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How to Run a Farm

Bill and Joyce MacDonald had a farm...

Life-long farmers, Bill and Joyce MacDonald have run their farm in New Brunswick for over four decades. They now raise cattle, grow crops and rear horses, we spoke to Bill about running a cattle farm in the contemporary age. 

When did you start in the farming industry?

I worked on a farm when I was a teenager, then we started our own farm in 1972. We started out with pigs, sheep, goats, cattle and a few horses. We did that for a while then we got out of pigs and hogs, we bought some beef cattle and horses and that's what we've been doing up until today.

How has the farm industry changed since you first started?

It is all mechanised now. It's also hard to find any labour. We used to be able to get young people helping with the hay.

Regulations are getting crazy. The environment is the big thing right now, everywhere, not just here. When we first started there weren't many regulations, now there are regulations for our streams, for walks and for fences.

Also, neighbours from the city move out out here but they don't like the noise, the dust and the dirt, yet we have to put up with them! It's a different situation to what it was like years ago.

What three pieces of advice that you would give to those who want to buy and run their own farm business?

If you want to buy and run your own farm, go and get a course in agriculture, on farm management, soils and crops and whatever kind of animals they were looking at, or at vegetable, animals or grain.

They might have to make some lifestyle changes. They have to realise that they will be working a 7 day a week, unless they hire someone to help. They need to make sure that they know the area they are going into.

If you're going to be based close to town, consider what kind of distribution there is and what kind of attitude the town has towards farmers.

How difficult is the process for getting products distributed, if you are inexperienced?

Before we had no difficulties. Just in the last few years the whole country has had problems with BSE (not our farm but farms several thousand kilometres west of us) and so it is quite a bit harder now.

The price of cattle had bottomed out, but is now back to being pretty good again. The horse business is down. It is picking up, but as we have saddle horses people like to come and look for a long time before they buy....

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Krystena Griffin

About the author

Krystena Griffin writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other industry publications.


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