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© 2020 Middleburg Mystique

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Farmer and Dog

Farmers with exceptional farm dogs may want to nominate their canine companions for the 2021 Farm Bureau Farm Dog of the Year contest.

This is the third year the American Farm Bureau Federation competition is celebrating dogs that work alongside farmers and ranchers. “Even in these uncertain times, farm and ranch work doesn’t stop, and farmers count on farm dogs to be right there to face these challenges together,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall.

In addition to being helpful around the farm, dogs can be a source of comfort during difficult times. Scientific studies have shown that spending a few minutes with a dog can lower anxiety and blood pressure, and can help fight depression.

“These dogs seem to have a lot of empathy,” said Leo Tammi, an Augusta County Farm Bureau member who relies on dogs to help with his family’s sheep farm. Tammi’s border collie Hemi was in the top 10 in last year’s competition.

“We depend on our dogs to help us get the work done, but we also depend on them to reflect the love we give them. They love their work, and they’re a special part of the family,” Tammi noted.

Dogs will be judged on their helpfulness to the farmer and their family, playfulness and obedience. Farm dog owners must be Farm Bureau members to enter dogs in the competition. The contest is sponsored by Purina, and the grand prize winner will receive $5,000, which will be presented at the AFBF convention in January; a year’s worth of Purina dry dog food; and recognition as the 2021 Farm Bureau Farm Dog of the Year. Up to four runners-up will each receive $1,000.

People’s Choice Pup also is returning to the competition. A popular element of the 2020 contest, it lets social media followers vote for, comment on, share and like their favorite farm dogs. AFBF will profile the top 10 dogs starting in October, and the public can vote for their favorites.

The 2021 People’s Choice Pup will receive bragging rights and a $50 cash prize.

AFBF is accepting nominations through Aug. 20. Eligibility guidelines and submission information are available at


Snowden Clarke has a flock of backyard chickens

Backyard poultry flocks are increasingly popular as people explore ways to raise their own food and become more self-reliant amid the pandemic.

Fueled by food shortages at the supermarket and people cooped up at home, backyard chickens are taking off. Hatcheries nationwide are reporting record sales, and weeks long waiting lists have them scrambling to meet demand. “We’re receiving more inquiries about backyard poultry production,” said Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Farm supply stores are continuing to sell chicks and ducklings well into the summer beyond the typical springtime peak.”

Raising backyard chickens is a sustainable way to produce locally sourced food without requiring much space. While it can be fun and educational, “owners should be aware that poultry can sometimes carry harmful germs that make people sick,” Banks said.

Proper biosecurity and flock care are essential, as some birds can spread diseases like salmonella. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported a multistate outbreak of salmonella infections linked to backyard flocks. As of late June , 465 people in 42 states have been infected from touching and handling live poultry.

In addition, “backyard flocks can have a major impact on commercial poultry by serving as a reservoir for poultry diseases such as avian influenza, which can easily be spread,” Banks explained.

The last major U.S. outbreak of avian flu was in 2014 and cost the poultry industry more than $1 billion and took over a year to mitigate, Banks added. For anyone considering starting a backyard flock, he recommended purchasing poultry from dealers or farms that participate in the National Poultry Improvement Plan. Those businesses must meet certain flock health and sanitation standards.

To keep households and property safe, follow biosecurity practices such as washing your hands before and after handling chickens, and isolating birds from visitors and other animals. Ensure poultry areas are clean, and prevent germs from spreading by disinfecting shoes, tools, equipment and anything used to transport chickens like vehicles and cages.

Also, know the warning signs of infectious bird diseases, and watch your flock for early signs, Banks cautioned. Report sick birds to a local Virginia Cooperative Extension office, local veterinarian, the Virginia Office of Veterinary Services or the U.S. Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services office.

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