Farm­ing Down Un­der

Glen­gar­rian shares unique ex­pe­ri­ence

The Glengarry News - Glengarry Supplement - - News - BY AN­GELA BROWN News Staff

A Glen­gar­rian with a pas­sion for agri­cul­ture re­cently re­turned from Aus­tralia where farm­ing life is quite a bit dif­fer­ent from what she has ex­pe­ri­enced at home.

Af­ter liv­ing in the Land Down Un­der for 13 years with her Aus­tralian hus­band, Nancy Van­der Byl Smith re­turned about three years ago with her fam­ily and now re­sides on a 125-acre farm in the Fas­sifern area.

“I love Glen­garry for farm­ing,” she says. “It’s my home and in my blood. I was born and raised here.” She grew up help­ing her fa­ther Rudie Van­der Byl at his large feed lot in Lochiel.

Be­fore re­turn­ing to Glen­garry, Mrs. Van­der Byl Smith worked on the western coast of Aus­tralia and raised 400 head of An­gus and An­guscross cows on 2,500 acres to pro­duce calves for the beef in­dus­try.

She says while farm­ing tech­niques in Aus­tralia are sim­i­lar to those in Canada, the cli­mate is dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent so farm­ers have more chal­lenges in keep­ing their an­i­mals happy and healthy.

In Aus­tralia as the tem­per­a­ture at times climbs to 40 de­grees Cel­sius farm­ers need to make sure their an­i­mals are well hy­drated. Mrs. Van­der Byl Smith says she would see cows run to a wa­ter trough and drink it dry.

“There they have ex­treme heat and here we have ex­treme cold,” she says. “Here the wa­ter might freeze, while there, cat­tle are so thirsty that when 100 calves hit the 1,200-litre tank they drain it and stand around wait­ing for more, bust­ing up the trough and mak­ing prob­lems. The cat­tle are so thirsty be­cause they are so hot, so you have to keep the vol­ume of wa­ter up for them.”

She says in Aus­tralia, an­i­mals are not kept in barns as they are here. “Even for dairy (farm­ing) ev­ery­thing is out­side,” she says, adding cat­tle are of­ten kept on a graz­ing sys­tem. Feed lots are usu­ally at­tached to a cash-crop­ping in­dus­try.

Cat­tle are fre­quently brought to a shed that doesn’t have wall en­clo­sures for milk­ing in a dairy-cow op­er­a­tion: “They don’t have to house them in­doors be­cause it is not that cold.”

“There is no per­fect place for farm­ing; farm­ing is a dif­fi­cult in­dus­try,” she adds. “We have to be in­no­va­tive, on the cut­ting edge of tech­nol­ogy, and up-to­date about what is go­ing on in our in­dus­try if we are go­ing to sur­vive.”

She moved to Aus­tralia af­ter meet­ing her fu­ture hus­band while liv­ing in Al­berta a num­ber of years ago. Af­ter vis­it­ing the coun­try through the In­ter­na­tional Agri­cul­tural Ex­change pro­gram, she al­ready had an affin­ity for the conti- nent.

Mrs. Van­der Byl Smith, who has a de­gree in live­stock pro­duc­tion and man­age­ment from Kemptville Col­lege, says over­all she finds farm­ing life “very re­ward­ing.”

Wa­ter bed

Cur­rently work­ing as a sales rep with Lloyd Cross Sales and Ser­vice, of L’Orig­nal, Mrs. Van­der Byl Smith re­cently par­tic­i­pated in dairy farm con­fer­ences in Maxville and Kemptville.

She is in­ter­ested in new tech­nol­ogy. One piece of in­no­va­tion she finds par­tic­u­larly use­ful is a new wa­ter-bed for dairy cows. When the an­i­mal rests on the bed it is mas­saged by the move­ment of the wa­ter. “It goes a long way to in­creas­ing a cow’s longevity,” Mrs. Van­der Byl Smith says. “She lives longer and pro­duces (milk) longer.”


The cou­ple, whose sons at­tend Lag­gan Public School and Glen­garry Dis­trict High School, grows and sells hay to lo­cal farm­ers.

She and her hus­band hope to start a beef farm with a cow­calf to fin­ish op­er­a­tion within the next five years while main­tain­ing another farm op­er­a­tion in Aus­tralia.

“It’s a great time to be a beef farmer in Canada. There are great tri­als in farm­ing but there are also great re­wards,” she adds. “I re­ally love farm­ing and the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try.”


FARM­ING DOWN UN­DER: Nancy Van­der Byl Smith with her hus­band, Lo­mos Smith, and sons Cole, now 10, and Ja­cob Smith, 12, at the fam­ily farm in Far­away, in Western Aus­tralia a num­ber of years ago. Mrs. Van­der Byl Smith has since re­turned to Glen­garry with...

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