By Michelle Jacokes

Michelle Jacokes

Jacokes

Wildlife and other animals on the farm — whether seen or not can have major impacts to crops, infrastructure and more.

The reality is that farming is a part of the natural landscape that these animals traverse, live in and are integrated into the system. Domestic animals and livestock also run risks to food safety, but are not necessarily “wild” and can be trained or taken care of in a way to mitigate any associated risks.

Although wildlife can cause negative impacts to the farm, they play an important role in ecosystem balance and biodiversity. Food safety measures are not recommended to adversely affect the wildlife, but to discourage animals from entering production and post-harvest packing areas.

It is best practice to account for the environmental practices and policies of conserving and protecting them. This includes being mindful of threatened and endangered species and adhering to the Endangered Species Act, as well as following state or federal laws pertaining to specific species.

Getting to know the wildlife coming in and out of your farm is a great step to implementing management strategies to make your growing area unattractive to them.

Get familiar with wildlife near your farm by doing a pre-harvest assessment and monitoring for signs of animal intrusion. Whether it be identifying scat and tracks, visually inspecting damage, or catching a glimpse of them passing through, utilizing integrated pest management strategies to keep them out of your fields is a good first step.

Under the FSMA Produce Safety Rule, growers are required to take steps to deter potential contamination from wildlife, domestic animals, and livestock and train employees to be aware of signs of contamination. If you come across potential contamination from wildlife, flag the area and let a supervisor know so they can determine what action to take.

For more information on management of wildlife in the field check out this resource from Cornell University: Wildlife & Animal Management Decision Tree ({span}https://tinyurl.com/agdecisiontree){/span}.

Many action steps can be taken to deter wildlife. If the animal is determined to be a nuisance and is a non-threatened species, you should talk to your state department to determine other options for removal.

  • Low cost deterrents: Noise cannons, radio, Mylar strips, lasers, area repellents (scent), pyrotechnics.
  • Higher-Cost Deterrents: Fencing (electric, wire, etc.), screens, nets.
  • Removal: Speak with the State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Choose a deterrent based on the animal you are working to prevent and the crop you are working to protect. Working with a food safety specialist, wildlife specialist, microbiologists and other growers can assist in making decisions that are the best practices specific to each farm.

Warm-blooded animals carry bacteria and pathogens, most commonly spread through their feces. Many factors contribute to each animals’ potential of spreading these harmful organisms.

Livestock may be less risky than wild in that they are somewhat easier to control, but they’re of equal risk in terms of potential for contamination.

The increase of human population and urbanization, per capita income, globalization, and changes on consumer trends have increased the consumption of fresh produce. Estimates suggest that consumption of these products will continue to rise in the next few decades. This high demand for fresh produce provokes intensive production systems, and an increased movement of foods on a global scale.

This situation can lead to defective practices and an augmented risk of contamination by foodborne pathogens at any point of the farm to fork chain if best management practices do not take hold.

Co-management practices strike a balance of habitat, wildlife and an integrative farm system, and can proactively reduce risks while maintaining the integrity of the natural environment.

For more information on how to effectively deter wildlife, livestock and domestic animals from introducing potential contamination check out these resources from the North Central Region for FSMA Training:

Michelle Jacokes is a produce safety technician working with fresh produce growers on farms in Manistee, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Leelanau and Benzie counties. Services are free, voluntary and confidential. For more information about the Michigan On-Farm Produce Safety Program visit manisteecd2.organd locate the Produce Safety page under Landowner Assistance. Contact Michelle at michelle.jacokes@macd.orgor 231-889-9666 with questions.

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