Cooperative Extension Overview

James Oltjen

The University of California, Davis Animal Science Extension program is composed of nine department-and regionally-based statewide specialists and a programmer/analyst, linked to county-based Cooperative Extension livestock and dairy farm advisors. Extension specialists provide teaching, research and outreach programs on Dairy Management and Health, Dairy Nutrition, Livestock Air Quality, Livestock Systems Management, Livestock Waste Management, Poultry and Avian Biology and Management, and Marine and Freshwater Aquaculture

Animal Science Extension in California is unusual in many regards. This was the first state to hire a specialist for animal waste management and one of few states in the Western United States with an aquaculture specialist as members of an animal science department. An international reputation has been earned for designing and writing computer programs to help with ration formulation and recordkeeping to aid animal producers with rational, economical, management decisions. Major publications have been written, and are used internationally, which address all phases in the maturation, reproduction and hatchery care of sturgeon, and all aspects of oyster production. Many of the California dairy advisors have more cows in their assigned county or area than can be found in entire states. Specialists and farm advisors all conduct applied research as well as traditional extension educational activities. Many of the farm advisors have developed special statewide roles in areas such as watershed management, public policy and land use, animal welfare, swine and sheep production, waste management, mastitis control, worker safety, and quality assurance.

Research and outreach activities of the specialists and advisors are as diverse as the state of California. A publication on guidelines for manure management on large drylot dairies for use by people involved in public policy decision making is now being developed and written. Publications have been completed on guidelines for animal care practices of swine, beef, dairy, and sheep. These publications target people interested in public policy about animal welfare from a scientific point of view. Specialists and farm advisors have collaborated to develop software for beef cattle, sheep, horses, swine, and dairy cattle that formulate rations on the basis of least cost of maximum income above feed cost. Recordkeeping programs have been developed for beef cattle and swine that allow the user to keep detailed production records on individual animals and then analyze those records to determine weak spots in the management chain. These programs have been sold to producers and educational institutions nationally and internationally. Several states have purchased copies of the ration software to be used by their faculty and extension personnel. A software program has been developed that prints or transmits digitized publications and other documents, yet protects the computer files from alteration. The software is used to disseminate aquaculture information and is now being expanded to other commodities. Additional programs involving farm advisors and specialists include water use in producing meat from beef, sheep, and aquatic animals; personnel safety and management; public policy and land use; rangeland monitoring; watershed management; food safety, quality assurance and residue avoidance; and integrated resource management for terrestrial and aquatic animals.

There will be continued emphasis on software development. All software programs are carefully designed, user friendly, extensively beta-tested, and supported by the Department of Animal Science. This was the first unit in the University of California to develop and market commercial quality software for agricultural producers, and plans include developing models to help producers analyze various management scenarios in terms of probable economic outcomes and risk. Collaborative relationships with other departments, colleges, and public agencies are constantly being developed and strengthened, including cooperation with regional and state agencies such as Air and Water Quality, Fish and Game, Health Services, Natural Resource Conservation District, and local planning commissions.