Friday, July 1, 2022

Summer is here, but bird flu hasn’t flown the coop

Karla Salp
Communications

Chickens not confined to a covered shelter are
at greater risk for contracting bird flu
It’s been a bad year for bird flu across the country, even though it was only first detected in Washington in early May. At the time, state veterinarians were hopeful that Washington would scrape by without any cases or, once it arrived, that we would be over the worst of it by the end of June. Unfortunately, neither happened.

Washington’s backyard flocks and wild birds are still contracting highly pathogenic avian influenza, with the first detection in Kitsap County happening only this week. The prolonged period of detections has backyard flock owners asking when they can relax the biosecurity measures they have been taking to protect their flocks.

The short answer is: not yet.

Given the number of detections still occurring, Dr. Amber Itle, Washington State Veterinarian, continues to recommend that owners keep their birds isolated until 30 days after the last detection in the state.

While this may be challenging for owners, what they are doing is working! All of the flocks that have had detections have had contact with wild birds, especially wild waterfowl.

Keeping your birds covered and confined is best, but if you can’t, then here are some steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  • Separate domestic birds from wild birds
  • Separate domestic poultry from domestic waterfowl
  • Discourage wild birds from coming near your flocks
  • Only feed domestic birds indoors and remove feed at night (when wild birds often feed)
  • Lock up your flock’s feed in containers with lids
  • Remove bird feeders that might attract wild waterfowl
  • Fence off the ponds
  • Cover the chicken yard with netting·

Direct and indirect contact with wild waterfowl
has proven to be one of the greatest risk 
factors for a flock contracting HPAI this year
Most flock owners have been doing a tremendous job protecting their birds. And even though there have been several detections in backyard flocks, efforts by backyard flock owners, commercial flock owners, and state and federal officials have thus far prevented infection in commercial flocks, which would have a significant impact on the food supply and Washington’s poultry industry. (Did you know eggs are frequently one of Washington’s top 10 commodities?)

It may be tempting to just let your birds run loose as the weather warms, but biosecurity is still as important now as it was two months ago when bird flu was first confirmed here. Hopefully, warmer summer weather will help lighten the virus load and cases will begin to decline.

This outbreak has been tough on flock owners, veterinarians, and especially our birds who have been isolated and unable to run free. Hang in there, and reach out to friends and fellow flock owners for support during this difficult time. A BIG thank you to all our flock owners who are doing everything they can to protect their flocks and the surrounding flocks.

  Visit agr.wa.gov/birdflu for more information, including the latest detections in the state. 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

With hornet trapping, finding nothing means something

Karla Salp
Communications

Trap contents from a brown-sugar-baited trap in
South Korea, including V. mandarinia and V. crabro
The first of July is a much-anticipated time for Washington’s citizen scientists. It marks the start of the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) trapping season. For the past two years, citizen scientists have set hundreds of traps to help look for hornets throughout the state.

Yet very few of those traps have actually caught a hornet. Not catching hornets, however, is good – and provides meaningful information.

WSDA entomologists Sven Spichiger and Chris Looney recently returned from a trip to South Korea where they conducted or began various types of hornet research in partnership with some local collaborators in an area where the hornets are well established.

One of the experiments involved placing five traps - like those WSDA and citizen scientists have been using for the past two years - to look for the hornets. The traps used the brown sugar bait option – an option that was added in 2021 in addition to the orange juice and rice cooking wine bait option.

The mini-experiment suggested that when hornets are around, the traps will catch them. Although the traps were placed several weeks before peak worker hornet season, WSDA was able to trap two Vespa mandarinia and six Vespa crabro (European hornet) specimens from June 9 - 24.

When you run a trap and catch nothing, that is a great result! It suggests that there are no hornets where you live. So, even if you are disappointed that you’ve never caught a hornet, please consider being a citizen scientist again and help us monitor hornet populations in the state. Whether you catch a hornet or not, it provides the data we need to eradicate this invasive hornet.

Not up for trapping hornets? You can also join our Adopt a Wasp program, which only requires five minutes per week watching paper wasp nests on your property. 

Thursday, June 16, 2022

First 2022 detection of Japanese beetle larvae confirmed

Cassie Cichorz
WSDA Pest Program Outreach Coordinator

Japanese beetle grub
found in Grandview.
Japanese beetles are starting to make their appearance in the Grandview, Washington area.

Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) entomologists confirmed the first report of Japanese beetle larvae in Washington state for 2022. This is the first report of a larvae or grub confirmed in the beetle infestation area near Grandview Washington.

A resident of Grandview was weeding her garden on June 13, and discovered white C-shaped grubs or larvae in the soil of her boxed garden beds. She submitted a report to a WSDA field supervisor. WSDA retrieved the larvae later that afternoon and observed multiple grubs with visible legs. The specimen was reviewed under a microscope and confirmed to be Japanese beetle larvae.

WSDA installed a beetle trap on the resident’s property to capture any possible emerging adults. WSDA will also work to remove remaining grubs from the garden. These will used to research collecting strategies that could benefit future public surveys.

Japanese beetles are not native to Washington and threaten more than 300 plants, including roses, grapes, hops, apples, and grass. In 2021 WSDA trapped more than 24,000 beetles in the Grandview area. This year WSDA deployed 2,229 traps to capture any emerging adults. The traps will also monitor the locations of Japanese beetles.

WSDA is working to eradicate the pest by treating properties in and around the infested area. In total, WSDA is treating around 2,000 acres in Grandview and surrounding areas of Yakima and Benton counties.

How residents can help

Residents inside the treatment area are encouraged to prevent the spread of Japanese beetles by not moving items on which Japanese beetles can travel and spread. Soil, dirt or fill is encouraged to stay on site, including potted and outdoor plants. Waste or debris from yards, gardens, and other horticulture activities should also stay inside the treatment area.

People traveling in and out of the treatment area should check their vehicles and machines for Japanese beetles. Checking for hitchhikers can help protect Washington’s agriculture and natural resources. If you suspect Japanese beetle, report it. Take a picture and note the location, then visit WSDA’s online reporting form, email PestProgram@agr.wa.gov, or call 1-800-443-6684.

For more information visit agr.wa.gov/beetles. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Have you seen them? Meet your new Japanese beetle trappers

Amber Betts
WSDA Communications


If you live in the Grandview area, you have likely seen Washington State Department of Agriculture team members in bright yellow and orange vests around town. Why Grandview? Who are they? What are they doing?

Why Grandview?

A few years ago, WSDA discovered an infestation of Japanese beetle in Grandview and the surrounding areas. That was alarming, because the ramifications to local yards, as well as the implications on agriculture, could be devastating. So, we buckled down and got to work. It started with determining where exactly the infestation was. Our teams went out and set traps to see where the beetles had set up camp.
The team determined the infestation was inside a 49-square-mile grid, in Yakima and Benton counties, centered on the City of Grandview.
This year, we’ve expanded the efforts to include treating properties with the most concentrated area of Japanese beetles, setting traps for the pest, and working on establishing a proposed quarantine to limit the spread of the Japanese beetle population beyond the identified infestation area. Part of that effort included hiring several new trappers to increase the grid we are keeping an eye on.

(L-R) Amanda, Gabe, Drew, Brenda, Fernando. 





Who are they?

Amanda

The team’s supervisor, Amanda was born and raised in the Grandview area. She is looking forward to serving the community in which she lives, and helping save agriculture by ridding the area of this invasive pest.

Gabe

Originally from Florida, Gabe has lived in Washington state for about a year. He was drawn to WSDA and being part of the Japanese beetle eradication efforts because of the ability to benefit the community of Grandview.

Drew

Originally from Oregon, Drew and his family moved to Yakima. He was looking for a summer job while he looks for a job in his field of study, medical sciences. He loves being outside and is looking forward to the summer of Japanese beetle trapping.

Fernando

Fernando knows the importance of agriculture in Washington state. Growing up in the Yakima Valley, Fernando’s father owns a cherry orchard, and he has seen firsthand the type of damage a pest can do. He’s looking forward to being part of the effort to rid the area of this invasive pest.

Brenda

Brenda is looking forward to being part of the eradication and survey effort. She is excited to be part of the effort and to see the beetles firsthand. 

What are they doing?

The Japanese beetle trappers will be going around to each set trap during the “adult flight season” between May and October, checking for catches and recording their findings. There will be more than 2,500 traps set in the area, and each trap will be checked every 10-14 days. If you see the friendly, smiling face of someone wearing a bright yellow vest, please wave, and know they are working hard to get rid of this pest to protect our lawns, roses, and especially, our agriculture.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Old dairies embrace new ideas

Karla Salp
Communications

Dairy cows eating hay in barn

Dungeness Valley Creamery is a family farm that started with 20 cows in 1971. In 1989, it moved to its current location and operated as a traditional dairy. In 2006, the dairy transitioned to producing raw milk*. That, however, was far from the last innovation on the farm. 

Saving energy

Driving by the farm today, a passerby might notice the solar panels on the south-facing side of the barn roof installed to reduce the amount of energy they demand from the grid. While they were at it, they installed an electric car charging station for customer use. In 2017, the farm did an energy audit through USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service that identified additional opportunities to reduce energy consumption. That led to converting all-electric motors to variable frequency drives, relocating some walk-in cooler condensers for better efficiency, and the installation of the GEA XeTherm heat recovery system. The XeTherm takes the heat generated from the refrigeration process and passes it through a plate cooler to pre-heat warm water before it goes into the water heater. Combined, these changes are saving over 36,000 kWh each year.

Comfy and clean

Calf napping

The cows on the dairy spend seven months of the year on rotational pasture – eating grass and lounging in fields as long as the weather allows. Once the weather turns, the cows head to the barn for the winter where - when they are not eating, being milked, or getting a scratch from the rotary brush – the cows can rest on “pasture mats.” The mats have a combination of recycled rubber padding and foam and are designed to replicate the comfort of pasture. 

The barn also has a system that flushes the barn to clean it and separate manure liquids from solids. The system cleans each alley in the barn six times per day. They are, of course, cows and relieve themselves whether their alley was just cleaned or not. But the system allows for frequent cleaning – much more often than could be accomplished manually. 

Cleaning doesn’t stop with the barn floor. The farm also has an automatic milk tank and pipeline cleaning system. Sanitation cycles improve consistency and cleanliness and increase employee safety by making sanitation hands-off. They also added a new system that injects a sanitizing solution into the water so to reduce bacteria loads on floors and surfaces in the bottling plant. While sanitation is a priority for any dairy, it is especially so on a raw milk dairy that sells unpasteurized dairy products.

Solar panels on roof of barn
Environmental stewardship

Another change the dairy made was a big investment in installing an above-ground dairy nutrient storage tank. The tank holds nearly 600,000 gallons of liquid manure – going vertical substantially reducing the footprint of the previous in-ground lagoon while also further reducing the risk of contaminating groundwater.

Not alone

Dungeness Valley Creamery is not alone in taking steps to be more sustainable and environmentally conscious. Royal Dairy, for example, is making national news with its innovative management of the manure produced at its dairy near Royal City. This farm, which owner Austin Allred purchased from another dairy farmer, has 6,000 cows. That many cows produce not only a lot of milk but also a lot of something else – manure.

In 2018, Royal Dairy won the U.S. Dairy Sustainability award for what it was doing to manage all of that manure. To the rescue came another animal: worms. The liquid manure from the dairy goes through a screening process to remove the solids. Those solids are composted and used on farms and gardens. The remaining water is spread over pits comprised of a gravel bottom and several feet of wood chips in which countless worms live. Together, the wood chips and worms mimic nature’s natural process of breaking down nutrients and filtering water. The end result? Clean water that is recycled back to the dairy or used for irrigation on the farm.


Raising a glass to sustainability

Washington’s innovative dairies are not limited to remote areas like Sequim and Royal City. Krainick Dairy, for example, is a third-generation dairy that has made sustainability key to its farm and is located right in King County. True to a farmer’s nature, their form of sustainability matches and incorporates their unique situation of being in close proximity to urban areas – namely, the breweries in those urban areas.

Since 2007, the dairy has partnered with local breweries to use spent grain from the brewing process. The grain – which would otherwise end up in a landfill – is hauled to the farm and used as part of the cows’ diet. But the cycle doesn’t end there. The cow manure (are you picking up a theme that this is a big issue for all dairies to manage?) is composted by a state-of-the-art composting machine called the “Bedding Master.” The end product is used for bedding in stalls and the remainder is sold as certified organic compost for gardens.

The Krainicks have also embraced their local community. A favorite is growing and providing a giant pumpkin, which is used at a local festival. The pumpkin is filled with beer and then tapped for all to enjoy. Once again – nothing goes to waste. After the beer is gone and the party is over, the pumpkin returns to the farm for the cows to have the last bite.


These are just three examples of the creative, sustainable efforts for which Washington dairies are known. Learn more about Washington dairies from the Dairy Farmers of Washington

 

* Raw milk has not been pasteurized to kill potentially deadly bacteria that may be present. It poses a greater health risk to consumers for this reason. Raw milk sales are only legal in Washington from licensed dairies that are regularly inspected and tested for the presence of harmful bacteria in the milk. Learn more about raw milk and the risks associated with its consumption from the Washington State Department of Health.