Chatsworth Farm near Vermilion will be hosting an outdoor farm tour during calving season for a maximum of 10 people on Saturday, March 20. The tour is one of five in their new agritourism program, ‘Chatsworth Farm through the Seasons’.
“Anyone and everyone is invited to attend,” said Charlotte Wasylik.
“We will tour the overall farm, focusing primarily on the calves and calving barn. Often we will have 10 – 15 calves born per day, so most likely there will be some very new calves or visitors may even get to watch a calf being born.”
She said people have a deep fascination with farm life, whether it is a senior who one grew up one and now resides in town, or someone who has never visited a farm – they are always curious and excited.
“I know that just going outside and being able to interact with animals can bring you so much comfort and joy,” said Wasylik.
The hope brought by new life in springtime is hard to top, but the industry does come with challenges such as inclement weather, limited sleep, or the possibility of illness. Chatsworth Farm calves 210 cows between March and April, so she said it makes for a lot of sleepless nights for her brothers Nick, Alex, and her father Rick who take turns doing the overnight and early morning checks.
“When it is very cold, they will check on the cows every hour on the hour so they are always tired, but it is always gratifying to see healthy calves running around,” said Wasylik.
For the most part their cows calve without assistance, but just like humans, she said the baby might be backwards or in need of some assistance. In that case, she said they glove up to feel how everything is situated and assess weather they need to assist with the birth by using obstetrical chains around the calves ankles to help pull it out.
“Everything is quite slippery with placenta and all of the fluids that are a part of the birthing process. As the cow pushes you will start to pull and as long as everything goes smoothly the process doesn’t take very long. With the calf on the ground, you take the chains off and move it in front of the cow so she can see it. After needing help she will be tired so will rest and start to lick the calf to dry it off and create a bond (by mooing) so the calf can identify her and the cow can just sniff the baby to tell that its hers.”
The occasional birth requires a veterinarian for a c-section. Wasylik said one of the miraculous things about the procedure on cattle is that the cow remains standing the entire time despite anaesthesia. Usually a c-section happens quickly and then the mother and her calf are loaded into a trailer and taken home.
The farm tours provide an opportunity for people to better understand where their food comes from, and to see the process of how animals from cattle to sheep to poultry are raised.
“Our tours give people a better connection to the food they eat and the opportunity to ask questions. Farming is a bit different than other industries because in the lifestyle of a farm family, personal life and work life become blended. For us the animals are our important to our lifestyle, so making sure they have the best life possible ensures we are able to keep farming for years to come,” said Wasylik.
The fees are $20 for adults, $10 for children, and registration is required by March 17. Hand sanitizer will be provided, and participants are required to wear masks and to social distance, as well as to wear rubber boots or plastic booties over their shoes for biosecurity (as well as comfort as it can be a muddy time of year). The tour begins at 10 am, with lunch provided afterwardfor everyone so aside from viewing the cycle of the animals, giving participants the opportunity to try some homegrown products during their visit.