The USDA approved the expansion of ongoing field trials in November for an experimental vaccine, developed by UC Davis veterinary researchers, after it was shown to be effective in preventing foothill abortion in more than 2,000 cattle.
Foothill abortion – endemic in California's coastal range and the foothill regions of California, Southern Oregon and Northern Nevada – is a bacterial disease in cattle also known as epizootic bovine abortion. It is a major cause of economic loss for California beef producers, annually causing the death of an estimated 45,000 to 90,000 calves.
The disease is transmitted by bites from the pajaroello tick, found only in the intermountain West. The tick lives in the soil around juniper, pine and oak trees, and in dry brush areas and around rock outcroppings of foothill rangelands. The disease became known as "foothill abortion" after ranchers in the 1930s and 1940s noticed that the pregnant heifers they sent to pasture in the foothills aborted after returning to valley pastures. Infected pregnant cows show no obvious symptoms but the bacteria can infect their fetuses in the first half of gestation before they develop an immune system capable of fighting off the infection. Cows will carry the infected fetus to term but the calves are born either dead or very weak and fail to thrive.
“Our Western cattle producers are desperate for some relief to stop their losses resulting from this disease,” said Jeff Stott, a UC Davis professor and veterinary immunologist. Stott is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Fifth generation rancher Buck Parks from Lassen County is one example of a cattle producer who has experienced losses as a result of foothill abortion. Until recently, he was losing an average of 25 to 35 calves each year to the disease from a herd of about 300 cows. He said about 20 percent of the losses are from “first-calf heifers,” or first-time mother cows. According to Parks, while the disease is regional, and spotty within those regions, it is challenging to run a cattle ranch for those affected.
“For those of us who suffer, it's a very difficult thing to deal with,” he said. “Like any business, these kinds of losses make it tough to operate within our margins.”
Parks has been participating in the trials since the experimental vaccine first became available four years ago and has experienced significant results – with only eight abortions in his cattle this year.
Preliminary vaccine field trials began in 2011 and have since involved more than 4,000 cattle in California and Nevada. The expanded trials which began in spring involving several thousand more cattle will further establish the vaccine's effectiveness in varied conditions as well as provide relief to ranchers. The trials are expected to last into 2017.
Stott is confident the vaccine can help prevent foothill abortion for cattle producers like Parks. And, according to him, there already has been interest from niche pharmaceutical companies in manufacturing the vaccine.
Identifying the cause of foothill abortion and developing a vaccine to prevent it has proved a long-term challenge for researchers. In fact, some scientists have spent entire careers pursuing identification of the causative agent of foothill abortion.
Professor Stott has led the effort in collaboration with the California Cattlemen's Association, the USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics, the Animal Health Branch of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Nevada Department of Agriculture, and the University of Nevada, Reno. It is a project of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Center for Food Animal Health (CFAH). The CFAH serves as the veterinary medical component of the Agricultural Experiment Station of UC ANR.
(A news article about the vaccine trials appeared May 8, 2015 in the journal Science.)
Author: Monique Garcia Gunther
Since 2006, a team of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources scientists has been studying the effects of vegetation management in the Sierra Nevada forest on fire behavior, forest health, water quality and quantity, the Pacific fisher (a small mammal in the weasel family) and the California spotted owl. The researchers are writing up their final reports and seeking public feedback on their recommendations and next steps in the process.
On Wednesday, May 27, community members are invited to discuss the recommendations with the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project (SNAMP) team at an all-day meeting in the Sacramento area.
“Although adaptive management as a theory of practice in resource management has been in the literature for decades, few studies have been done to truly apply theory to actual practice,” said Susie Kocher, a UC ANR Cooperative Extension forestry and natural resources advisor for the Central Sierra area.
The US Forest Service's 2004 Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment calls for managing the 11 national forests in the Sierra Nevada using the best information available to protect forests and homes. SNAMP is designed to provide resource managers with research-based information for making forest management decisions.
The SNAMP meeting will be held 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 27 at the Wildland Fire Training Center, 3237 Peacekeeper Way in McClellan (near McClellan Airfield outside Sacramento).
To attend, please register at http://ucanr.edu/snamp2015annualmeeting by Sunday, May 24. Registration is free.
For more information about the project, visit http://snamp.cnr.berkeley.edu. The final SNAMP report will be available for download at http://snamp.cnr.berkeley.edu/snamp-final-report. Comments will be accepted online at http://ucanr.edu/snampreportcomments until July 15.
Such incidents, though rare, prompted UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) experts to write guidelines for people who hike, cycle or ride horses in natural areas where grazing cattle are used to manage the land. The four-page publication, Sharing Open Space: What to Expect from Grazing Livestock, is available for free download from the UC ANR online catalog.
“Areas that were traditionally rangelands, especially in urban counties, are more and more often becoming parklands,” said Stephanie Larson, UC ANR Cooperative Extension livestock advisor in Sonoma County and lead author of the publication. “State parks generally remove grazing, but we didn't want to see that at regional and county parks.”
Cattle grazing can provide important services to these working landscapes, like managing the vegetation, reducing fire hazards, increasing water capture, and promoting the diversity of plant. With education, Larson believes, people who hike, bike and horseback ride can coexist peacefully with the cattle.
Cattle may seem intimidating because of their size, but they are vulnerable to attack by coyotes and other predators. As prey animals, cows naturally experience and express fear and protective behavior, especially when unfamiliar people and animals are near and to protect their young.
Cattle can feel threatened by dogs, which they will perceive as predators. The guidelines recommend keeping dogs close and under complete control at all times. Just like people, dogs should never get between a cow and her calf.
The guidelines detail typical cattle posture when relaxed and when agitated, their response to intrusions into their personal space (or “flight zone”), and reactions to loud noises.
“Unless you need to move cattle out of your way, such as move them off a narrow trail, it's best to give them plenty of space and avoid their flight zone altogether,” the guidelines advise.
Injured cattle should be reported and left alone. The guidelines suggest people never approach a cow from behind, make quick movements or flap their arms, or try to “rescue” calves that seem to be separated from their mothers.
“The mother may be off drinking or eating, and will return to the baby,” the authors write. “She may even be watching you.”
Co-authors of the guidelines with Larson are Sheila Barry, UC ANR livestock and natural resources advisor in the Bay Area, and rangeland management consultant Lisa Bush.
An initiative to maintain and enhance sustainable natural ecosystems is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.
The importance of pollinators – such as bees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds – is becoming more widely known. Bees pollinate approximately 35 percent of the food we eat. Pollinators as a whole are worth about $15 billion to the agricultural industry.
Honey bees are important, yet they are declining. Besides issues such as habitat loss and disease, pest management methods can also contribute to population loss. Pesticides used to kill insects, plant pathogens and weeds can leave residues that kill bees and other natural enemies. Residues can linger in pollen and nectar, and pollinators moving into an area after an application can be unintentionally harmed. Even some less-toxic materials can be harmful if not applied correctly or if applied at the wrong time.
Growers and home gardeners can find newly updated guidelines for protecting pollinators as well as a list of honey bee resources on the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program website. The UC IPM program, a part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, works with residents, farmers, land managers, community leaders and other professional pest managers to prevent and solve pest problems with the least unintended impacts on people, beneficial species and their surroundings.
IPM combines several effective pest control methods that are safe for people and the environment with the goal of long-term prevention and management. Many pest problems can be solved without the use of pesticides. Using pest resistant or competitive plants, removing the pests' sources of food and water, knocking pests off plants with a spray of water, deploying traps and blocking pests' entrance to buildings with screens or other barriers are just a few things you can do to reduce a pest problem. IPM reduces the need for pesticides, thus preventing harm to bees.
Pesticides are sometimes necessary in an IPM program, but when used, they should be used in combination with non-chemical methods. There are several key points to keep in mind when applying pesticides:
- Use them sparingly, and only treat areas where pests are problems.
- Choose selective pesticides and ones that won't persist in the environment.
- Time applications so that you are not spraying when bees are active, and avoid spraying during bloom time.
- Be aware of nearby bee colonies, and avoid spraying around healthy bee populations and areas with a lot of nectar-producing plants.
New research looking at pesticide risks to honey bees and new pesticide labels being developed by the EPA that prohibit the use of some pesticides when bees are present are just a couple of efforts being made to protect pollinators. UC IPM is revising its list of pesticides ranked for risk of harm to honey bees in its Pest Management Guidelines (relative toxicities tables). An online searchable database is expected to be published in early fall. This information will eventually be incorporated into the Pest Management Guidelines.
For more information on IPM and on what you can do to protect bees and other pollinators, visit the UC IPM web site.
An initiative to manage endemic and invasive pests and diseases is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.
Author: Cheryl Reynolds
“I've never seen this happen before in the 25 years I've been working on citrus entomology,” said Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UC ANR Cooperative Extension citrus entomology specialist. “One pest control adviser who's been in the business for 50 years told me this is the first time he's seen weather conditions this extreme.”
In a normal valley winter, temperatures dip into the low 20-30s for weeks at a time. But this past winter, average daily temperatures were above the developmental threshold for many insects. Insects continued to reproduce and grow throughout the winter instead of hibernating.
“All winter long, we had fuller rose beetles emerging and laying eggs, which usually doesn't happen,” Grafton-Cardwell said. “California red scale, citricola scale, citrus peelminer and Asian citrus psyllid were active through the winter and are all requiring treatment weeks before they normally would.”
David Haviland, UC ANR Cooperative Extension entomology advisor in Kern County, said he has received numerous calls about legions of army cutworm moths.
“People are wondering why there are so many moths buzzing around their porch lights. That's nature for you,” Haviland said. “While many people might be frustrated by the moths, I like to think that there are a lot of happy birds out there with well-fed babies.”
Haviland said the farmers he works with are finding that the warmer-than-usual winter and early spring has sped up development of a wide assortment of insects, including navel orangeworm, beet armyworm and vine mealybug.
“Insects are part of a complex ecosystem. Every year, the factors change,” Haviland said. “This year, we have a very dry winter and a warm spring. In some cases, that plays to the advantage of pests. And sometimes the weather conditions are better for the beneficial insects.”
An initiative to manage endemic and invasive pests and diseases is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.
Author: Jeannette Warnert