BMO Farm Family Award

The 2019 Royal Manitoba Winter Fair is finished… but the memories are still going strong!

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We would like to say a big THANK YOU to

  • Walter, our BMO host and award presenter, for showing us a great day and being such a flexible and fun host. Of course, a big thank you to BMO for sponsoring this award and for their support of agriculture.

  • Karen, the Provincial Exhibition Marketing and Communications Manager, for answering our questions and ensuring that our day ran smoothly

  • Dan and Brydan, the ACC Interactive Media Arts students who produced the jumbo-tron video for the presentation, for being such good sports about keeping us with us in the petting zoo area! They also did a really great job of capturing our family and our farm! If you missed the video, you can watch it here.

By my toil I believe that I am giving more to the world than I am taking from it, and honor that does not come to all men.
— John Nason - The Farmers Creed

International Women's Day

Each day people around the world are working, and sometimes fighting, to make this place we share one of mutual respect and equality.  

Some of those causes are global, while others take place within a single room in our home or workplace.  

They are all important.

Today is a day when we set aside time to recognize the work that has already been done, and the achievements already made.  We can reflect on the current state. We can strategize about our role and our next steps in creating #BalanceforBetter.

This week I posted about my goal of learning to drive a semi as a way to contribute to our farm.  In no way does this mean that every FarmFemme should set that as a goal, nor is that a way by which to measure her farm contribution.  The real goal is that we all get to choose how we contribute and that our choices are respected.


Why Driving Rules Matter to Farmers


The debate about the usefulness of mandatory training in the farming sector is an interesting, complex and nuanced one.  If you have been reading this blog for any period of time you know that we are extremely committed to safety and creating a culture of safety on our farms.  Having said that, many farm kids experience driving opportunities at a very young age - for instance I remember driving the quad and riding lawn mower before I reached double digits.  

Now, as I seek to obtain my Class 1, my whole goal is to be able to safely bring a load of grain to the elevator. I do not want to do any hauling that requires mountain driving, international driving, securing loads or maintaining a log book.  The training that would meet these needs differs from that needed by a full time commercial driver.

Saskatchewan and Alberta have rules in place to require Mandatory Entry Level Training; both provinces have provided some flexibility for farms, although each took differing approaches. It is important to recognize that farms face challenges in finding skilled labor and additional requirements add to these challenges. By acknowledging that a farmers’ ability to transport their goods has a ripple effect across industries and on the economy as a whole we can work with regulating bodies and training providers to make sure we are all safe without disrupting our food systems.

Although my desire to complete my Class 1 licence was motivated by personal timing, I can see that the demand for formal training is high.  I am scheduled into the first available time for my selected training course - July. I guess that gives me a lot of time to practice my shifting!

Read below for other provincial requirements.

There are currently no Class 1 training requirements in Manitoba.  The government is in the process of consulting with industry in order to develop training rules or regulations.  Estimates of a January 2020 implementation date have been circulating.

As of March 15, 2019, Saskatchewan requires a Mandatory Entry Level Training of 121.5 hours of training, however those with licences before the new rules came into effect do not have to complete the training and farmers driving within the province are exempt.  

As of March 1, 2019 Alberta requires a Mandatory Entry Level Training of 113 hours of training, not including air brakes.  Those with a Class 1 licence prior to October 11, 2018 will not be required to take the training, while those who obtained their licence after that date will be required to participate.  Farmers may apply for an exemption, which will be available on March 15th and be valid until November.

Ontario requires 103.5 hours of training.  This requirement came into effect July 1, 2017.

Manitoba Farm Women - Carla Plett


FarmFemmes introduced you to Carla Plett this summer. We asked her to come back for another feature this week to talk about how robotic technology has changed the dairy industry. She works with her family at Rumardale Holsteins Ltd. in southeastern Manitoba where they milk around 350 Holsteins on seven Lely robots.

1. How does the introduction of robots impact animal health/welfare?

Robots have many benefits when it comes to animal health and welfare. Since robots remove the human interaction during milking there is more consistency in the way the animals are prepped and milked which ultimately leads to better udder health in the herd. Robots also have the ability to pick out possible sick cows before we may notice anything physical wrong with the cow. Having robots also allows the animals to be milked on their own time.  Another benefit to have robots is being able to customize our robot ration and high moisture corn to each individual cow so each cow can be feed according to their production level.

2. How does the introduction of robots impact record keeping?

In terms of what record keeping we use a combination of Lely's T4C and Dairy Comp (DHI) to keep tract of our herd.  Dairy Comp is our main way of keeping records of our herd but T4C gives us in-time data on each cow for daily management.

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Lely in Action

Display shows cow number, amount of feed, status of each milking quarter and duration of last visit.

3. How does the introduction of robots change the human work in a dairy operation?

Having robots does not reduce your time in the barn like some might think, but it allows your schedule to be more flexible. Robots let you spend the time you would have used for milking to focus on other areas of the barn and herd that you may not have had time for previously.

4. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about switching to robotic milking?

Based on our experience with our herd, if you are considering switching over don't wait - it is well worth the investment!  Since moving over to robots our production and overall cow comfort have increased tremendously.  But it is important to remember that robots should be used as a management tool and that a robot does not replace a herdsman.

FarmFemmes is One!

One year ago we started posting our thoughts about agriculture, from a uniquely woman's perspective.  We have posted about serious topics, and not-so-serious topics.  We are passionate about technology, safety and balancing family life.  We have shared personal stories of our own experiences and shared the stories of others who we have met along the way.

Thanks to our readers, followers and supporters (in over 20 countries) for encouraging us to share the realities of women in modern agriculture.

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My Personal Park


I was reminded of the differences between farm yards and city yards this week during a conversation about watering the garden.  I mentioned that there is no nearby access to water, so we haul in totes of water and use an electric pump to run the sprinkler.  After a good chuckle we realized that maybe we don’t garden on the same scale!

Another yard job that typically occurs on a different scale on a farm is lawn mowing.  I grew up measuring lawn mowing in hours, and this did not include push mowing or weed whacking.   I love the smell of fresh cut grass and remember many happy hours riding the lawn mower as a child and young adult.  This was, and still is, one of the best “chores” to do! 


The bonus about living on a farm yard, is that you really have a park right outside your front door.  Maybe your yard has a big open space, perfect for a soccer or softball game.  Perhaps your yard has trees scattered everywhere, providing perfect dappled sunshine for a picnic.  Whatever your farm yard allows you to do, all the hard work of maintaining a big outdoor space pays off in being able to enjoy the outdoors every day.   

Sure, there are days when the lawn is longer than I would like or the trees are not pruned.  However, there is a satisfaction and pride in working outside, in calling a place home and in connecting to the Earth.  It is hard to put into words, but it is there every day when I drive in our lane.

Mother's Day

You are never too old to need your mom.  

For our Farm Femme Mom who spent countless hours, modeling, coaching, listening, advising, guiding, prompting, supporting, working behind the scenes, driving, financing, and providing a much needed kick in the rear... THANK YOU!  Thanks for teaching us how to raise our kids.  Thanks for helping us to learn when to hang on and when to let go.  Thanks for teaching us to be kind to ourselves.  And, for so many other lessons... Thanks for being the best mom you could be every day.

Love you Mom!

Click through the gallery to see how our Mom taught us to be Moms... and how to spoil grandkids in just the right ways.

Pam Part Two

Pam Bailey is the first woman on the Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA) board of directors.  We got the chance to chat with Pam about MCGA, advice to other Farm Femmes and what else she has on the go.


Q. What was it about the canola growers that made you want to invest your time and energies there?

A. Prior to engaging in the nomination process, Pam started to monitor the MCGA publications more intentionally and she was impressed with the organizations consistent messaging and branding.  Pam said “One of the key indicators of a healthy organization is their ability to articulate what they are doing, and why.”  Pam also spoke extensively about the value, and importance, of systems crafted in the right way, in order to protect the best interests of the individual board members and the organization.  After speaking to a number of different producers, she was satisfied that the organization had robust processes and the right people, so she filled out the nomination papers.

Q. What advice would you give to other Farm Femmes considering leadership positions?

A. Investigate and ask questions.  We can all contribute to the community; it is just a matter of finding the right fit.  Some of the questions to ask are:

  • What are the possible ways to be involved?

  • What are varying commitments and what do they look like?


During our conversation, I learned that Pam is not only dedicating her time, energies and talents to the Canola Growers.  In fact, she is the co-founder of Ag Women Manitoba.  This up-start, non-profit began in December 2017 as an extension of the work that Pam was doing with a mentorship program at the University of Manitoba.  Look for more about Ag Women Manitoba in an upcoming post.

More Farm Femmes: Pam Bailey

After first reading about Pam in Country Guide we knew that we wanted to talk to Pam.   As FarmFemmes, we were interested in what made her take on the challenge of becoming the first woman on the Manitoba Canola Growers Association (MCGA) board of directors, and what she has learned along the way.


Q. What experiences prepared and equipped you to feel capable to take on a board role?

A. Growing up in a small community in Nova Scotia was really the foundation for Pam’s strong feeling of connection to community.  After experiences in 4-H and Young Farmers, Pam had a good background in parliamentary procedures and governance.  However, as is often the case, it took a personal connection to prompt Pam to consider a board position with MCGA.  Chuck Fossay is the current president and also Pam’s neighbour, so when Pam asked where all the women and young people were, Chuck encouraged her to fill out the nomination papers.

If you are not happy with your situation, then learn the process and change it. - Pam's parents

Q. How did you get the inspiration, and know-how, to make this happen?

A. Pam’s upbringing helped her to feel confident in navigating a nomination process, and the clear and transparent directions on the website make it easy to learn what MCGA required.  The real question, which helped Pam frame her decision to complete the nomination papers, was “What do I have to be afraid of?”  In other words, what would a “fail” look like.  Pam looked at that question from the perspective of governance, farm planning, environmental issues and agronomy, and realized that although she didn’t know everything, she knew enough.


Keep reading tomorrow to learn more about what made the Manitoba Canola Growers Association the right fit for Pam AND what else she has on the go.