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» August 1, 2006 «
Now that California's searing heat wave has abated, farmers, ranchers and agricultural officials have started tallying the damage. The heat killed livestock and harmed crops around the state, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture wants farmers and ranchers to report the losses. County agricultural commissioners will collect the reports. Knowing the extent of damage will allow authorities to apply for federal disaster aid where needed.
Hot weather encourages mosquito activity, which could lead to new cases of West Nile virus. Horses are particularly susceptible to the virus, and state officials report the year's third horse death from the disease. The latest horse to succumb was from San Joaquin County. Veterinarians continue to urge horse owners to vaccinate their animals. The number of equine West Nile virus cases has been smaller than last year's total, so far.
Top-quality hay has been harder to find for livestock owners this year. Alfalfa growers say the July heat spell will add to the problem. Farmers say that hot, humid weather keeps hay soft and difficult to handle. Hay farmers have had a tough year that started when spring rain reduced quality for the first cutting, which is usually the best of the season. Dairy farmers prefer top quality hay for their cows so the animals produce more milk
More glassy-winged sharpshooters have been trapped in Kern and Tulare counties than were last July, according to the sharpshooter task force. Crews have been working for several years to control the insect, which carries a fatal plant disease. Pest populations remain significantly lower than their peak levels of five years ago. In Ventura County, a new cooperative program will reimburse citrus-fruit farmers who treat their orchards to control sharpshooters.Top