Spring time is one of the most important times of year for the Alberta Farm Animal Care Team. The staff spends quite a bit of time on the road and at different agriculture education events. Sadly this year all public outreach events have been cancelled.
This is how the idea behind AFACts was born! AFACts is a series of short episodes mainly directed at children between the ages of 3-18, but it has naturally formed itself into something that adults are interested in too.
It would be an understatement to say there hasn’t been a part of our work, home, and social lives that hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19 in the last few months. Life as we know it has changed drastically but rolling with the punches has had a few benefits for Alberta Farm Animal Care.
It started in March, less than a week before our annual Livestock Care Conference was due to begin. The government announced increasingly strict rules for public gatherings, and we needed to make a decision – go, or no-go. Well, it turned out there was a third option: transform what was usually two-days of public conference and receptions, invite-only meetings, limited access workshops, and an AGM into a one-day virtual conference. No problem.
The end of April marked the end of the Livestock Welfare Engagement Project (LWEP). The LWEP collected input from stakeholders across Alberta’s livestock industry. The goal was to provide an accurate understanding of Alberta’s livestock welfare landscape from the industry’s perspective.
The LWEP was requested and funded by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and was facilitated by Alberta Farm Animal Care. Data was collected throughout 2018 through an online survey and a series of focus groups that were open to anyone who worked within Alberta’s livestock industry.
As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across Canada, communities and organizations were forced to abruptly change plans and processes to protect the health and wellbeing of Canadians and help flatten the curve. AFAC was no exception. The organization was one of the first in the agriculture industry to quickly pivot and successfully transformed its annual Livestock Care Conference (LCC) into a virtual online conference in just five days.
At the end of the day, AFAC’s efforts proved worthwhile, with 101 registered participants and an average of 88 individuals logged in per session. Moving to a virtual format enabled AFAC to connect with individuals from Canada and the United States who weren’t originally able to attend. Even better, the technology encouraged everyone to have a voice in the conversation with the inclusion of chat functionality, where participants could chat with each other and ask questions of the presenters. Many registrants were curious about topics like shipping across the border with new transport regulations and how to plan for emergencies such as COVID-19.
How the first Virtual Backyard Chicken Series was born
Early in April, there was a lot of thought given to what resources AFAC could provide to an Alberta that was now at home for the foreseeable future. With the interest growing in food sources and back-to-basics, as well as the resounding success of the virtual Livestock Care Conference, the idea of a virtual Urban Hen program was born. Cassandra Kirkpatrick, the facilitator of AFAC’s Urban Hen workshops since 2017, was quickly on board! With her enthusiastic support and hosting skills, the Virtual Backyard Chicken webinar series was brought to life over three weeknights in May.
This series covered flock health, handling, cost, by-laws, breeds, coop design, diseases, and more. This three-hour workshop, split into one hour sessions, covered the basics and the necessities when owning and raising backyard chickens. With a dedicated Q&A period after each session, each of the 52 registrants had a chance to ask their questions about their particular backyard flock venture.
Once the series came to an end, the registrants were given an opportunity to take a quiz and receive a certificate of completion. These certificates allowed them to meet potential permit requirements for their municipality and get started on their chicken adventures!
Within days of the series end, AFAC started to receive requests for yet another introductory series, as well as inquiries for more advanced content such as disease control and in-depth biosecurity. With that in mind, AFAC is proud to present the following:
Advanced Chicken Care Series will be running the month of July starting July 8th. These workshops will run once a week for four weeks covering a variety of in-depth topics. Take our Poll to help choose the four topics covered! This series is meant for those who have taken a workshop in backyard or small flock care or have prior experience. Registration to open soon!
And finally, AFAC is proud to bring a monthly feature, “Questions from the Coop”. On the third Tuesday evening of each month, a different poultry expert will join AFAC for a free Q&A session that will be open to anyone who has questions about their coop, feed and nutrition, bird health, or any other topic. The first session is on June 16th, watch our Facebook or Twitter accounts for the link to join!