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Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle Symposium to be held Aug. 17-18

Cow-calf producers, bovine veterinarians, industry representatives, students and Cooperative Extension personnel are invited to attend the 2015 Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle Symposium on Aug. 17 and 18 in Davis. Both American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists and Veterinary Medicine continuing education credits are approved for the meeting.

“This meeting will feature speakers from multiple states outlining approaches to improve the efficiency and success of beef cattle reproduction,” said Alison Van Eenennaam, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis.

“One particularly timely talk is that of Dr. Eric Scholljegerdes from New Mexico State University titled “Drought: Devastating natural event or a wakeup call for better cattle management,” said Van Eenennaam, who is also affiliated with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The program will include six general sessions covering a variety of topics, from physiology to genetics to management, and will present the latest information on reproductive technologies in beef cattle. The current program can be viewed online at http://www.appliedreprostrategies.com.

Key goals of the Beef Reproduction Task Force include promoting widespread adoption of reproductive technologies among cow-calf producers, educating producers in management considerations that will increase the likelihood of successful breeding of animals through artificial insemination and educating producers about marketing options to capture benefits that result from use of improved reproductive techniques. 

The two-day conference will take place at the UC Davis Conference Center on campus.

The annual Beef Reproduction Task Force event is held in a different location every year. This is the first time that it will be in California and hosted by the UC Davis Department of Animal Science. The task force is a multi-state extension activity in cooperation with the North Central Agricultural and Natural Resources Program Leaders Committee and the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.

To register for the 2015 Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle Symposium, visit http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/confreg/?confid=757. For additional information, visit the conference website at http://www.appliedreprostrategies.com or contact Alison Van Eenennaam at alvaneenennaam@ucdavis.edu or (530) 752-7942.

 

Posted on Wednesday, July 8, 2015 at 12:04 PM

Keep safe while clamming in Northern California

Melissa Partyka, with Lady Jane, conducting recreational clamming research, looking at vibrio communities.
Clamming is a popular recreational sport year-round in Northern California, though the most popular periods are during the late spring and summer when the lowest tides of the year expose tidal flats for a few brief hours at a time. Dedicated clammers often plan their vacations around these tidal events, frequently bringing multiple generations of their family along to join in the messy work.

There are very few bays in Northern California that can support the recreational harvest of large clams, such as gapers (Tresus sp.) and butter clams (Saxidomus sp.), two of these are Humboldt and Tomales bays.

These days, during a big low tide, you might just find Melissa Partyka and Ronny Bond walking the muddy tidal flats of Tomales Bay, with their dog Lady Jane by their side, in search of clams. Partyka, a staff researcher and doctoral candidate in the Graduate Group of Ecology at UC Davis, and Bond, a water quality researcher and the field research manager, are both in the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Vet Med Extension Water and Foodborne Zoonotic Disease Laboratory, with the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security.

They are interested in studying communities of bacteria associated with the clams on these tidal flats. They are focusing on vibrios, a type of bacteria which have caused a growing number of illnesses over the last 10 years, particularly from consumption of undercooked seafood. One of these bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, has led to multiple instances of wound infection and amputation in the Gulf of Mexico, while another, V. parahaemolyticus, is the leading cause of gastroenteritis (stomach flu) from shellfish consumption. Partyka and Bond are trying to quantify the exposure of recreational clammers to vibrios in the sediment during clamming activity. Exposure may cause illness through wound infection, ingestion of sediments during collection (people get covered in mud), and contamination of equipment and food preparation surfaces back home (or at the campsite).

While there have been no reported cases of V. vulnificus infection in Northern California clammers, this bacterium has been isolated from intertidal flats in both Humboldt and Tomales bays. V. parahaemolyticus is found much more frequently and was responsible for cases of foodborne illness in consumers of local oysters a few years back. Though this doesn't mean that clammers need to be concerned, Partyka does suggest caution when out on the flats.

"Like all things pulled from the mud, clams are covered in bacteria, which means clammers are covered in bacteria," Partyka said. "It's a good idea to wash your hands and equipment well before preparing your clams and to clean and dress any wounds you get when out digging.”  

Partyka knows from experience what a V. vulnifius infection feels like. A small barnacle cut on her pinky turned her finger into a sausage in a matter of days.

“People with healthy immune systems shouldn't have a problem” Partyka said, but young children and anyone with compromised health should keep a close watch on those cuts and seek out medical attention if swelling occurs.

Enjoy your summer clamming excursions and keep in mind the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services food safety tips when it's time to cook those clams. Wash hands and surfaces often, don't cross contaminate, cook to the right temperature and refrigerate promptly. And keep an eye out for Bond, Partyka and Lady Jane on the muddy flats of the bay.

Posted on Wednesday, July 8, 2015 at 9:55 AM

Food assistance and education combine to ease food insecurity

UC ANR nutrition educator teaches the Plan, Shop, Save & Cook curriculum.
Celebrities have taken the “food stamp challenge,” trying to feed themselves on a budget equivalent to federal food benefits for the poor. Most have failed, but UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) has found a way to help low-income families successfully stretch their food dollars and eat healthier while receiving food assistance.

The curriculum, called “Plan, Shop, Save & Cook,” was adapted for UC CalFresh nutrition education by UC ANR Cooperative Extension academics. The program, offered in 31 California counties, is proven to help recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) eat healthier and avoid running out of food by the end of the month. In California, SNAP is known as CalFresh.

The proof stems from an analysis of pre- and post-program surveys of nearly 4,000 adults who completed the four-part “Plan, Shop, Save & Cook” course. Researchers concluded that food assistance combined with nutrition and resource management education reduces food insecurity in low-income families. The results were published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Plan, Shop, Save & Cook was implemented in California in 2011. From 2011 to 2013, educators in 15 counties asked participants to fill out a brief survey before and one month after completing the four-week course. The survey aimed to determine whether they were using key strategies shared in the classes, including planning meals, using a shopping list, comparing prices, reading labels, thinking about healthy choices and eating varied meals.

“We confirmed that our program helps educate and motivate participants, leading to healthier eating,” said Lucia Kaiser, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist based in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis. “Increasing resource management skills – the ability shop smart and read food labels – is important to reducing food insecurity.”

Kaiser, the study's lead author, also pointed out that receiving the supplemental food benefits is a critical factor in addressing food insecurity.

“Families need SNAP and access to healthy foods in their neighborhoods,” Kaiser said. “The people in our study who were receiving food assistance were eating the best. It's really important to help eligible people get enrolled and receive food assistance.”

In the United States, 14.5 percent of households are “food insecure” – they don't have access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. Among those below the income eligibility cutoff for SNAP, the percentage of food insecure households is considerably higher. Food insecurity has been associated with inadequate nutrient intake, poor mental and physical health, substandard economic performance, increased risk of chronic disease, poor psychological cognitive function and obesity.

“It may seem counter-intuitive, but research has shown that body mass index is greater in households with lower socio-economic status,” Kaiser said. “Food insecurity and obesity may coexist because the least expensive foods are often lowest in nutrients and highest in calories, and in low income areas, healthy food is not always available.”

A higher level of food assistance benefits may allow families to purchase more fruits, vegetables, whole grain products and lean dairy and protein foods. Effective education also contributes to these healthy eating habits. The Plan, Shop, Save & Cook classes are offered to small groups of adults in community settings and include skill-building activities, such as writing a menu and comparing it to dietary recommendations. Participants taste low-cost healthy foods and receive recipes to try at home.

For more information about Plan, Shop, Save & Shop contact a county UC ANR Cooperative Extension office.

An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Posted on Tuesday, July 7, 2015 at 1:54 PM

NPI study: Law improves beverage environment in California childcare

Childcare providers must serve only fat-free or low-fat unsweetened, plain milk for kids two years or older.
Obesity among preschoolers is a serious health problem, with one in four obese or overweight by the time the child is ready for kindergarten. Given that well over half of preschool age children are in childcare, UC ANR Nutrition Policy Institute researchers decided to investigate whether healthy beverage standards in childcare could improve their nutrition. Another reason to focus on this age group is that young children are still developing their eating habits. Those who get an early start at eating a nutritious diet will likely have better health outcomes than children who get in the habit of eating junk food and drinking sugary beverages.

In 2008 and 2012, NPI researchers conducted a survey of more than 400 randomly selected California licensed childcare facilities to look at beverages in childcare before and after California's Healthy Beverages in Child Care Act (AB 2084) took effect in January 2012. Under this law, only fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) unsweetened, plain milk for children two years of age or older is allowed, and no more than one serving per day of 100 percent juice. No sugary drinks are allowed at all. Also, drinking water must be readily available throughout the day, including at all meal, snack and play times.

NPI Director Lorrene Ritchie presented NPI's research findings on June 30 at the 8th Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference in San Diego. The NPI study found that the policy was effective at improving the beverage environment in California childcare. Provision of whole milk dropped from nearly 30 percent of childcare facilities in 2008 to less than 9 percent of facilities 2012. The provision of other beverages also improved. In 2008, 27 percent of facilities offered juice more than once a day, compared to just 20 percent in 2012. Facilities offering any sugar-sweetened beverages dropped from 7.6 percent in 2008 to 6.9 percent in 2012.

“We know the beverages children consume can put a child at risk for overweight and obesity,” said Ritchie. “The good news is that the healthy beverage standards did improve the beverage environment in California childcare. This law impacts potentially a million young children in our state.”

Despite the improved beverage environment, NPI found that only 60 percent of childcare facilities were aware of the law, and only 23 percent were in full compliance with all provisions.

Water is a healthful beverage for children.
“We need to do more to improve the beverage environment,” said Ritchie. “Based on our findings, we recommend that all childcare providers have access to nutrition training so that more understand and are able to comply with California's childcare beverage standards.”

The NPI study also looked at the effects of serving water at the table with meals and snacks.  While this was not a provision of the California law, it is a best practice for teaching children to reach for water first for thirst. Putting water on the table did not have an impact on children's intake of milk and other foods, which was a common concern of providers caring for young children. However, the study found the law didn't make much of a difference in increasing children's water intake either.

“Simply serving water at the table with meals and snacks is not likely to interfere with intake of other healthy things,” said Ritchie. “But we don't know what would happen if water were provided in such a way as to substantively increase water intake.”

The University of California Global Food Initiative aims to put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. By building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among UC's 10 campuses, affiliated national laboratories and the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the initiative will develop and export solutions for food security, health and sustainability throughout California, the United States and the world.

 

Posted on Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at 12:00 PM

Empowering California youth through food smart families

We are what we eat. Unfortunately, we don't always make the best food choices. Sometimes it's simply a lack of will power. In communities struggling with high poverty rates, it's often the result of low incomes and limited food options. Dangerously high obesity rates, especially among youth, are a major public health concern in the United States.

The health of California youth reflects this disturbing national trend. To address the challenge of childhood obesity statewide, the California 4-H Food Smart Families program will be implemented at four sites in Fresno, Orange, Sutter-Yuba and Tulare counties this year. Additional UC partners will include the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and CalFresh.

Youth need to increase consumption of dark green veggies and whole grains, and decrease intake of sugar and saturated fats. The objective of California 4-H Food Smart Families is to increase knowledge and create behavior change related to nutrition, cooking, gardening, physical activity and food preparation. The program engages youth 8 to 12 years old and teens in 4-H Healthy Living programming. Youth will be directly reached through lessons delivered at after-school sites, low-resource elementary schools and organized field days at four UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Research and Extension Centers (REC): Kearney REC in Parlier, South Coast REC in Irvine, Sierra Foothill REC in Browns Valley and Lindcove REC in Exeter. The program is structured around positive youth development curricula and practices which provide an intensive engagement of underserved children, teens, families and other stakeholders. Local 4-H teens will be recruited and trained to deliver programs and assume leadership roles.

The National 4-H Council partnered with the ConAgra Food Foundation to launch the national 4-H Food Smart Families program in 2014. ConAgra sponsored funding to award grants to five states for program implementation. This year, in addition to the original five states, California and Louisiana were awarded grants as new participants. Inclusion of the UC Research and Extension Centers in the California program is a new model that organizers hope will be replicated elsewhere. Youth and families who visit the centers will witness first-hand not only how food is grown, but also the science behind it. Center specific lessons may be added to highlight the unique nature of local agriculture and natural resources and the food crops cultivated and studied at each center.

Programming at California sites will get underway this fall and will continue through the school year. Look for more exciting California 4-H Food Smart Families news in the coming months as programming and activities kick into high gear.

Author: Roberta Barton

Posted on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 at 8:46 AM

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