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Posts Tagged: cattle

Agriculture scientists positive about grazing

The Modesto Bee ran a story over the weekend with a headline that proclaims, "Experts positive about effect of grazing on land." It is remarkable, in my opinion, because scientists are so rarely "positive" about anything and are very adept at using conditional wording, such as seemingly, may be, could be, almost, nearly, etc. 

On the other hand, the headline writer may have been using the meaning of "positive" as merely the opposite of "negative."

The story was based on reporter John Holland's take on a recent Tuolumne County Resource Conservation District seminar, in which participants learned that  grazing enhances the foothill environment by controlling wildfire fuel and keeping imported grasses from overwhelming the native species. Cattle grazing also preserves open space.

"These are all privately owned landscapes that you are all managing for the greater good of everyone else," the reporter quoted UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Scott Oneto.

According to the article, experts at the meeting said perennial native plants can thrive on grazed land because the cattle thin out the annual European grasses that have dominated the landscape since the 1800s. This improves habitat for squirrels and other small wildlife that sustain bobcats, golden eagles and other predators. Cattle, the story said, have taken on a role similar to that of buffalo on the Great Plains.



Posted on Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 6:50 AM

Climate change reports don't panic Kings County farmers

Reports about climate change in the current issue of California Agriculture journal are taken with a brave face by Kings County farmers and officials, according to a story published in the Hanford Sentinel. Reporter Sean Nidever provided highlights in the newspaper of the research presented in the UC ANR's 50-page publication titled "'Unequivocal' How climate change will transform California."

Despite the fact that Nidever reported that the county's agricultural industry could face "tough times," Kings County farmers and agricultural officials "declined to panic," the story said.

"Really all that we can say is that farmers would have to adapt, like with any other issue," the article quoted Diana Peck, Kings County Farm Bureau executive director.

One result of climate change predicted in the journal is that more precipitation will fall in California as rain, overwhelming reservoirs and forcing water to be released at times when agriculture can't use it. At least two local growers said that makes a good case for building more reservoir capacity.

"If their projections are correct and the climate is indeed warming, then this report makes the best argument I know of in favor of building water storage, reducing regulatory barriers on agriculture and investing in genetic technology," dairy operator Dino Giacomazzi told the reporter.

Nidever also wrote a separate article, published yesterday, that touched on another issue raised in the journal, dairy greenhouse-gas emissions. The reporter apparently spoke to the journal article's author, UC Davis Cooperative Extension livestock air quality specialist Frank Mitloehner, who told him dairies will soon face regulation for greenhouse gases under California's landmark greenhouse gas reduction law passed in 2006. 

Possible solutions to the dairy air emission problem presented in the Sentinel article are the development of specially engineered food and probiotics that will reduce the amount of methane cows belch and capturing dairy cow emissions to generate energy.

Posted on Friday, April 17, 2009 at 11:42 AM

Sen. Florez begins efforts to improve animal welfare

California State Senator Dean Florez (D-Shafter) has introduced a bill that would ban the practice of docking dairy cow tails, according to a story in Capital Press.  Calling the practice of severing cows' tails unnecessary and cruel, Florez said that the new bill is a good place for him to start in efforts to make animal welfare in agriculture a central issue.

Florez is chair of the Senate Committee on Food and Agriculture. According to the story, he decided to focus on animal welfare issues after the overwhelming voter approval in November of Proposition 2, which bars veal crates, battery cages, sow gestation crates and any enclosure that prevents animals from turning around, standing up or spreading their wings.

". . . We're very, very focused on trying to figure out what are the animal welfare issues that we have ignored for so many decades here in California," Florez was quoted.

At a press conference last week, Florez said tail docking tends to accompany higher-volume production and depressed market conditions. Reporter Wes Sander spoke to UC Cooperative Extension dairy farm advisor Noelia Silva-del-Rio for her perspective on tail docking.

The story said Silva-del-Rio is conducting a study that so far suggests that 89 percent of the state's dairies do not dock tails and 86 percent of dairy cows are in non-docking operations. The preliminary data has come from Tulare, Kings, Kern and Fresno counties, the article said.

Posted on Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 1:32 PM

When in doubt, throw it out

Notwithstanding that oft-repeated rhyme scientists use to guide food safety decisions, a UC Cooperative Extension specialist offered some more detailed advice in a newspaper article today that people can follow when they open a carton of yogurt or a hunk of cheese to find a spot of mold.

Ed Blonz of the Contra Costa Times contacted UC Davis dairy specialist emeritus John Bruhn when preparing to answer a reader question about moldy dairy products.

In a nutshell, Bruhn told the reporter:

  • Creating an acidic atmosphere using a vinegar-soaked cloth or paper towel might help in controlling mold growth, but it's not always reliable
  • If there is a spot of mold in a yogurt container, remove a tablespoon of the product with the mold
  • With cheese, cut about 3/4 to 1 inch around the mold contamination

And I'll add . . . when in doubt, throw it out.

Moldy cheese can be salvaged.
Moldy cheese can be salvaged.

Posted on Tuesday, February 3, 2009 at 9:42 AM
Tags: dairy

Dairy operators crying over surplus milk

California's dairy operators are struggling with a bleak bottom line as the commodity price for milk has tumbled. According to a story over the weekend in the Fresno Bee, milk prices dropped 50 percent in the last six months, from about $20 for every 100 pounds to about $10. The overall cost to produce milk in California is estimated at $19 per 100 pounds, the story reported.

Bee ag reporter Robert Rodriguez spoke to UC Davis dairy specialist Leslie "Bees" Butler for his perspective on dairies' dismal numbers. He blamed the drop in milk value to dramatic changes in the export market. Australian producers are recovering from a recent drought that had boosted world milk price, the U.S. dollar is stronger and the global recession has reduced demand.

"The export market was booming, literally booming, expanding by 30% to 40%," Butler was quoted. "But all of a sudden that market has dried up."

Milk demand in the U.S. is also declining, Rodriguez wrote.

"And it's not like we are talking huge percentage points. But it does not take a lot to change dairy prices," Butler was quoted.

Dairy cow.
Dairy cow.

Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 11:25 AM

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