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Beginning poultry farmers invited to UC workshops

Beginning farmers are invited to attend a series of workshops to learn how to raise pastured and free-range poultry from UC Cooperative Extension specialists, poultry farmers and other experts. The first five workshops are three-hour long evening courses (4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. PST) in January and February 2019. In addition to typical in-person workshops, the training will be available as online webinars to accommodate people nationwide who are unable travel to Davis.

“These workshops are designed for farmers who are interested in learning about all aspects of commercial pastured/free range poultry including diseases, husbandry, pasture management, marketing and welfare,” said Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis. “We are incorporating roundtable discussions with farmers so we can discuss challenges and opportunities for free-range and pastured farmers.”

The workshops cost $15 per day for in-person workshops and $5 per day for the webinars. For participants who register for all five in-person workshops, the fee is discounted to $60. 

Each of the three-hour workshops cover a different aspect of beginning pastured and free-range poultry farming and include talks from various experts. Light refreshments will be provided for participants attending at the UC Davis campus.

If you are unable to join in person, consider signing up for the webinar version of the course for $5 per day. You will be provided a link to join and participate in real time via Zoom video conference.

For more information and to register for the workshops, visit http://ucanr.edu/beginpoultryfarmworkshop2019.

The training is supported by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Extension's USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant.

Posted on Thursday, December 27, 2018 at 5:17 PM

UC ANR scientist looks to gene modification to improve animal agriculture

Scientists in labs across the world have used gene modification to create virus-resistant pigs, heat-tolerant cattle and fatter, more muscular lambs - potential improvements for animal agriculture - but will people ever eat them? asks reporter Carolyn Johnson in the Washington Post.

Johnson opened her story with a scene from UC Davis, where UC Cooperative Extension specialist Alison Van Eenennaam was conducting ultrasounds on cattle to determine whether they were pregnant. The animals had been implanted with embryos genetically edited to grow and look like males, regardless of their gender.

Also on the UC Davis campus, Van Eenennaam cares for five bulls and a heifer that represent the second generation of cattle whose genetic propensity to have horns has been edited out of their DNA. The process spares the animals the common de-horning procedure, which protects animals and animal handlers from gory accidents.

Gene-edited plants will soon be in grocery stores, but similar tinkering with the DNA of animals faces a far more uncertain future, the article said.

A setback to gene editing came in early 2017 when the FDA put out draft guidance indicating that animals with intentionally altered DNA would be regulated as containing veterinary drugs. And the complexity and difficulty of using gene editing was also noted in the story. The ultrasounds of cattle Van Eenennaam and her staff implanted with the genetically altered fetuses yielded no pregnancies.

Alison Van Eenennaam with hornless cattle. (Photo: Aleksandra Domanovic and Spencer Lowell)

Read more: Alison Van Eenennaam examines how gene editing can enhance sustainability plus animal health and welfare

Posted on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 at 9:40 AM

Congress approves Farm Bill reauthorization

An orange orchard at Lindcove Research & Extension Center. The 2018 Farm Bill provides grants for citrus research.

The House and Senate have passed the compromise Farm Bill, sending the legislation to the president for his signature.

Capital Public Radio's Julia Mitric asked Glenda Humiston, UC vice president for agriculture and natural resources, what the Farm Bill holds for UC ANR and California.

"What's fascinating about the Farm Bill is, after all that hyper-partisan debate … it's really a lot of the same of what we already had," said Humiston, adding that it includes an increase of $25 million a year for research on specialty crops.

That's good news for California growers because nearly all of California's 400 crops are considered specialty crops in federal parlance and over 50 percent of the nation's fruits and vegetables are grown in California. Those federal grants will cover many areas, from developing climate-resilient farming practices to combating California's many invasive pests, Humiston said.

The Farm Bill removed hemp from the definition of a controlled substance, which will allow it once again be produced for agricultural purposes. This is exciting for UC Cooperative Extension researchers who are interested in helping farmers manage and grow this new crop.

Reauthorization of the Farm Bill is important to UC because it provides critical support for the nation's land-grant institutions, including agricultural research extension and infrastructure programs and nutrition education programs.

Overall, the final version of the Farm Bill represents a positive outcome for UC. In addition to specialty crop research, the bill contains strong support for organic agriculture research and also includes helpful provisions to address unnecessary regulatory burdens faced by researchers. The bill also preserves the competitive grants for citrus research.

Posted on Friday, December 14, 2018 at 5:51 PM

Keep food safe with advice from UC CalFresh

Always be mindful of the time when food is outside a refrigerator or freezer. Typically, it should be no longer than two hours, and just one hour in the summertime, according to UC Cooperative Extension UC CalFresh nutrition program coordinator Elizabeth Lopez in an appearance on the Valley Pubic Television program Valley's Gold. (The food safety segment begins at the 18:30 mark.)

Lopez recommends using an insulated grocery bag with a frozen ice pack for the trip home from the store, and refrigerating leftovers in sealed containers soon after finishing a meal to maintain food safety.

The UC Cooperative Extension nutrition educator also provided cooking tips with program host Ryan Jacobson, the director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau. Lopez noted:

  • Before beginning, wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds.
  • Make sure the food preparation area is clean.
  • Designate certain cutting boards for fruit and vegetables, and others for meat and poultry.
  • Wash fruit and vegetables under cool running water. No detergent is needed. Read the labels on pre-bagged produce. Some are ready to use, some need to be washed.
  • Use a meat thermometer. Cook beef, pork and lamb to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. Ground meats should be cooked to 160 degrees F. Poultry, whole or ground, should be cooked to 165 degrees F.

For more information, Lopez suggested consumers consult the USDA's Food Safety.gov website or Food Keeper app, available free in the app store.

UC Cooperative Extension UC CalFresh nutrition program coordinator Elizabeth Lopez spoke about food safety on the Valley PBS program 'Valley's Gold.'
Posted on Monday, December 10, 2018 at 9:28 AM

Can harvesting Christmas trees help the forest?

California forests are overstocked with conifers, and California residents want to decorate their homes during the holiday season with Christmas trees. The smart harvest of Christmas trees can kill two birds with one stone, according to UC Cooperative Extension forestry advisor Susie Kocher. Kocher spoke to Capital Public Radio reporter Ezra David Romero about the prospect of thinning the forest by taking home trees.

Smart harvest of Christmas trees can help thin the forest. (Photo: USDA)

"It's a great win-win solution," Kocher said. "You get the public out in the forest, you do good work reducing the density of trees."

Kocher, who lives in Lake Tahoe, holds a family Christmas tree harvest party every year. With $10 permits from the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, they trek through snow to select their trees. This year the management unit sold 2,000 permits. Kocher believes the program could be ramped up to further benefit forests.

“By removing some of the smaller trees, we are doing some of the work,” Kocher said. If left in place, the small trees grow larger, and more human resources, equipment and funds are needed to remove them. Moreover, the income from permit sales can be used for other forest-thinning projects.

However, some foresters are skeptical that harvesting Christmas trees is a realistic solution to management of California forests.

“It's great to have the masses come up during the holiday season full of mirth and cheer,” said Joseph Flannery with the Tahoe National Forest. “But I don't think there's the infrastructure in place to really make a dent in the hazardous fuels reduction needed.”

This story was also covered for KTVU Fox Channel 2 in the Bay Area by Lisa Fernandez. 

“You need a 4-wheel drive, and yes, you trudge through snow,” Kocher said. “It's not for everyone. But for those who want that adventure, it's super fun. I do it because I don't think there's a substitute for a real tree in the house. And we always turn it into a family party.”

Besides, she said, “I feel good about removing excess small trees.”

Posted on Thursday, December 6, 2018 at 3:05 PM

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