2.5 Additional Material

What percentage of farms are family farms and what percentage are factory farms?

98 per cent of farms in Canada are family farms. These farms vary in size and some have employees but remain family operated. Many farming operations employ multiple family members that span up to three generations.

With advances in technology and science, farms have experienced growth and improvement in productivity. Many families choose to incorporate their farm similar to small businesses in other sectors. There are many reasons behind this strategy including risk management, liability, tax purposes and succession planning.

The term factory farming is largely a term used in popular media and by animal activists and generally refers to feedlots. The term “factory” implies mass production with each step in the production line performed over and over for an identical end product.

Unlike an automotive plant, farming and ranching operations treat each animal as a unique individual. Each animal must have an RFID tag. This individual identification has the ability to store information regarding genetics, performance, nutrition and diet, animal health, ownership transfer and more. Rations are formulated according to an animal’s weight and gender and animal health is evaluated on an individual basis to treat illness.

An animal’s individual traits are considered when making breeding decisions. These are a few examples of how family farms treat each animal as an individual and make production decisions based on this information.

Additional facts from Statistics Canada regarding Canadian farms

 

What percentage of farms are family farms and what percentage are factory farms?


What are farmers doing to manage pain?

Pain management in the beef industry has been a topic of research for many years and continues to be a prominent area of study. Pain is difficult to measure in beef cattle as they are a ‘flight’ animal or animal of prey. Expressing signs of pain is a sign of weakness that attracts predators in a natural environment so cattle have evolved to hide pain. This has made it difficult to study and measure. The National Farm Animal Care Council’s (NFACC) Beef Code of Practice was last updated in 2013 by a committee that included producers, government, transporters, veterinarians, Canadian Food Inspection Agency representatives, animal welfare representatives and researchers.

Producers utilize management practices to mitigate pain. Each farm or ranch is unique and chooses the management practice best suited to their production practices. Performing painful procedures when the animal is young is the most common form of pain mitigation producers employ. A range of pain mitigation medications or drugs are also available. The Beef Code of Practice provides science based guidelines for production practices including pain control. As of January 1, 2016 the Code requires producers to use pain control measures when castrating bulls over nine months of age and when dehorning animals after the horn bud is attached (2-3 months of age)

For more information on Pain Mitigation visit BCRC’s website

National Farm Animal Care Council’s Beef Code of Practice

BCRC’s Pain Mitigation video

What are farmers doing to manage pain?


Why does the age of an animal effect the pain level of procedures?

Procedures are much less invasive in young animals. The wound is smaller, there is considerably less blood loss, and young calves recover more quickly with a smaller setback in animal performance. For example, in young calves the horn bud is not attached to the skull and is less painful to remove compared to an older animal.

Why does the age of an animal effect the pain level of procedures?


Why do beef producers perform painful procedures like castration, dehorning and branding?

Polled animals present a lower management and handling risk to farmers and other animals. Horns can injure farmers and animals and cause bruising to the carcass.

Castration is used as a management tool for many reasons including to avoid unwanted breeding, reduced aggression, improved human and animal safety, improved carcass quality, and to reduce price discounts. Castration of bull calves soon after birth results in improved health and gain in the feedlot, and enhanced carcass marbling and tenderness compared to castration at or after weaning.

Branding is one of the few permanent methods of animal identification that is easy to identify from a distance and legally accepted as proof of ownership. Branding may be required by community pastures, lending institutions or for export. This being said, the use of brands has been steadily dropping. As of 2011, less than 10% of the fed cattle in Canada had brands.

Visit the Beef Cattle Research Council website for the remainder of this post here

Why do beef producers perform painful procedures like castration, dehorning and branding?