Monday, September 30, 2019

Deadly deer disease diagnosed in four Eastern Washington cows

Chris McGann

Controlling midges is the best defense against EHD.
Four cows in Franklin and Walla Walla counties were diagnosed this week with Epizootic Hemorrhagic disease (EHD), a potentially deadly virus that primarily effects wild deer populations but occasionally crosses over to cattle.

Cattle owners should be on the lookout for EHD symptoms such as excessive drooling, lethargy, difficulty walking, or oral and nasal lesions with ulceration, which are similar to the much more devastating foot-and-mouth disease.

Fever and anorexia due to the oral erosions were seen in the recently diagnosed cattle. Supportive care is the only treatment for infected cows.

Differentiating EHD from other animal diseases requires laboratory testing so you should contact your veterinarian if you observe these symptoms.

“Although EHD is seldom prevalent in cattle, we must show an abundance of caution and investigate each case due to the similarity of symptoms this disease has with the highly contagious and economically disastrous foot-and-mouth disease,” said Washington State Veterinarian Dr. Brian Joseph.

EHD is not a threat to human health.

The disease usually occurs in cattle where environmental conditions support large populations of biting midges.

Biting midges or Culicoides gnats, commonly known as “no-see-ums” are the main way the disease is spread. Female biting midges can ingest blood from infected animals and then feed on uninfected animals. These midges typically breed near mud, so EHD outbreaks often occur when cattle congregate in wet areas.

All ruminants can be affected, but generally it is a deer disease.

No vaccines for EHD are available for EHD so controlling the midges by eliminating standing water from areas used by cows, applying insecticides around water areas to decrease the swarms, or using bug repellent on the cows is the best defense.

In the coming weeks, the cool fall weather and frost is expected to limit the gnat population and the spread of the disease.

For more information visit WSDA’s Animal Services Division web page.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

WSDA joins the national call to reduce food waste

Chris McGann

In the U.S., more than one-third of all available food goes uneaten through loss or waste. Food is the single largest type of waste in our daily trash.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1.3 billion tons of food worth nearly $680 billion are wasted each year. In Washington, more than 350,000 tons of edible food was disposed of in landfills in 2015.

WSDA Director Derek Sandison (L) speaks
with a colleague at the NASDA conference.
* credit NASDA 
For the industry that feeds the world and also depends on limited, costly and increasingly scarce resources, that’s an unsustainable problem that needs to be addressed and it’s one of the big issues addressed this month at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) annual meeting.

NASDA, a non-profit organization supporting agriculture, held its annual conference in New Mexico this year, drawing agriculture leaders from around the country, including WSDA Director Derek Sandison. Conference attendees discuss a broad range of food policy issues, including food waste.

Director Sandison joined NASDA members at the meeting as they adopted a new policy on food waste that follows the group’s “Pledge to End Food Waste.”

"Agriculture both defines and demands sustainability," he said. "It’s too costly to the agriculture industry, the environment and the people who rely on the nutritious food we work so hard to produce to let it go to waste."

WSDA has joined NASDA's pledge to support:

public policies that offer opportunities to reduce, recover and recycle food waste.
efforts to improve coordination and communication among federal, state and municipal stakeholders to use resources more efficiently and effectively to address food waste.
the food waste hierarchy framework.
research efforts and new technologies that address reduction and recovery of food waste.

Waste reduction in Washington 

Washington state has already adopted a waste-reduction goal shared by our federal partners.

For more than a year, WSDA worked with lawmakers, stakeholders and other agencies to craft food-waste-reduction legislation that was passed this year.

The newly approved legislation directs the state Department of Ecology to develop a plan to cut food-waste in half by 2030 in consultation with WSDA and the Department of Health.

To achieve that waste-reduction goal, the first step is preventing food waste in the first place, then rescuing edible food that would go to waste and getting it to hungry people. When that’s not possible, recovering the nutrients in that food through composting and anaerobic digesters is another option.

WSDA's role in waste reduction 

WSDA is leading two stakeholder engagement groups – one for food businesses and one for hunger relief professionals.

This month, WSDA organized a meeting of stakeholders from Kroger, Washington Hospitality Association, Pasco Farmers Market, the Washington Dairy Council and the Washington State Tree Fruit Association. The group shared ideas, voiced their concerns, and let us know what they’ve been doing to to reduce food waste in their respective industries.

Over the coming months, WSDA will engage experts in food safety, food waste collection and conversion, education and behavioral change, hunger relief and food business as partners in developing the plan.

Drafts of the Washington Food Waste Reduction Plan are scheduled to be available in spring 2020, with a final plan ready by September 2020.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Application process now open for 2020 Specialty Crop Block Grants

Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

Raspberries are one of the many crops eligible for Specialty
Crop Block Grants. 
WSDA is now accepting Concept Proposals for the 2020 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

The program uses a competitive solicitation process to award USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) funds for projects that enhance the competitiveness of Washington’s specialty crops.

In order to submit a concept proposal, please go to the Specialy Crop Block Grant Program web page for more information and a link to create an application account.  All concept proposals are due November 4, 2019, 4:00 p.m. PST. This is a link to the formal 2020 Request for Proposals (RFP).

All prospective applicants are encouraged to thoroughly read the RFP for eligibility and application requirements before beginning the application process.  Applicants are also encouraged to start the application process early to provide adequate time to ensure a complete and thorough proposal is submitted.

Eligible organizations include
  • industry associations
  • producer groups
  • commodity commissions
  • non-profit organizations
  • for-profit organizations
  • local, state, and federal government entities
  • educational institutions

Projects cannot benefit a single commercial product. Projects cannot provide a profit to a single organization, institution, or individual. Recipients cannot use grant funds to compete with private companies.

Specialty crops include
  • fruits and vegetables
  • tree nuts
  • dried fruits
  • horticulture
  • nursery crops (including floriculture)
Eligible specialty crop plants are cultivated for food, medicinal purposes, or beautification. Processed goods should consist of more than 50 percent of the specialty crop by weight.

For any questions regarding the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program’s requirements or eligibility, please e-mail Leisa Schumaker or call 360-902-2091.

Monday, September 23, 2019

State receives $4.79 million for Specialty Crop Block Grants

Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

The Specialty Crop Block Grant program awarded WSU
researcher Tom Collins money to assess the effect of
smoke on wine grapes and wine. He was one of 22
recipients announced this month.  
How can a vintner tell if the smoky air from a bad fire season is bad enough to damage grape and wine quality at an exposed vineyard? Not well enough, according to one Washington State University researcher who was recently awarded a grant of nearly a quarter of a million dollars to study a better way to assess the question.

During a vineyard smoke exposure from the wildfires that seem more and more common in recent years, smoke aroma compounds can be absorbed into skin cells of the grape berries and later extracted from the skins into the wine during the fermentation process. But the industry’s method of determining when the exposure will actually taint the wine is inadequate, according to WSU researcher Tom Collins.

Collins is creating a systems-level metabolic network model using analytical tools and machine-learning techniques to take into account wine variety, smoke composition, and fermentation time to create a risk assessment for smoke taint.

The grant is one of 22 projects funded by $4.79 million Washington State Department of Agriculture received from the United States Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant.

Specialty crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBG) was created to support the competitiveness of the specialty crop industry through the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. In awarding these funds, WSDA selected projects that will directly benefit specialty crop producers, address critical issues to the industry, and contain strong performance measures.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) will fund 22 projects, with awards ranging from $51,000 to $500,000 to nonprofit and for-profit organizations, government entities, and universities. 

Projects were selected through a competitive two-phase process with a focus on Plant Health and Pest Management, Small Farm Direct Marketing/International Marketing, Soil Health, Food Safety, Innovative Technologies, Training and Education, as well as Innovative Technologies.

WSDA’s project abstracts for 2019 can be found here.

For information about the program, visit the SCBG webpage. To apply for one of next year’s grants, create an account at the 2020 Specialty Crop Block Grant page. For additional SCBG information, go to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service webpage or contact WSDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program manager Leisa Schumaker or 360-902-2091.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Robotic milking: happy cows, happy farmers

Karla Salp

A robotic milker stops milking and starts to
 detach from the udder
You may remember the milk commercials from California – great milk comes from happy cows. However, happy cows don’t just come from California. Washington dairy farmers have long known this secret and continually find new ways to make their cows even happier.

Sometimes happier cows come from unexpected changes. We recently visited Twin Brook Creamery and learned how their dairy has changed over the years. One of the changes they mentioned was switching to robotic milking, with surprising benefits for both the cows and the farmer.

Robotic milking allows for automated milking of cows at any time of day. A stall is set up where the cows walk in as they wish. She gets a snack while a machine cleans her udder then uses lasers to attach the milking apparatus udder to milk the cow. There are many benefits for the cows:
  • Milking on (the cow’s) demand - The robotic milking stalls are available all the time, so the cow gets milked on the schedule she chooses, rather than on the farmer’s schedule.
  • Milking frequency - Some cows may choose to be milked three times a day, which puts less stress on the udder and improves comfort for the cow.
  • Lower stress – Rather than having to be rounded up twice a day and herded back into the milking parlor, the cows come and go as they choose.
  • A cow being milked by a robotic milker
  • Health checks – The robotic milker can detect issues in the milk that may indicate a health issue with the cow even before she shows signs of illness.
The cows appear to like the system, too, after getting used to it. When we visited, cows were lining themselves up, waiting for their turn to be milked.

But the cows aren’t the only winners here. Farmers benefit as well:
  • Reduced labor – While labor is still required (the robotic milker will send cell phone alerts 24/7 if there is a problem) the overall time commitment for milking is greatly diminished. The farmer isn’t obliged to go to the milking parlor for hours twice a day, 365 days a year.
  • Squeaky clean – Prior to milking, the robotic sensor cleans and sanitizes both the udder and teat, keeping the cow and milking surfaces clean and sanitary. While farmers do this as well, the robotic system can reduce any human error factors.
  • No kicks – When milking by hand, the risk exists for the cow to kick the dairy farmer while milking, given how close they necessarily have to be to a cow’s hind legs. The hands-off system eliminates that risk.
While robotic milking is expensive to start and isn’t for every dairy, it is a great example of the diverse ways that dairy farmers are working to constantly improve their operations for not only themselves, but their cows as well.

Below is a video that shows a farm getting started with robotic milking. 

Lessons shared on goat dairy farm walk

Kathy Davis

Matthew Tuller and Rachael Taylor-Tuller kick
off the farm walk on their goat dairy, Lost Peacock
Creamery, in Thurston County.
Farmers share a natural affiliation – and maybe none more so than those who raise goats. Goats have an undeniable charm with their floppy ears, expressive eyes, and craving for human attention. Plus, they produce milk and delicious cheese!

No wonder a recent farm walk at the Lost Peacock Creamery in Thurston County was a big draw. The walk’s title was “How not to start a goat dairy; Lessons learned and models for success from a veteran, female farmer.” 

About 30 people attended. Most were small farmers and most were women. Some were exploring farming and raising goats. Some were military veterans or about to be honorably discharged from service. Others had links to food systems or sustainable farming organizations. 

Rachael Taylor-Tuller and her husband, Matthew Tuller, led the tour of their Lost Peacock Creamery. While they shared insights about how they got into the business and currently manage their farm, the event was definitely interactive. 

Along with asking questions, many on the tour offered advice and resources based on their own experiences. Everyone was learning and sharing. And that is the purpose of these Farm Walks, sponsored by Washington State University Food Systems and Tilth Alliance. 
Farm walk attendees get up-close and personal
 with the goat herd.

Goat yoga pays for feed

In just three years since they got their WSDA dairy license, Rachael and Matthew said Lost Peacock now provides them with a living wage without off-farm employment. Statewide, more than half of all farmers have a second job. 

“It’s possible because we don’t live beyond our means,” Rachael said. 

They have avoided taking on debt, she said, expanding as they had the resources. For instance, by adding one barn at a time as they could afford it. 

They also rely on agritourism, including an interesting blend of fitness and farming that has been featured in the news. 

“We do yoga every day, but I wasn’t sure if anyone would want to come to the farm to do yoga with goats,” she said. “But now goat yoga pays our feed bill.”

Another unique event on the farm is called “Cheese and Cuddles.” For $20, visitors can cuddle with the springtime baby goats and sample the farm’s cheese. 

Their event space - decorated with goat art and featuring a climbing wall - is available to rent for birthday parties or other private occasions. 
Mindy Ross enjoys some goat love.

Marketing is key to success

Rachael is a natural and enthusiastic pitch person for her farm.

“The most important way to make a farm successful is with marketing,” she said. “You need to tell your story. Your farm has its story, and you have a personal story – your background, family, struggles -- that goes with that.”

Lost Peacock has a farm website, where Rachel regularly posts on a blog, and are active on social media. 

Rachael shared with the group that she bought the farm after serving in the Air Force. When she got divorced, she had a young child and a fulltime corporate job, but she hung on to the farm determined to make it work. That’s the “how not to start a goat dairy” part of the story. 

After meeting and marrying Matthew, Rachael’s dream started becoming reality. Now she had a partner who was as excited about building that farming dream as she was. 

“Rachael is great at marketing,” Matthew said. “Farms make for great storytelling; there’s the cycle of birth, life, mating…” he trailed off as a male goat mounted a female in the background to illustrate. 

Fences, feed, and people food

As the group watched our hosts and an able volunteer demonstrate a fence repair, the topic turned to feeding practices. We watched the goats nibble on tree bark as Matthew pointed out a lush green patch planted just for them. 

Rachael and a volunteer demonstrate how to
repair a bent fence.
Susan Kerr, education and outreach specialist with WSDA’s State Veterinarians Office, explained that goats are curious and will explore for things to eat. And those may not be what you want them to eat. She suggested planting edible bushes or climbing vines along the fence line, since goats also tend to eat at face level. 

While they encourage natural foraging, Rachael said they also provide feed that does not contain any corn, soy or wheat, due to customers with allergies. 

“We only sell what we want to feed our own family,” she said. 

The whole afternoon was packed with practical tips about farming and goats, and with personal stories about the rewards and struggles of farming. The day wrapped up with samples of Lost Peacock goat cheeses. 

So, what’s with the peacocks? Rachael and Matthew got married on the farm and she wanted peacocks for atmosphere. They got one pair and now several roam their property and perch on rooftops. 

“Apparently, they really like it here,” she commented. 

To learn more about their farm and their story, visit the Lost Peacock Creamery website (and read Rachael’s blog posts for their story) or follow them on social media.

Friday, September 13, 2019

First case of equine West Nile virus for 2019 diagnosed

Chris McGann

Vaccinating horses against West Nile virus is the best way to
protect them from the disease. 
A quarter horse in Klickitat County tested positive for West Nile virus this week in what has been a light year for the disease. It is Washington’s first reported case this year.

The two-year-old gelding, had not been vaccinated for the disease.

The horse was treated for what appeared to be colic but its condition worsened quickly, becoming ataxic or unable to control its muscles the following day.

The horse’s condition is improving and the referring veterinarian has guarded optimism for its recovery.

Vaccinate your horse

Washington State Veterinarian Dr. Brian Joseph said the disease is not always fatal to the infected horse, but most cases that do prove deadly occur in unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated animals.

“This is a good reminder for horse owners to protect their animals by vaccinating for this preventable disease,” Joseph said.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, 493 equine cases of West Nile virus from 42 states were reported in 2018.

Last year, two horses were diagnosed with West Nile virus statewide, but some years have seen much higher numbers of infected horses. In 2015, 36 cases were reported in Washington, with several horses dying or being euthanized as a result of the disease.

West Nile virus is spread by mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds and while it can sicken people, horses, birds and other animals, it does not directly spread from horses to people or other animals.

Watch for symptoms

West Nile virus is prevalent across the country, so it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for signs of infection in horses. Closely observe your horse and look for signs, which include:

• Fever of 102.5 degrees F or higher
• Discharge from eyes or nose
• Limb edema or swelling
• Spontaneous abortions
• Neurologic signs such as an unsteady gait, weakness, urine dribbling, lack of tail tone and recumbency.

Veterinarians who diagnose potential West Nile virus cases should contact the State Veterinarian’s Office at (360) 902-1878.

Visit WSDA’s West Nile virus webpage or the state Department of Health for more information.