- Author: Dan Macon
Like everything and everyone else in 2020, our local fairs are adapting to the changes necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. As I write this, the Nevada County Fair Junior Livestock Auction is underway – virtually! Youth exhibitors who've spent months (and in some cases, a full year) raising their livestock projects are excitedly anticipating the rewards for their hard work.
Livestock are judged during the fair on a variety of attributes – their structural correctness, the amount and shape of muscling, the degree of finish (or fat) they possess. This evaluation is designed to predict the quality of the end product – the meat that our junior livestock auction buyers will put in their freezers, and ultimately on their tables. But just as we know we can't judge a book (entirely) by its cover, there's more to predicting meat quality than a judge's subjective opinion. And that's why our local fairs and livestock associations (including the Tahoe Cattlemen's Association) also sponsor contests to evaluate meat quality after the fair.
Meat quality is a combination of the amount of meat an animal produces and the appropriate amount of fat (which we refer to as marbling). This marbling makes for an enjoyable eating experience - a juicy, tender steak! Choice or prime grades in lamb or beef are the target!
So how do our Nevada County youth beef exhibitors measure up against these industry standards? Last year, 91% of the beef from the fair graded USDA Choice or better! Twelve exhibitors received a Carcass of Merit award from the Tahoe Cattlemen's Association; another two received the Gold Seal Award. This doesn't happen on its own! The quality of the product these exhibitors produce is a testament to their hard work, the quality of their care, and the support provided by 4-H leaders, Future Farmers of America advisors, families and friends.
The bottom line: when you're supporting the Junior Livestock Auction, you're supporting a great kid – and you're putting a great steak (or lamb chop, or pork chop, or goat chop) on your plate!
To participate in the Nevada County Fair Junior Livestock Auction, go to https://auction.showorks.cloud/fair/ncfair./span>
- Author: Dan Macon
As I write this post on the morning of March 19, 2020, several of the counties surrounding Placer County, where I live, work, and ranch, have issued "shelter in place" orders in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. The only order I've actually read, from Sutter and Yuba Counties, specifically notes that the following "essential businesses" are among those exempted from the shelter in place order:
Food cultivation, including farming, nurseries, livestock, fishing, and businesses necessary to support those industries;
Food and agriculture processing and distribution facilities including those facilities on farms and those use to conduct related research.
In other words, I can continue doing most of what I do, but I will need to change some of the ways in which I work.
We are in the midst of lambing season, which means the sheep need to be checked 2-3 times a day (and more frequently during stormy weather). Fortunately, sheepherding is naturally socially distanced - even in normal times, we usually work independently. As the Sutter-Yuba order acknowledges, the work of farming - especially at this time of year - doesn't shut down. Animals need to be fed, crops need to be planted - the work goes on.
We farmers and ranchers - and agricultural researchers - still need to take precautions, though. We need to avoid large gatherings, maintain social distancing, WASH OUR HANDS FREQUENTLY! Our farms and ranches, and the communities who depend on the food and fiber we produce, are depending on us to stay healthy.
I can't speak for others, but at times the news has been a bit overwhelming. I realized yesterday as I was trying to set up my home office and continue to do my extension work that I was having difficulty focusing on any specific task. Fortunately, a friend called before lunchtime, just to catch up. We talked about forage conditions and lambing (he's a sheep rancher, too), and also talked about our families and about the times we're living through. Having that direct interaction (as opposed to texting or emailing) helped me relax and focus - and the rest of the day was productive.
Based on yesterday's experience, I've decided that I will call a friend and/or family member once a day - social distancing doesn't need to be isolating. I've also decided that I'll check in on my older friends at least once a week. I know we need to be cautious about spreading COVID-19 to older folks, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't reach out to them to make sure their needs are being met. Twenty-first Century medical and information technology are amazing, but our sense of community - our willingness to help our neighbors - will be critical to getting through this crisis.
To ensure that we are taking all appropriate COVID-19 precautions within UC Cooperative Extension, the Placer, Nevada, and Sutter-Yuba UCCE offices are closed for face-to-face, in-person service through April 7, 2020. While these measures may be inconvenient, we are taking these precautions to support our communities. And while our offices may be closed, we are still at work – mostly from home. If you have a livestock or natural resource question during the closure, please email me directly (at email@example.com) or leave me a voice mail at 530/889-7385. I will be checking both voice mail and email regularly during the closure, and will respond as quickly as possible.
During the closure, we will not be holding any workshops or meetings. However, I have several webinars and other online programs in the works – stay tuned for details! Also, I will be updating my blog, FaceBook pages, and Instagram IGTV channels regularly. Follow the links below to view these resources:
- UCCE Placer-Nevada-Sutter-Yuba Livestock and Natural Resources website: https://ucanr.edu/sites/Livestock/
- UCCE Foothill Farming website: https://ucanr.edu/sites/placernevadasmallfarms/
- Ranching in the Sierra Foothills Blog: https://ucanr.edu/blogs/RanchingintheFoothills/index.cfm
- UCCE Sustainable Foothill Ranching FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/FoothillSustainableRanching/
- UCCE Foothill Farming FaceBook page: https://www.facebook.com/FoothillFarming/
- Instagram (including IGTV channels): follow me @flyingmule (note: I'm posting short videos about grazing management, stockmanship, and other topics - and lots of photos of lambs!)
- Twitter: @flyingmulefarm
Also, I am able to do ranch calls and consultations by phone or by video conferencing (including FaceTime) – if you have a question or an issue that involves looking at a particular resource or livestock issue, this might be an option!
I realize that this is a very challenging time for all of us. I also know that livestock need to be cared for, pastures need to be managed, and bills need to keep getting paid regardless of what is going on around us. Take care of your families, your communities - and yourselves! Please feel free to contact me – I look forward to hearing from you!