Farming Down Under
Glengarrian shares unique experience
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.”
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 her family.