“Growing up on a dairy farm, you certainly learn discipline and a commitment to purpose.” Mike Johanns
The sign reads: Visitors Welcome. On the road to Greenwich P.E.I., the evening sun setting over St. Peter’s Bay casts a red orangey glow on the hay bales that are lined up neatly in the hayfield. A long red clay and gravel lane leads to the barnyard, with the customary farmhouse, barn, tractors, and other farm machinery. Sounds emitting from the barn are a mixture of cows bawling and machine motors running.
A black and white sheep dog, Molly patrols the yard, while numerous cats and kittens skitter about. Grazing in a field in front of the house, behind a single strand of electric fencing, a small herd of cattle slowly lift their heads to inspect my approach. Finding my presence boring at best, they resume their munching on the more interesting blades of grass and clover before them. This is no ordinary herd of cows. These brown and white beasts are purebred Ayrshire dairy cattle, born and bred to be show cattle, and the best in their breed of milk producers.
The owners of this dairy farm are second and third generation. Their love for the profession and industry is evident is every aspect of the operation. Though humble in appearance, this is no humble operation. Ayr Bay Farms is a modern day operation equipped with state-of-the-art milking and feeding machines customized to consider a herd of 80 cattle’s individual dietary needs with great care, according to their milk production levels or stage of lactation. This might be daunting work for one man, but this is not the case. The owner and overseer have been in the business for over 60 years. The father/son team shares the duties of the working day beginning at 5:30A:M to 8:00P:M; seven days a week. Only peak periods during hay season, or a short holiday, do they relinquish the care of their prize herd to hired farm hands. Otherwise, every day is a work day, with no complaints. The barn is a hive of activity. Parallel lines of stalls house an array of milk cows all busily feeding and occasionally looking up to watch the visitors.
With all aspects of the dairy operation inspected twice a year, milk consumers should be comforted to know that such strict regulations are adhered to in this industry. As is tradition with purebred cattle, cows on the farm are given names at birth. You might be introduced to a Suzie, Cheryl, Glitter, or Happy Jodie. The inspiration for the names is not disclosed, but family and friends pay close attention to newborn calves ensuring their namesakes appear later in the show rings.
A barn is not a barn, without a cat or two, or three. Peering out from stalls and hay bales, most are cautious, but the young run about totally oblivious to the huge cattle in the stalls, and the danger of being trampled. As a young girl, many a kitten I carried home from this farm. Years later my own children chose two kittens from this barn litter to become cherished household pets. The owners pride and joy are the white kittens who are famous mousers (likely due to the extra thumb). They have been a familiar sight on this farm for at least two generations. Living in harmony with Molly, the sheep dog, they play an important role in keeping the rodent population down on the farm.
There is an air of contentment in this barn, for both the animals and their human keepers. Life is good on this farm. When asked why he chose this profession, my young host farmer, replied. “I think it takes a special person to be a farmer, not better, just different. If farming was supposed to be so easy, everyone would be doing it!”
And special he is; working a 7-day week unquestionably demonstrates his love for this job. Having the joy of watching newborn calves grow up to be show cattle, and other farms throughout Canada vying for their offspring, is his reward… for a job well done!
“Farming with live animals is a 7 day a week, legal form of slavery.”…George Segal