets a tour around here.
    I spend many hours shoveling shit and cleaning up – in the spring there is too much mud. In the winter – everything is frozen solid – no shovelling to be done. Another reason not to show anybody around – I don’t have bad eyesight- I can see the mess and don’t need an extra opinion. We have farm thefts around here too – they drive around rural areas and within a few days have figured out who’s gone at work all day. We have big no climb locked gates. Everything else gets locked up when we’re not here – the buildings, the hitches on our stock trailer, hay trailer – most importantly our well and the building that holds our water cistern. Hubby built an ingenious system for the house – if you’re not shown how it works – you’ll never get in. I suppose you could break a window – but then you get to meet my dogs.
    When we’re not home our livestock is out in the back field – there are people who like to cut fences and remove your livestock. The more difficult I can make it – the better. Another reason not to leave halters on your horses – make me crazy to see horses in a field with halters on.
    No…..I’m not a paranoid sort. I’m just realistic and careful.

    • All good calls Val B.. Its not paranoid, its real life.. in the past year, within three hours of me, sheep/lambs/beef and horse’s have all “gone missing”, they back the trailor’s up and load them up.. they did find some of the beef cows in the one case but most of the time.. once its taken its gone.. heck they have taken corn, other grains, maple syrup, even a trailer load of cheese.. The underground market is strong and the city gangs have fingers out our way.. I am waiting to see if the “hmmm.. o look the chopper has the heat seeking radar on again for the forest checks” grow op’s that happen will stop now that they have made it more legal.. most likely wishful thinking.. We even had a local family where most of the brothers went to jail for x amount of years for hunting out of season etc.. Keep your nose clean and out of other business but make it plain that you are not a target either.. careful is the way to go!

    • Ps, I have not lives here that many years before I had someone drop by for a visit and it was a hmmm and haaaa and I was like.. ok.. and finally he said.. so you foraging over that way on that field and I went.. no, I don’t go that way.. I have been this field and that field this year.. … hmmm, haaaa.. well. if you did have something growing in that “other field by the edge of the forest” you might want to go harvest it, otherwise, next week its being taken out.. WHAT.. o for.. No its not mine, No I don’t want it, please get rid of it.. No I don’t know who planted it.. I mean I guess it was nice to ask.. as I am known to Forage but that’s not what I am looking for! … Me Shakes head..

      • valbjerke says:

        Hah, I have had several people over the years say ‘well you’re such a good gardener you should grow pot!’ And assure me they could easily sell it for me. Good grief but no thanks 😂

  3. Silveryew says:

    I completely understand – Sister and her husband take a lot of precautions to keep their animals safe. Sister is a part-time community nurse and has been given dispensation from visiting an MRSA positive patient, as this can be passed from people to cattle.

    Vet or anyone who has to visit the barn has to change in a dedicated changing room where they are given clean dedicated clothes and footwear to wear while with the animals. People can’t just rock up and expect a tour, certainly not without prior arrangement! And don’t get them started on people who can’t keep their dogs on a lead when walking through their fields…

    When they have been away especially abroad, they do a self-imposed 72 hrs quarantine before going into any of the livestock areas.

    The last part of the post really shocked me – I can’t believe people will come onto a farmer’s land and remove animals in protest. I know people live by different principles, but that is plain theft and the livelihood of that farmer they are stealing! I hope they get the book thrown at them!

    • From every thing you have told me about your sister and her family and farm, they sounds just wonderful!

      So far, its only been happening as far as I know down towards the big city in the Toronto area.. there is a very large anti-farming, Peta movement in that area.. they don’t just want us to treat the animals within the rules.. they do not want us to have them period.. they want everyone to be vegan.. no meat at all..

      They are charged to the best of my knowledge and will be in court and hopefully they will get at least some fines and or jail time.. one can certainly hope.. each province has its own laws, out west the theft of livestock has harder laws then the one I am in now.

      Its pretty scary to think about though..

  4. Widdershins says:

    The more I hear about the utter stupidity, venality, and greed, of humans, the less I want to be around 99.99999% of ’em.

    • I am so torn.. I want to just pull into my shell like a turtle and just be.. but then I look around and think.. nope.. gotta get out there.. just a bit.. I have been burned a few times and it makes you want to turtle even more but you know what.. I have also meet and made friends with truly amazing people.. I have to remind myself that I have meet more that turned out to be so worth it.. The issue is that the one’s that made it past my first or second or 15th checks, tend to really explode in outstanding style! Time lets me see things more clearly.. Different lessons at different times in my life.. but one thing holds true from a young age till now.. When I am done! I am so done…. You cross that line.. its over! that’s it.. DONE.. strange how many folks are just sure.. that the rules don’t apply to them…. don’t work that way.. 🙂

  5. D > You’re so down-to-earth – some of your genes must be from Yorkshire! Those visitors who are genuinely interested in what you do will not mind doing the bio-security (also safety) things. However in the case of visitors who are learning (perhaps not voluntarily – as with school visits) about crofting, homesteading or keeping animals or whatever, insisting on all these things is very off-putting. Our view is that farm visits are for farms professionally set up for that purpose, with carefully risk-assessed routines, protective clothing, hygiene supplies etc, public liability insurance etc etc. Sad that these things are necessary, but that’s real life as opposed to day-dreaming. Guests staying at our holiday rental Carrick – on our croft in Eriskay, are puzzled and perhaps even put out to discover that our hen house is kept locked. To avoid offence being taken, we say that it’s so windy here, it’s the only way to ensure the door stays closed. Which is, conveniently, quite true.

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