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Non-lethal predator wildlife control helps keep livestock safe

A coyote very near one of HREC's main pastures that holds lambs. (Photo: Robert J. Keiffer)
Five guard dogs are part of the team protecting sheep at a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) research center in Mendocino County. The director of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) Kim Rodriguez is optimistic the dogs and other non-lethal wildlife control efforts being used at the station will allow peaceful grazing animals to share land with natural predators, reported Sarah Reith in the Ukiah Daily Journal.

Rodrigues initiated a new standard operating procedure (SOP) at Hopland early this year for predator animal control. The policy involves guard dogs, improved fencing and pasture management to protect sheep from coyotes, rather than shooting the predators. Jim Lewers, senior animal technician at HREC, said the "losses have declined" since the new policy was put in place. 

Hannah Bird, HREC community educator, said 10 sheep at the center were killed by coyotes in 2015, while 43 were killed in 2014.

Rodrigues told the reporter that it is hard to attribute declines in animal deaths to a single strategy. She hopes to eventually make Hopland a hub for research and information sharing with local landowners on wildlife control.

That effort begins next week. On Dec. 1 and 2, HREC will offer two separate workshops on wildlife management. The first day will include representatives from USDA Wildlife Services, the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, and Defenders of Wildlife. On the second day, local ranchers and UC ANR representatives will speak about their chosen methods of wildlife management. Registration is $30 per day. Registration for the two days is separate, and the deadline is Saturday, Nov. 28. 

Click here to register for the Dec. 1 workshop.

Click here to register for the Dec. 2 workshop.

Posted on Wednesday, November 25, 2015 at 9:20 AM

Passage of TPP would boost California ag exports to Asia

Daniel Sumner is director of the UC ANR Agricultural Issues Center. (Photo: CAES)
President Obama won support from Congress in October for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed trade deal that would boost California agricultural exports by billions of dollars, reported Ken Wayne of KTVU TV in San Francisco. A vote on the deal is expected in Congress next summer, but may be delayed until after the 2016 election.

If passed, the TPP would open up ag trade with countries like Vietnam, Japan, Australia and Malasia, who are clamoring for California fruit, vegetables, nuts and wine. China is not part of the proposed trade deal.

Wayne's story featured clips from a lengthy interview with the director of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Agricultural Issues Center Dan Sumner, who explained why Pacific rim countries want to purchase California agricultural products.

"We're good at it," Sumner said. "They want our stuff. The governments get in the way. The more we can get the governmental barriers out of the way, the more their consumers can take our stuff."

The vote last month gave the president the ability to "fast-track" negotiations with the Pacific Rim countries. Congress can still reject the deal.

Sumner said it is a shame that the $9 billion dairy industry was left out of the TPP. 

"Asia and other Pacific rim countries want our products," he said. "We left some barriers in place that should have come down further."

Sumner said California farmers and their allies are pushing to get TPP approved.

Posted on Tuesday, November 24, 2015 at 3:46 PM

Valley farmer honored by White House for conservation practices

Farmer Jesse Sanchez hosted an agricultural tour from Afghanistan at Sano Farms last year as part of his involvement with UC ANR's Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center.
Jesse Sanchez, a farm manager for Sano Farms near Firebaugh and Mendota, was honored by the White House as a "Champion of Change" last month for his commitment to building healthy soils, reported Megan Ginise in the Fresno Bee.

Sanchez is an active member of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center (CASI), a diverse group of UC researchers, farmers, and representatives of public agencies, private industry and environmental groups that work together to develop knowledge and exchange information on conservation-oriented production systems in California. 

In 2009, CASI named Sanchez and his employer, Alan Sano, its "Conservation Agriculture Innovators of the Year." The 2015 honor from the White House is another recognition for efforts to make soil health a priority on the 4,000-acre farm that produces garbanzo beans, garlic, processing and fresh market tomatoes, along with pistachios and almonds.

Jeff Mitchell, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist and CASI chair, said the White House's acknowledgment, which honors 'everyday Americans who are doing extraordinary things,' is a very fitting recognition for Sanchez and all of Sano Farms.

"They're very much pioneers, very innovative and persistent as well," Mitchell said. "What they've done through the vision they have had, sticking with it, learning step-by-step how to improve the system how to adjust things."

A story about Sanchez' White House honor also appeared on the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service website

The NRCS article noted that Sanchez and Sano have long shared their work with Mitchell, and through Mitchell with other farmers interested in conservation agriculture systems. 



Posted on Monday, November 23, 2015 at 9:24 AM

FDA approves fast-growing GMO fish

Size comparison of an AquAdvantage Salmon (background) vs. a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon sibling (foreground) of the same age.
The Food and Drug Administration approved fish that are genetically modified to grow faster, reported Dan Charles on the National Public Radio program All Things Considered.

Charles spoke with a UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) animal science expert about the AquaAdvantage salmon that have now been cleared for production.

"Basically, nothing in the data suggested that these fish were in any way unsafe or different to the farm-raised salmon," said Alison Van Eenennaam, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist based in the Animal Science Department at UC Davis.

The GMO fish must be raised in tanks on dry land. Producers must take precautions to prevent the genetically engineered fish from making it to the ocean or other natural waterways where they could transfer the fast-growing gene to a wild salmon population.

Fast-growing salmon were created 25 years ago by inserting a new gene into fertilized salmon eggs. The FDA said in a statement that, "after an exhaustive and rigorous scientific review" the agency decided the GMO fish is as safe as non-GMO Atlantic salmon, and equally nutritious. GMO fish is not subject to mandatory labeling, but the FDA released a "draft guidance" for voluntary labeling indicating whether food has or has not been derived from genetically engineered Atlantic salmon.

The All Things Considered story noted, however, that the product will face PR challenges. Friends of the Earth say people won't eat GMO fish even if it is available; Center for Food Safety said it will sue the FDA to block approval.

Posted on Friday, November 20, 2015 at 11:49 AM

Forest fuel breaks lived up to their billing

Fuel breaks, like this one in Yuba County, can help firefighters limit the spread of wildfire. (Photo: UC Regents)
In the small, forested Shasta County community of Shingletown, fuel breaks were successful in limiting the destruction of the 2014 Eiler Fire, reported Jeremy Linder on KRCR TV in Northern California. Linder's story centered on a tour for fire agency representatives presented by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources forestry experts.

UC ANR Cooperative Extension hosted the tour to bring together the different agencies that can collaborate fighting fires, managing forests and building and maintaining fuel breaks to arrest the spread of wildfire. 

"Part of the reason (Old Station) didn't burn down is because of all the fuel breaks that the Forest Service had implemented around that general area," said UC ANR Cooperative Extension forestry advisor Ryan DeSantis. "The majority of fires we see are impeded by fuel breaks. They give firefighters time and safer places to fight fires."

Tour participants also discussed maintenance of current fuel breaks, both with and without herbicides. One issue is lack of funding.

"It's good to have everyone come to the table, all the different organizations all the different agencies and get together to discuss what the issues are and how to get through them," DeSantis said.

Posted on Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 1:32 PM

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