Thursday, June 30, 2011

Life's Journey

So how do you wait for heaven?
And who has that much time?
And how do you keep your feet off the ground
When you know that you were born
You were born to fly.

These lyrics from "Born to Fly" by Sara Evans, inspired the path that my agvocacy blog has taken. We are all born to fly, we just have to find our wings and set off in the world. In these past months I have spent blogging, I have realized one of my goals now is to be an informative agvocate!

To be a true advocate for agriculture, I believe you must be informed and become knowledgeable about all aspects of agriculture production and to be able to speak about any species of livestock, not just the breed you raise. Try to understand the issues that affect production and speak intelligently about them. Understanding an industry is key to being able to share not just your story but others as well. I hope that I have been able to do this to some degree. For consumers to really understand, we as ag producers need to be heard but not necessarily with 1 voice as we often hear in political terms, but to quote my mom, "perhaps we need to be more like a choir- a multitude of voices- all equally important, and singing from the same book".

I can only hope that I become a true "agvocate" and leader in agriculture. The journey to becoming this has been long but I have had much help along the way. My inspirations and encouragement have all come from my family. I get constant support from my parents to keep going and succeed at many things. As most people read in a previous post, my grandma has been and always will be my hero, for so many reasons. My grandpa, who I wish I could have gotten to know better since he passed away when I was 2, has also been an inspiration to always learn and succeed. Grandpa wasn't raised in a beef cattle production, so when he married my grandma, he learned everything that would make him successful in the industry. In a few short years, he became a respected cattlemen who is missed by many people. My other inspirations are two of my cousins that are known and respected by many- Peter and Christine Boake. Peter spent many hours with my when I was younger, teaching me how to clip and fit my animals, and has always been there to offer advice. Christine actually inspired me in my future career path- to be a graphic designer and work in social media just like her. Having mentors encourages your personal success and leads you on your path.

As I'm sitting here talking about finding your calling, I remember back a number of years ago when I attended the National Junior Shorthorn Show. We had a keynote speaker, David Irvine, who spoke about leadership in agriculture. The things he said have stuck with me after all of this time. Your life's calling is inside of you, and it is yours to find. Make your journey your own. The four key points of calling are vision, passion, gifts, and contribution. Everyone is unique and has something different to offer, and we have to find that something. And that is what we are all trying to do in this world: embark on a journey to find out life's calling. We all have a vision for the future and a dream. I have found that there is no place I would rather have this journey than in agriculture. It has started here on the ranch, and continues here. I can't be too sure where it will end, or if it will end, but I will always know where my roots are.

Here is a poem that David Irvine included in his program that speaks to so many of us, and will stay with me forever.
Child: Where is Heaven, Dad?
Father: Heaven's a place where people can go and taste pure water,
And see in Winter, white snow.
Heaven's a place that's good and clean,
Where you can breathe the air,
And the grass is green.
Heaven is a beautiful park,
Where there are birds to sing,
And you're safe after dark.
Heaven's a place where there's lots of risk, but you've got support to deal with harm...
I lived in heaven once,... I lived on a farm

See you at Synergy!

A Walk in the Country

So I think now we all know the importance of agriculture to the sustainability of the world, but agriculture also plays a part in tourism and recreation. Just southeast of Calgary, the Muchka family runs the place for agriculture fun- the Calgary Corn Maze, Petting Zoo, and Pumpkin Patch! From the end of July to mid-October, people of all ages from everywhere come to visit this new and fun attraction!

Corn mazes, as everyone knows, are mazes cut from corn crops. Many mazes are cut so that they show a design or some words. The success of the corn crop determines the success of the maze. There is often a range of stalk heights and the strength of them will differ as well. There should be about 20,000 plants per acre and the whole group should be planted from mid to late May. The corn will start growing taller in the summer months. In late July it will often be 5 feet tall, and at the end of August, it will be at its peak of 8 feet tall. The corn will then be harvested around mid to late October as it will be ready to be eat!

Almost all of the games and activities at the corn maze are agriculturally oriented. Besides the maze, there is also a pumpkin patch where people of all ages can pick pumpkins for Jack O'lanterns, painting, cooking, and for pies. The petting zoo is also a much enjoyed attraction. Young children love the small barnyard animals, such a miniature horses and donkeys, pigs, sheep, goats, and many more! Other activities include pig races, tractor rides, duck races, treasure hunts, and so much more!

Corn mazes have become popular tourist attractions, as it provides farm fun for people of both rural and urban backgrounds. Many people have also visited the maze through field trips, social groups, and youth group trips. The age range proves that you can never be too old to enjoy some classic farm fun. The corn maze is an excellent place for agricultural entertainment. It is really neat that agriculture can play a role in such a wide variety of things, including recreation. I am making sure that I will be able to take a trip to the Calgary Corn Maze this summer to experience the fun that so many people have enjoyed!

Please visit the link below to plan your trip to the Corn Maze!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Water, Water, Everywhere

I had mentioned in a previous post that our irrigator hadn't had to be turned on due to the rain we've had, but I thought I would talk about the importance of irrigation. First of all for those of you who don't know, irrigation is the application of water to land or soil through sprinklers. The water for irrigation may come from groundwater sources, surface water such as rivers and canals, and even treated waste water. There are a few different types of irrigators.

Here is a center pivot. The sprinkler
rotates around a pivot. They are run
by electric motors and may have a
GPS system.

This is a lateral move irrigator, which
is propelled on a number of wheels
that let's it move around to reach the
entire crop.

The flood system simply lets water
move across the crop in turn flooding
it. This is the oldest form of irrigation.

 Basically, farmers and ranchers use irrigation to assist in the growth of their crops and has always been used when there isn't enough rain to do the job. Only 5% of Alberta's farmed land is irrigated, but it produces almost 20% of the gross provincial agricultural production! Irrigation is so important to agriculture production in Alberta. Not only that, but irrigation provides water support for over 80,000 acres of wetland habitat. These wetlands provide habitat for an incredible amount of wildlife in the province.

There are 13 different irrigation districts in Southern Alberta. My family is in the Western Irrigation District, also known as the WID.
The WID, which began in 1944, (taking over from the Canadian Pacific Railroad who started irrigation in 1894) provides irrigation water to more than 400 farms and 96,00 acres of land. They also supply municipal water to over 12,000 people in four different communities.

Ducks on the canal, just a few of the many animals who
benefit from irrigation
 In 1929 my great grandfather purchased our ranch and promptly obtained irrigation rights, as he planned to use the ranch for summer pasture, grow a huge vegetable garden, orchard, tree lots and hay. One year thanks to flood irrigation, he even grew rice!

My family, including many others, have permanent water rights, which allows us to use water for crops and livestock. Others may just have stock watering rights, which is used for watering of livestock. The water is turned on May 1st and shut off October 1st. Water users pay yearly based on how many acres you irrigate.

Irrigation has helped many agriculture producers out in tough times, when rain shortages greatly affected the growth of their crops. I don't know what we would do without this great resource. In the summer months, there are many nights I go to sleep listening to the loud irrigator. Some may find the loud noise annoying, but to me, it is a comfort knowing that the water is there and that irrigation is sustaining us.

The "C" irrigation canal runs through our pastures
and is diverted to our hay fields.

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Hero

Agriculture has evolved over the years, in terms of the industry, economics, the machinery, and even the animals. But another thing that has changed drastically is the involvement of women in the business. In years past, women weren't at the forefront and they were just a force at home. While there were always women who were well known along side their husbands, they were not accepted in the role, as in many roles in society. But soon, the discrimination faded away as there were many respected cattlewomen. I am proud to say that my grandma, Leta Wise, was one of those respected cattlewoman in a time of men.

Mimi (the name my sister and I have called her since we were babies) grew up on a ranch outside of Acme, and was the youngest girl out of 11 siblings. Her father, E.J.C. Boake, raised Jersey cattle, until a barn fire wiped out his herd. That's when the family got into raising purebred Shorthorn cattle. At one point in time, they had the largest herd of Shorthorns in Canada. Growing up, they would take bulls to the Calgary Bull Sale, and Mimi would participate in the Baby Beef show for youth, which she won many times. While there was no problem with girls showing with the rest of the kids, they had better be out of sight come night time, so it was not always so comfortable.

Mimi with her Baby Beef steer, 1952
Along with the Acme ranch, my great-grandpa bought a second ranch east of Irricana for summer pasture for the cattle. When he died in car accident, Mimi inherited this ranch. And to this day, we all still live in this beautiful place. Just as Mimi was finishing high school, she decided to apply to Washington State College to study agriculture. But being a women, the college denied her entry, but wrote her letter telling her that they would love to have her in their home economics program.
Despite the disappointment of not going to study what she loved, Mimi stayed on the ranch. She married my grandpa, Berwyn Wise, when she was 21. Grandpa didn't know anything about raising beef cattle because her grew up on a dairy farm, so Mimi showed him her knowledge and brought him into the beef cattle world. Together they ran Boa Kae Polled Shorthorns. They raised many outstanding bulls and females and attended many shows. However, Mimi was almost always the only woman in the show ring; it was just her and the men. Mimi and Grandpa made all of the decisions together, opposed to her father making the decisions for everyone when she was a little girl. Things were changing drastically. Along with these changing times, my grandparents sold all of the Shorthorns in 1969 and began boarding exotic cattle and started a custom fitting service. From 1876 to 1986, they ran a bull test station.They also imported our first Maine-Anjou cattle, which we still have today. Since then, my grandma has run the Wise Maine-Anjou Ranch.

Grandpa, far left, and Mimi, second from right with their
Champion Pair of Bulls
Even in present times, gender discrimination still seems evident. Grandpa passed away in 1996, leaving just Mimi and two of her daughters on the ranch. At this time, there were many people telling my grandma that she should disperse the cattle and simply get on with life. It has been 15 years and Mimi is still raising her Maine-Anjou cattle and enjoying her ranch. Mimi still says she has no intention of retiring. "Retire to what?" she says.

Mimi still says that her life would have probably been much different if she had been able to attend college, but the choice just wasn't there. However, she is proud of what she has done in here years and what the ranch has become. I took a quote from her here that perfectly sums up what it is to "live the dream".
"I feel very fortunate to have been able to live my dream, to see the calves, the foals, the grass, my daughters, and now my granddaughters, grow on the ranch I love. I just love the clouds and the sky and the prairie sunrise and sunset, and the silence."

Mimi and I at my graduation

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch...

On June 23rd, I wrote my very last high school exam which marked the official beginning of summer holidays for me. Summer has been beautiful at the ranch. The sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking, all of the cows and herd bulls are out to pasture, and due to all the rain we have had, the irrigator hasn't had to be turned on. 

One of the many summer sunsets I have enjoyed

Besides the horses and a pen of custom beef fat cattle, the only other animals that are in the barnyard are my summer show cattle. Every morning before feeding time, I rinse my heifers and then put them in the barn under fans. I do this in order to grow hair on them. Many people do this to their show cattle because having more hair is often more desired when grooming cattle. Of course, there are many people who prefer their cattle slick. I have always preferred a healthy hair coat on my heifers. My older cows, on the other hand, I don't mind if they are slick.

While I have been focused on growing hair on the heifers, I have also been working on preparing some cow calf pairs and halter breaking the little calves that I will be showing. I have been working on 3 calves that I have come to love.

Jinny showing Tonic a little love after
he was born.
 The first is Tonic, the Maine Limousin cross bull calf off of my 2 year old cow Jinny. He has been halter broke since the middle of May and I guess I could call him the "good influence" on the other calves. I have worked with his dam, Jinny since she was a tiny calf as well. She was out of one of my 4-H cows and has been on the show road since she was a baby. You could almost call her an old pro. Jinny can get very cranky, but for the most part, she behaves well in the show ring.

Gem playing around in the snow.

Next is Gem. She is a purebred Maine-Anjou heifer out of my 4 year old cow Ruby. Gem is incredibly quiet and very sweet. I am not having too much trouble with her at all. Her dam, Ruby, was also a 4-H project of mine a few years ago, and has been one of my favourite females to date. She is quiet, friendly,  and looks pretty nice. This is a pair I am very excited about.

Chuck looking pretty innocent nestled
in the straw.

Last is my sister's bull calf, Empire, which we have both nicknamed "Chuck Bass". Chuck has a little spark to him and can be pretty feisty, but is getting better every time I work with him. My sister and I are extremely excited about Chuck as he may be a herd bull prospect. We are not showing his dam, but we are entering him in a couple bull calf classes this summer.

The ranch has been busy these last few days and will be for the rest of the summer with the preparation of the show cattle, but all this hard work pays off in the end, and the time spent with my animals is much enjoyed :)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Vision for Care

There is nothing more important to me than that my animals are properly cared for and fed, and I think that I can speak for most people when I say this. All animals deserve to be cared for and live an easy life. Unfortunately, there are numerous animals in the world who are subject to inhumane treatment and improper handling. It is upsetting to see any kind of animal live through this.

Fortunately, there are people out there that are making all the difference.
Alberta Farm Animal Care, simply know as AFAC, is a provincial program that works toward improving animal handling and responsible care for animals in the livestock industry. The association started in 1993 by a group of livestock producers. The goals were to promote humane animal treatment, engage in public discussion, participate in issues, and encourage animal care research. The association realizes the growing concern of animal welfare and is working towards a positive change.
The AFAC has brought foreword
  • open communication and discussion with livestock protection agencies
  • an animal welfare curriculum with agriculture colleges
  • livestock care and handling guidelines, training programs, and reports
  • communicating with the public about the care farmers give to their animals by using interactive display, education resources and publications
In it's lifetime, the AFAC has accomplished a great deal of things toward the proper care and handling of animals.

Have a look at the AFAC's timeline-

Not only has the AFAC made a positive impact in the Alberta livestock industry, but one woman's vision has changed animal handling forever. Not only has she changed the way we think about proper handling of animals, but she can even understand the stress and feelings of animals. Her name is Temple Grandin, she is a world famous doctor of animal science, professor, author, and consultant to the livestock industry. Temple also is a high-functioning autistic, which made many aspects of her life difficult. However, her autism let her understand the "flight-zone" and stress caused on animals during handling, transport, and processing. In the last number of years, Temple has designed low-stress handling systems for meat plants and farms. Her writings on the flight-zone and other animal behaviour have greatly helped many people on reducing stress while handling their animals. She has made a huge impact on the humane handling at meat processing plants.

She has even developed a scoring system for assessing handling of cattle and pigs at meat plants. Her scoring system is used by many large corporations to improve animal welfare.Temple's work and vision has changed the way we will understand animal handling forever.

Practising responsible animal care is necessary for the long term sustainability of the Canadian livestock industry.
"Animal welfare is a human responsibility that encompasses all aspects of animal well-being, including proper housing, management, nutrition, disease prevention, responsible care, humane handling, and, where necessary, humane euthanasia."
-Canadian Veterinary Medical Association

Thanks to a number of dedicated individuals who have a vision, the proper handling, care, and treatment for animals will be possible all over the world.