Telemedicine Now Available To Treat Livestock And Pets, FDA Says

Veterinarians can now use telemedicine practices to address animal health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to a decision announced on Tuesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“This pandemic has had impacts on many of our everyday lives and professions, and during this time, we need to provide veterinarians with the latitude to expand the use of telemedicine in the care of animals, not only pets, but also the animals that produce our food,” said Stephen M. Hahn, FDA commissioner, in a prepared statement. “The FDA is providing flexibility that will help veterinarians maintain the health of animals during the pandemic, while allowing for the social distancing that is so important in limiting the further spread of coronavirus disease across the country and the world.”

Federal veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) regulations have required veterinarians, historically, to physically examine animal patients to make medical determinations and prescribe treatment. Veterinarians not complying with the law were at risk of losing their license.

John Howe, president of the American Veterinary Medicine Association, weighed-in on the FDA’s decision during an interview with AgriTalk host Chip Flory on Wednesday.

Howe said the temporary relaxation of requirements is a good thing, but something animal owners and veterinarians need to use with caution. “I’ve had clients call me and say their cow has one problem, but you go out there and it was something else,” he noted.

Still, FDA’s decision will make it easier for veterinarians to work with farmers and ranchers in the near term—whether they need treatment for a pet or a large animal. Based on a video, photographs and description of the health problem, “the veterinarian will be able to prescribe extra-label drugs or write a veterinary feed directive say for a group of beef cattle suffering from respiratory disease to get them treated,” Howe said.

While the FDA is suspending enforcement of the federal regulations, Howe cautioned that individual states have the final say in whether or how telemedicine is used. Livestock owners should contact their local veterinarian to determine what telemedicine options are available.

What’s the Silver Lining?

I just finished one of the many Zoom meetings I have already participated in this week.  It’s quite remarkable really how quickly we have moved ourselves into a completely virtual, online community.  The meeting was organized by Future Harvest to discuss the challenges and opportunities of COVID-19 for agriculture, in particular those facing smaller farmers who tend to be more connected to their consumers than our larger commodity production based farmers.  Near the start of the meeting, one of the farmer panelists posed this very question, “What’s the silver lining with COVID-19?”  With all of the negative news bombarding us 24 hours a day right now, it may not even occur to us that there might be any positive outcomes of a global pandemic.  Later in the virtual discussion another farmer commented, “This is the moment we have all been waiting for as local farmers….people are looking to us for food” and I agree.

From my point of view, we are so fortunate to live in a region with a very abundant, diverse, safe and affordable food supply and if you didn’t realize this before, you likely certainly do now.  In this time of uncertainty I have witnessed the shock on people’s faces at empty shelves in the big retail stores but in contrast I have seen our local, family owned, small farm markets, butcher shops, and direct to customer food producers step up to keep food on our shelves and in our refrigerators. They are doing so in an organized way, taking care of our older and at risk populations with thought and care.  This is an opportune time for direct market farmers to grow their customer base.  With the practice of social distancing and people becoming more reluctant to shop in a crowd, short term shortages of some food products due to overbuying, local is rapidly becoming more desirable and the “new normal”.

For some growers who supply restaurants as a large part of their customer base, this could be a scary time, since restaurants have shuttered or at best been reduced to take out only.  The good news is there is still time for these types of operations to pivot, according to Beckie Gurley of Calvert’s Gift Farm.  The average consumer has slightly different preferences for more basic crops than a restaurant so growers might consider changes in growing plans now. If this human health crisis occurred in the middle of the summer, when crops were already in the ground, it would be too late for farmers to make a change in their “crop portfolio”.

Future Harvest, in cooperation with organizations such Delmarva Grown, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Maryland Farmers Market Association, maintains a Find A Farmer and Market Map on their website.  The site has seen exponential increases in web traffic since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.  Farmers in the region, including Delaware, can get listed on this site within 24 hours of submitting their information through an online Google form.  The form collects such information as type of business, location, food products available, ways to order, acceptable methods of payment and how consumers pick up or receive their order.  If you would like to be included on the map, the form to submit your information can be founds here:

These are unprecedented times and it’s difficult right now to predict exactly what the landscape will look like a few months down the road. I certainly hope the current increased desire to buy local will continue once we as a planet have the current pandemic controlled but without a doubt it is a good time for farmers to make some new friends and new customers.

Bacon Answer

Traditional bacon in the United States is a cut of meat from the belly of a pig that is cured either in a dry rub or in a liquid brine and may or may not be smoked.  You can also get uncured bacon but I just call that fresh pork belly.  However, depending on where you are from the answer may differ.  For example, Canadian bacon comes from the loin of a pig and has more of a ham taste.  To really put some ideas out there, I have made bacon from pork, goat, sheep, deer and beef.  Granted I still used the belly of the animal just so I could get close to the fat/meat ratio that I prefer in bacon.

This is just my interpretation and may not be yours but I can’t go wrong with bacon.

Question for 3/23/2020

I am going to start asking a question and let everyone have a chance to think about it and figure out an answer. Don’t Google the answer just think about it and shoot form the hip.

My first question is “What is bacon and where does is come from?”


Despite Occasionally Empty Shelves, There’s Not A Milk Shortage

Coady says DFA is still seeing retail customers increase fluid milk orders, and the cooperative is running extra shifts in their plants to help prevent a similar issue this week. Still, milk logistics are more complicated than most think.  ( Wyatt Bechtel )

Social media is full of photos of empty dairy cases in grocery stores. Maybe you’ve even seen stores sold out of milk yourself or have had members of your community ask about the problem. While it can be frustrating, it’s important to assure consumers there is not a milk shortage.

“Dairy supplies aren’t experiencing production interruptions at this time, and dairy farmers and processors will continue to do what they do best: produce safe, quality products every day for consumers in the U.S. and worldwide,” said the National Milk Producers Federation in a statement. “We will vigilantly work with all aspects of the dairy supply chain to ensure these products get to everyone who needs them and that — as has always been true — dairy will remain something consumers can count on.”

If there aren’t production interruptions, what’s causing the empty shelves and consumer frustration? The short answer: logistics.

A grocery store places their weekly order with the plant. The store might run out because of increased consumer demand as we’ve seen recently, explains Kristen Coady of Dairy Farmers of America. Once they run out, they place another order with the plant. Then the plant has to fill that order.

“There were isolated occasions when demand at stores was outpacing what the ability to process and deliver the product ,” she explains. “It’s almost like the snowstorm effect: Everyone goes out and buys milk or bread and then the store runs out for a short time.”

Coady says DFA is still seeing retail customers increase fluid milk orders, and the cooperative is running extra shifts in their plants to help prevent a similar issue this week. Still, milk logistics are more complicated than most think.

“To address the spike in demand, we’re having to shift raw milk supply that might have been going to a powder plant, for example, to a fluid milk plant,” she says.

Fluid milk and several varieties of cheese freeze well, says Lisa McComb with Dairy Management Inc. If your local grocery store keeps running low, it might be worth it to purchase extra and freeze it for later use.

President of Farmer Co-ops: Agriculture Is A National Security Issue

Farmers are increasingly worried about the impact of coronavirus on their operation. ( Farm Journal )

We are in uncharted territory with the COVID-19 pandemic, says Chuck Conner, president, National Council Of Farmer Cooperatives. Conner joined Clinton Griffiths on AgriTalk radio on March 18 to give his perspective and update.

“As of right now, we don’t have examples of product not being delivered to the farm as needed,” he says. “But our fear is what may be coming.”

He says it is critical for farmers to be able to receive the feed, fuel, fertilizer and seed they need.

“Spring planting is approaching fast, and already this was going to be a challenging spring for the farm input business because during last fall there were limited opportunities to do the 2020 preparation. We knew it was going to be a rushed period and be well-choreographed,” Conner explains.

He says the coming weeks are critical in getting the crop planted and off to a strong start. Any disruptions in the supply chain for agriculture would extend the impact the pandemic has on the U.S. economy.

“We’ve got to treat agriculture, really, as a national security issue. If you’ve got livestock, you need the feed, and if you’re in dairy you need the assurance that your milk is going to get picked up,” he says. “We need food. We can’t afford to do anything that impacts our ability to produce food; otherwise, the tail of this virus really starts extending for many years and we just can’t have that.”
Conner also encourages everyone to mind the advisories that continue to evolve with the spread of the virus.

“As this virus continues to ramp up in the United States, we’re looking each day at additional measures that are being put in place in order to protect and limit the spread of the disease. And that’s important, and we need to do that. The caution I would have is that those protections can’t be so broadly interpreted as to impact our ability to get farmers what they need—feed, seeds, fertilizer, chemical, fuel—to put this 2020 crop in the ground, because obviously we need the food supply, and we can’t do anything to disrupt that food supply,” he says.

What Coronavirus Means For Rural Hospital Capacity

Hospital capacity ( CMS Cost Reports (Data)

Lori Hays (Design) )

By now you’ve likely seen “the curve” on your social media platforms describing why social distancing and other coronavirus-stopping techniques are important for hospitals—but that fails to describe rural hospitals. Compared to their urban counterparts’ 21 intensive care unit (ICU) beds, rural hospitals have five ICU beds on average.

“I think the urban areas are going to be hit harder just because of the more populated areas,” says Shawn Buhrow, medical doctor, to AgriTalk host Chip Flory. “However, in the rural areas, like with any healthcare issues, they [sick people] are at risk just based on their inability to actually get to the health care facilities.”

Some rural residents have to drive an hour or more to their nearest hospital. If coronavirus (COVID-19) were to hit a rural community, beds at the local hospital could fill up quickly, meaning any additional patients would likely have to drive even farther for treatment. Containing this disease is key to decrease the risk of fatality.

“You know, when you compare [coronavirus] to H1N1, H1N1 mortality rate was 0.02% of individuals that were infected actually died,” Buhrow says. “But with this COVID-19, it’s estimated between 3% and 4%. So, it does have a higher mortality rate by quite a bit.”

rural area hospitals

However, proper hygiene and good habits will help curb this issue. The adage ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ holds true in this situation.

“I think we don’t want to panic over this, but we also need to be vigilant,” Buhrow says. Things like washing your hands frequently, social distancing and generally staying healthy will be key.

COVID-19: 5 Things Your Farm Should Do Now

COVID-19: 5 Things Your Farm Should Do Now

As novel coronavirus (COVID-19) makes its way into the U.S., are you prepared for some of the more likely scenarios that could impact your operation?

“Coronaviruses are not new and are responsible for approximately 20% of common colds already, however due to this being a novel coronavirus, the population is very susceptible and transmission will therefore be widespread in the absence of a vaccine,” says Beau Peterson, general manager and director of research at Carthage Veterinary Service (CVS) in Carthage, Ill. “The biggest impact to us and our business will likely be measures put in place to slow or stop the spread of the virus in the U.S.”

Being prepared during a time like this is critical. CVS says their veterinary clinic will stay open one way or another.

“Testing for COVID19 in the U.S. is just now starting to ramp up. When you consider the number of cases of community transmission already identified, we feel it is highly likely that the virus is much more widespread than what is currently being reported,” Peterson says.

As the testing and identification accelerates, the control measures will follow suit. Here are five things to consider now as you put your plan together.

1.    Ensure people can work.

“One of the most impactful and likely scenarios we see playing out is a closure of schools and daycares in the communities where our business and our clients business operate,” he says. “This would put an incredible strain on families with children who would have to find alternative care options.”

CVS is preparing for multiple scenarios to help their employees continue to work despite potential school and daycare closures.

•    Work from home: Find solutions to allow office employees to work remotely if needed. Make sure adequate laptops are available, remote connections are accessible for home computers and systems that aren’t normally used remotely are configured for it.
•    Creative childcare options: Help employees secure safe alternative care for their children if they have no other options. For example, CVS has some buildings that could be used to allow the parents who can’t work from home to work here and watch their children.

“We are a community and we will take a community-based approach to this to help each other if the need arises,” Peterson adds.

2.    Prepare for supply chain disruptions.

Although disruptions haven’t occurred yet, many producers rely on China for some of the raw ingredients and finished goods used on farms.

“Shipping disruptions have occurred in China already so there is a potential hole coming, and if port activity is impacted in the U.S., specifically the West Coast where a lot of COVID19 has been identified already, those disruptions could become significant,” Peterson says.

CVS recommends adequately preparing to withstand a two- to three-month supply disruption. Take a look at your usage of critical items and ensure adequate inventory on farm.

Peterson says CVS is stocking up on diagnostic supplies at their internal diagnostic lab.

We see the potential for diagnostic supplies to come into short supply in the coming months as demand ramps up for human testing. We are talking with other public diagnostic labs as well to ensure lines of communication are open in case we need to work together in the event of disruptions,” he says.

3.    Monitor upcoming travel.

Carefully consider upcoming meetings that employees are scheduled to attend and make decisions about participation as necessary. In the past week, many international and domestic meetings have been canceled, postponed or moved to a web-based venue.

4.    Plan for interruptions to daily workflow.

Discuss and develop contingency plans for additional needs that would interrupt your daily workflow. This could include delivery of boar semen, shipment of diagnostic samples, product movement from warehouse locations, etc.

In a letter to U.S. government officials on Tuesday, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) asked the administration to develop support plans for hog farmers if labor-related bottlenecks in the supply chain prevent hogs from being marketed.

“The specter of market-ready hogs with nowhere to go is a nightmare for every pork producer in the nation. It would result in severe economic fallout in rural communities and a major animal welfare challenge,” said NPPC President Howard “A.V.” Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wis.

5.    Protect yourself.

Use common sense and remain calm. Do what you can to protect yourself and stay healthy –the same things you do every year during flu season, Peterson advises.

Remind your employees to:
•    Wash their hands frequently.
•    Disinfect surfaces frequently.
•    Stay home if sick and to be fever-free for 24 hours before returning to work.

“The most important thing we can all do is stay informed and have a plan,” Peterson adds. “The producers we serve can’t take time off from caring for their animals, and we are committed to having plans in place that allow us to continue to support them.”

Readers Share How FFA Changed Their Lives

Another successful FFA Week has come and gone. Social media was buzzing with stories, memories and highlights from current and past FFA members last week about what membership in this organization has meant to people all over the country.

FFA plays an important role in agriculture, says Charlene Finck, Farm Journal Division President of Producer Media and trustee of the National FFA Foundation.

“It’s a catalyst to educate, engage and inspire students as leaders to pursue ag-related careers that advance the awareness and understanding of ag’s importance here and abroad—as a key contributor to sustainability and the quality of our lives,” Finck says.

Farm Journal editors joined in on the fun and shared 12 Reasons We Need FFA More Than Ever, but we’re excited to report back what our readers had to say about FFA has changed their lives. Here’s a few.

1.    FFA jackets don’t go in yard sales – they hang in your closet forever.

“My FFA experience shaped my entire life, as a man, as a teacher and as a mentor. I have been greatly blessed to have had the opportunity to impact young lives. I truly believe that the FFA jacket is worn over a member’s shoulder, but more importantly over their heart. For that reason, we seldom see an FFA jacket for sale at a yard sale, but more often it lives in the back of a closet and holds years of FFA memories. I have three in my closet in my 73rd year of life. My son has two. My office wall is covered with life’s memories – most are FFA, including an Honorary American Degree, education awards and people of my memories.” – John, former Michigan FFA member, state officer and advisor

2.    FFA becomes a family passion.

“I was the chapter president, raised mostly steers and was on the livestock judging team. We shared a bus with another chapter to go to a state judging competition. I met a guy at lunch, among hundreds, from our bus, we sat together and talked on the way back. He was there for the tractor driving competition and got 2nd place. I was 16 and he was 18. I invited him to my first steer show of the season, so most of the steers were still semi-wild. Mine got spooked and ran him over, ruining his clothes and boots. But he hung in there. Six months after we met, we got engaged. We got married two years later and have been married 42 years now. We had two daughters, both went through FFA and 4-H. Now I have a 7-year-old grandson that is in our AZ FFA PALS (5-8) group. We have three generations of FFA’ers in our family, that started by my husband and I meeting at a state FFA function!” – Lynn, former Arizona FFA member

3.    FFA opens your eyes to true leadership.

“The best experience I have earned through FFA, was learning how to be a leader without a title. I ran for chapter president my senior year. I had a great interview and everyone knew I had a burning passion for it. But the selection committee knew I was more than just an officer, and I needed some humbling. It was decided that I would not return as an officer. I was devastated. That mindset quickly changed when my advisor said something that I will never forget. ‘The best leaders are the ones without a title.’ I have tried my best to live by that my senior year, whether it was teaching young students about CDEs and SAEs or showing fellow members how to present themselves in a professional way. I did a lot of growing my senior year and it is all thanks to my advisor. FFA taught me how to lead but more importantly how to be a part of a team.” – Mikaela, current Ohio FFA member

4.    FFA teaches you to try again tomorrow.

“My first creed speaking contest was the most terrifying moment of my life standing at the podium before a crowd of maybe 15-20 peers and other ag teachers. I remember being frozen solid and I could not get a single word out. I had to walk off stage. My advisor, Mr. Brock, met me at the foot of the steps and shook my hand and said, “Next time, don’t worry about today.” That event and support changed my life. Over the balance of my high school tenure, my abilities and skills continued to develop and my successes today I attribute directly to the experiences and lessons I learned while serving in the FFA.” – Stephen, former Arkansas FFA member, officer and advisor

5.    FFA inspires new dreams.

“My favorite memory in the FFA is my first time at Tennessee FFA State Convention. I remember walking in the convention hall and being so overwhelmed by the people and excitement that room held. I remember watching opening ceremonies and being so inspired to be a state officer. I remember not wanting to leave because I wanted to hear more and more stories about these people’s lives and how FFA had changed theirs.” – Paige, current Tennessee FFA member

6.    FFA creates opportunities to give back.

“When I think about my favorite FFA memory I think of River Day. River Day is a day where our teacher takes a few students to help out the local River Wranglers to help them teach local elementary school students about our watershed. I really enjoyed River Day because I love to hang out with little kids. We helped them make water cycle bracelets, we took them on a walk and helped them place towns and locations on a giant river map. The kids had so much fun and we talked and hung out all day. Later in the school year, the elementary students sent us a letter. I love reading my letter and knowing I helped the kids learn new things.” – Evelyn, current Nevada FFA member

Lift Limits on Saturated Fats in Health Guidelines, Urge Scientists

|  By: Jim Dickrell

The United States Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are being urged to lift limits on saturated fats in their upcoming 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The request comes from 10 top nutrition scientists from the United States, Canada and Denmark. Three of these scientists include former members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

“We conclude there is no strong scientific evidence that the current population-wide upper limits on commonly consumed saturated fats in the United States will prevent cardiovascular disease or reduce mortality,” say the scientists. “A continued limit on these fats is therefore not justified.”

They also note that there is evidence that saturated-fat intake may be associated with a lower risk of experiencing a stroke.

Cary Frye, senior vice president of regulatory affairs for the International Dairy Foods Association also notes: “While [higher fat versions of dairy products] do have higher levels of saturated fat than low-fat versions, a growing body of evidence indicates that consumption of full-fat dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt is not associated with higher risk of negative health outcomes, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

“Moreover, a summary of multiple studies of full-fat dairy foods found that the evidence showed no association with high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. Some of the studies reviewed showed full-fat dairy was associated with lower risk of obesity.”