Bluetongue is an endemic disease in California and is a common problem of unvaccinated sheep living in the San Joaquin Valley of California. The disease is seasonal and is usually seen in the late summer and early fall months. Most clinical cases are usually seen during the months of August through the end of October. Bluetongue disease occurs worldwide and has recently caused serious economic problems in livestock in northern Europe.
Bluetongue is caused by a virus that is a member of the Orbivirus genus. This disease is not contagious from animal to animal and must be spread to
Although Bluetongue virus infects many different domestic (cattle, sheep and goats) and wild ruminant (deer) species, sheep tend to be the species most seriously affected. One particularly serious bluetongue strain of virus (Bluetongue virus strain 8) that was recently introduced into Northern Europe from Africa is currently causing significant disease in sheep, cattle and goats. The strains of bluetongue virus in California tend to produce no disease symptoms in cattle and goats while causing apparent and severe disease in sheep.
Symptoms in infected sheep include elevated body temperatures (105oF to 107oF), excessive salivation, swelling of the face, lips, and nose, ulcers and erosions of the dental pad, tongue and lips, swelling and discoloration of the tongue (blue tongue), difficulty in standing and/or lameness with swelling and/or ulceration of the coronary bands and hemorrhaging of the mucus membranes of the mouth and tongue. Some sheep may have respiratory difficulty due to pulmonary edema in the lungs. Other sheep with significant lesions in the mouth, tongue and esophagus may occasionally vomit with aspiration to the lungs which can lead to severe pneumonia. Mortality can be variable with death rates approaching 30% to 80% of the infected animals. Infected pregnant animals that survive clinical disease can have abortions or deliver young that are deformed, blind, weak, or have serious neurological defects.
Yearly vaccination of animals in the spring protects most sheep from becoming seriously affected by this viral agent. Since the Bluetongue vaccine is a modified live vaccination it is not recommended to vaccinate pregnant sheep because the virus in the vaccine may cause abortions or deformities in the fetus.
If you suspect bluetongue in your sheep you should contact your veterinarian immediately and discuss further testing of your flock. Testing of sick or dead animals for this disease can be accomplished through your regional veterinary diagnostic laboratory.
The American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of A
The effort summarizes current knowledge of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and capture as influenced by cropping system, tillage management, and nutrient source (including manure) in six US agricultural regions. The six regions are the Northeast, Southeast, Cornbelt, Northern Great Plains, Southern Great Plains and the Pacific. The Pacific region includes California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Additionally, topics requiring further research have been identified.
The report's interpretive summary states that: "Approximately 6% of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions originating in the United States (U.S.) come from agricultural activities. These gases are in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4). However, by employing proper management techniques, agricultural lands can both sequester carbon and reduce CO2, CH4, and N2O emissions, thereby reducing their GHG footprint.
Cap-and-trade climate change legislation, currently under discussion in the legislative and executive branches, may have broad and long-term implications for the agricultural sector. In order to determine the role of agriculture in GHG emissions and capture, a full life cycle accounting of GHG sources and sinks is needed."
The report does a great job in explaining the effects of GHG on climate change and documents the rise in each of the three GHG's. It further offers methods of reducing agriculture's production of GHG or sequestering carbon including:
- Reducing fuel consumption;
- Enhancing soil carbon sequestration;
- Improving nitrogen-use efficiency (NUE);
- Increasing ruminant digestion efficiency; and
- Capturing gaseous emissions from manure and other wastes.
Livestock producers, rangeland managers and hay producers will value many of the specific suggestions for them in both reducing GHG’s and sequestering carbon. A few of these include:
- Harvesting forage by livestock grazing rather than mechanically - reducing fuel consumption;
- Using legume-based rotations or organic agricultural systems to reduce N fertilizer applications - reducing fuel consumption;
- Conservation tillage, winter cover crops and perennial pastures - enhancing soil carbon sequestration;
- Leguminous green manures (like clovers) can convert nitrogen gas from the atmosphere to plant available N for crop use (like hay and pasture or between vineyards) - improving nitrogen-use efficiency (NUE);
- Adjusting the portions of animal feed to decrease digestion time - increasing ruminant digestion efficiency;
- Using edible oils or other feed additives to reduce metabolic activity of rumen bacteria that produce CH4 - increasing ruminant digestion efficiency;
- Capturing CH4 emissions from livestock waste using covered lagoons and converting to electricity – capturing gaseous emissions from manure; and
- Applying manure to the soil as a nutrient source rather than storing it as waste – capturing gaseous emissions from manure.
It's encouraging to know that grazing livestock and some of the typical practices we presently employ can have a positive impact on our environment. I hope all of you will download and read the entire report.
WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2010—The U.S. Department of Agriculture today published the first edition of a program handbook designed for those who own, manage, or certify organic operations. Prepared by the National Organic Program (NOP), the handbook provides guidance about the national organic standards and instructions that outline best program practices. It is intended to serve as a resource for the organic industry that will help participants comply with federal regulations.
The findings of the study showed that "the number of Americans who are familiar with the term factory farming has increased since 2008, rising by 15 percentage points." In addition, it found that "the percentage of consumers who associate factory farming with chickens has risen significantly since 2008 but those who associate it with cattle has remained stable. Beef cattle are much more associated with factory farming than are dairy cattle."
"Consumers overwhelmingly associate factory farming with big agriculture and large scale farming. They describe factory farming as being industrialized, using machinery and technology, owned by big corporations and producing large numbers of animals. A small percentage seem to have bought into the activist argument that factory farms are driving small family farms out of business."
Beef producers need to be especially proactive about responding to the following from the survey results. "Of some concern is the finding that well over half (58%) of consumers who are familiar with factory farming believe the beef they buy at the supermarket comes from cattle raised in a factory farm setting. This percentage has not changed since 2008. In addition, of those who think their beef is from factory farms, more than half (56%) are concerned (with 41% saying they have a great deal of concern) about the safety of the beef they buy. This percentage, as well, has not changed significantly since 2008."
Education of consumers is extremely important no matter how your market your cattle. Take the time to share what you know about your industry with your non-producing friends, family and neighbors.
I've attached the full Check-off article, but you may also read it on-line at: http://www.beefresearch.org/CMDocs/BeefResearch/Market%20Research/Project%20Snapshot%20Factory%20Farming%20081810.pdf.
How could this be possible?
I'm always intrigued with the entrepreneurial spirit of the American rancher. Especially those who are willing to be early adopters and those that work towards solving what most of us call impossible problems.
Learn about what one Vermont rancher, Sugar Mountain Farms, is doing through community sponsored agriculture (CSA). Yes, Virginia, they are building their own Butcher Shop with the goal of USDA inspection for interstate trade by 2011. (Vermont unlike California can get state inspection, but for interstate trade they must be federally inspected)
Read more about their efforts at: http://flashweb.com/blog/2009/11/butcher-shop-at-sugar-mountain-farm.html. Do remember there are differences between Vermont and California. An example is that in Vermont you can compost the offal. In California you cannot.
I hope this inspires our California Niche Meat marketers. Checking out Sugar Mountain Farms web pages and in particular their pre-buy CSA should give you all a bunch of ideas.