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UC specialist contributes to column about chicken comfort

Bob Perkins, executive director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, wrote an amusing opinion piece about Proposition 2 for today's Salinas Californian in which he speculated about the ability of Californians to decide what makes chickens happy.

Proposition 2 is an initiative on the November ballot aimed at improving farm animal welfare. For his column on the subject, Perkins spoke to UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist emeritus Don Bell, who devoted a career to the study of poultry production.

In the world of farm animals, the story says, happiness is measured by animal health.

"(Bell) can tell you the precise amount of space hens need for optimum health. He can also tell you how many hens can live together, what mixtures of food they need at different times in their lives, what temperatures they like. He can tell you what makes a hen happy," Perkins wrote.

Perkins concludes that caged chickens aren't necessarily less happy than their free-range counterparts, who have space to spread their wings, but could be exposed to pests, predators, disease and attacks by other hens. In short, Perkins wrote, the chickens don't care.

Unfortunately, it will be impossible to get the final word on chicken happiness straight from the horse's mouth.

Posted on Monday, September 8, 2008 at 9:40 AM
Tags: animal welfare (16), eggs (25)

I've Been Robbed!

Carpenter bee robbing nectar

Robber at work.  No, this isn't a bank heist or a gas station hold-up or a home invasion. A carpenter bee is slitting the sides of salvia (sage) to steal the nectar. Floral larceny! Book 'em, Danno! Carpenter bees are nectar robbers. Nectar robbers pierce or bite into the corolla of a...

Posted on Friday, September 5, 2008 at 1:13 PM
Tags: bumblebee (2), carpenter bee (24), floral larceny (1), nectar (6), robber bee (1)

Asian citrus psyllid in California

Coachella Valley citrus growers and industry researchers met yesterday to discuss an attack against the Asian citrus psyllid, an insect lethal to citrus crops that has recently been found in California, according to a story in today's Desert Sun.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture announced late last week that a single Asian citrus psyllid was detected in San Diego County, which set in motion a collaborative effort that includes UC Cooperative Extension to protect the state's citrus industry.

Asian citrus psyllid transmits citrus greening disease, which is already endemic in Florida and has wreaked havoc for citrus industries in Asia, India, the Middle East, South and Central America.

According to an article in Western Farm Press, the Citrus Research Board and representatives from the USDA, CDFA, UC and the San Diego County Agricultural Commissioner’s office met with citrus growers and other citrus industry leaders immediately after the psyllid find. They discussed the discovery and the threat it poses, as well as the industry and regulators’ plan of action.

The Citrus Research Board plans another meeting Sept. 25 in San Diego.

Posted on Friday, September 5, 2008 at 8:39 AM
Tags: Asian citrus psyllid (65), citrus (29), exotic pest (41)

Mighty Mite

Mite on drone

It's a mighty mite and it's causing beekeepers fits. The varroa mite (see photo below) is an external parasite that attacks honey bees. It sucks blood from the adults (apparently preferring drones, the male bees) and from the brood (immature bees).  "It's commonly found in most...

Posted on Thursday, September 4, 2008 at 5:00 PM
Tags: bee mite (1), Eric Mussen (271), honey bees (360), varroa mite (13)

Opponent of Prop. 2 offers another point of view

Since I wrote about the Huffington Post blog aimed at drumming up votes for Prop. 2, I want to give the flip side from a column that ran in the California Farm Bureau's publication AgAlert.

Written by Jill Benson, vice president of a 100-year-old agriculture outfit in Modesto, the article said the initiative is "a risky, dangerous and costly measure -- because it threatens our food safety and public health by putting us at increased risk for Salmonella contamination and avian influenza (bird flu)."

She said farmers' first concern is always the healthful, humane care of hens.

"Prop. 2 bans the safe, humane practices our state's farmers developed based on generations of experience and expert advice," Benson wrote.

Proponents of Prop. 2 say the hens live in cages so small that the birds can’t spread their wings, nest, dust-bathe, perch or walk more than a few steps.

For her column, Benson cited the recently released UC Davis economic impact study, which, she noted, found that passage of Prop. 2 will eliminate almost all of the state's egg industry in five years and further harm the state's economy due to resulting job and revenue losses.

As a result, California will lose thousands of jobs and $615 million in economic activity and millions more in lost state and local tax revenues, the article says.

Posted on Thursday, September 4, 2008 at 1:55 PM
Tags: animal welfare (16), eggs (25)

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