Ontario Corn Fed Beef is naturally great tasting! But what exactly is Ontario Corn Fed Beef (OCFB)? Why is it able to produce great tasting meat? Who are the people and communities involved that make this program such a success? How do they maintain the consistent quality of this beef?
I, MoVernie, is as curious as you, wanting to find out more about our food sources. As more people prefer to “Shop local, eat local and support local“. It’s part of my mission to gather more information and share KEY content with all of you about Ontario Corn Fed Beef. By being on the MOVE on beefy farm tour, visiting feedlots, cattle farms, restaurants and grocery stores that serve Ontario Corn Fed Beef, I will be able to find these answers. In this MoVernie x Ontario Corn Fed Beef BLOG series, you will be able to understand how Ontario Corn Fed Beef Program operates in various aspects from different parts of the agricultural industries.
Follow my MoVernie Beefy Journey!
In order to produce high quality Ontario Corn Fed Beef (OCFB), every aspect of the process has to be top notch. From the quality of the corn being produced on the corn fields, to the design of the feedlots and all the way to the cow breeding farms, every individual who works closely with the Ontario Corn Fed Beef plays their respective important roles.
As part of the beefy tour that I did this past September, we visited a breed farm called “Gilbrea Farm“, which is located in Barrie, Ontario. Just like many local Ontario farms, Gilbrea Farm is a family-run business. Bob and his daughter Katie gave us a tour and introduced us to some of the cows and calves in their fields. The fields were large and mainly comprised of flat lands with shallow slopes.
We hopped on a wagon that was attached behind the tractor. This wagon was quite large in size, surrounded with metal rods but with good visibility. We got to sit on the stacked hay along the way. The ride was a bit rocky but I had fun, it was actually one of the highlights of the beefy tour for me. During the ride, Bob was explaining to us the various features and equipment he used to raise these calves.
When we arrived at one of the fields, there was a gate. I recalled Bob had to hop down from the tractor, unlocked, pushed those large gates opened, then hopped back onto the tractor to bring us into the fields. Then hopped back down and closed the gates and then hopped back onto the tractor. This imaginary stuck in my mind as I realized how simple life and back to the basic farmers could be.
Bob and his daughter, Katie mentioned a number of innovations and technologies that they employed throughout the farm to help improve the breeding and selecting stock to help produce the best beef cattle for consumption. For example, Katie mentioned that they will collect data on each cow and learn about their mental behaviour. If a cow tends to be aggressive, it’s not as ideal for breeding. But if a cow is more peaceful and calm, they will use her for breeding and every bits of these details are recorded for future reference and study. Also, they also record if any cows abandoned their babies. If they do, they are not ideal for further breeding. And Katie said it happened before where the calves were abandoned by their own mothers and they followed other cows to be taken care of. When I heard that, I felt sad but that’s part of reality.
Bob also built some large wind deflectors on the fields, they were meant to block winds from the calves. Sometimes the mother cows would drop their calves near these wind deflectors so they can go further away and grab food and come back to feed the calves. Bob also built some water and nutrient stations that were only for the calves. There were narrow entrance that only small calves could enter to ensure the adult cows aren’t stealing water and nutrients from the calves.
Bob also mentioned to us that farming technologies have came along way with apps on their computers and smartphones. With a few taps on the smartphone, he can check the profile information of each calf, providing him with information such as the DNA information, the origin of each calf and other important information. Also, he can use the smartphone to control the tractor. Basically, he doesn’t need to be sitting on the tractor in order to drive it. With a few taps onto the smartphones, the tractor can be in motion. However, Bob said that once the tractor reaches the end of the field, he needs to turn the tractor around so it can begin to move to the next end of the field with the app, but that’s still a good innovation to have.
MoVernie Fun Fact: Did you know that each year, the local farmers will pick a particular letter to name the calves? Each calf will have its name starting with the particular assigned “letter”. For example, if the farmer association decides to choose the letter “Z” in year 2010, then all the calves of year 2000 will start with the letter “Z”, such as “Zoe”, “Zack” and etc. Katie said that by giving a specific nomenclature convention annually, the farmers can identify which year the calves were born based on the first letter on the name. I thought that was very cool!
I learned a lot from both Bob and Katie during my visit at the farm. I always enjoy chatting with farmers as I can get a better sense of what’s it like being farmers these days. They invest lots of money and effort daily to ensure their farms are operating at high standards. Sometimes, unpredictable weather conditions could impact whether their farms could continue to operate or not. For example, if one summer, there wasn’t many rain, there aren’t enough water to grow the crops. This mean they don’t have enough stacked hay to feed the cows during the winter. Thus, this means they have to allocate extra expense to buy extra feeding nutrients and food to feed these cows over the winter. These added expense can make or break a farm operation.
By just talking to Bob and Katie, you could see how passionate they are with the farm and how much they care about their cows. They constantly look for ways to improve the quality of breeding the cows. At the same time, they want these cows and calves to live in calm, peaceful and clean conditions.
My beefy tour was worthwhile and I really appreciate both Bob and Katie’s time for explaining to us how their breeding process works at the Gilbrea Farm.
This MoVernie BLOG was paid for by Ontario Corn Fed Beef. As always, all reviews and opinions are entirely my own.
And MoVernie is outta here!