Ranch Musings: COVID-19 and farms

Columnist David Zirnhelt writes about the uncertainties surrounding the virus and farming operations

David Zirnhelt

Observer Contributor

When in doubt, follow the general rules for households and businesses for protecting yourself and your farm/ranch operation.

There are lots of links to online sources of information. Even the TV news gives good information.

Earlier this week, I was disturbed that cattle producer organizations seemed a little slow in telling how we should protect ourselves and not spread any diseases to others — specific for cattle operations.

When I left a tractor at the fuel tank in the way of a truck and trailer, I was reprimanded for having left a potentially virus-contaminated steering wheel where someone might have to touch it.

Now, we have read everything we could about the virus and were comfortable that after a couple of hours, the virus would be unviable. Then I was reading back issues of the Western Producer (we have been away) and read an article by a prairie doctor who wrote that the time was a couple of days for smooth surfaces, like tools, door handles and steering wheels.

Today, someone said the virus could last up to nine days on smooth surfaces.

The default, in the absence of commodity-specific guidelines, is to read about the biosecurity and WorkSafe recommendations by going to farm websites.

While I am on many lists for receiving information from farm media and organizations, I am yet to receive ranch-specific information dealing with COVID-19. I discussed this with our local association employee and suggested we put something out for our members — some links at least.

I don’t consider myself an expert on this topic so am quick to refer people to the proper authorities, which would can be contacted online, but if you are not connected to the Internet, that won’t help.

So, follow the advice available from whatever reliable media you have. Hopefully, considered advice is available soon in the farm magazines most ranchers receive.

Of course, there is the general number for contacting the Ministry of Agriculture: 1-888-721-7141 (Agri Service BC).

Since we were travelling out of the country, we are self- isolating as best we can.

But questions remain about touching the box, the bag or the container in which food and supplies are delivered to our porch.

We are all discussing how one keeps children, seniors and immunity-compromised people safe.

I will be kept busy in my spare time, criticizing hoarders and celebrating the people sharing what they have.

We will be planting beet tops to grow some greens, and seed stores of alfalfa might be raided to sprout some greens; and, yes, we will try to plant extra potatoes and other root crops for those who can’t garden for themselves.

Remember, we are naturally compassionate, empathetic and co-operative as a species. Let’s be true to ourselves and resist the selfish socialization that spawns hoarding and greed.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake.

READ MORE: Ranch Musings: Encouraging the next generation


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