What’s one way to help ranchers stay in business during a pandemic? Kyle Caires might give you three answers.
Feed My Sheep
Last week, the Extension agent was a guest of Maui Mayor Michael Victorino, as the mayor announced Feed My Sheep, a new CARES Act-funded partnership with local ranchers to provide ground beef to people in need. Kyle helped facilitate the county’s commitment of $200,000 to support the ranching community, and the purchase of cattle from independent ranchers. About 1,000 pounds of ground beef, per week, will be processed and distributed to individuals, nonprofits and community feeding programs.
“This pandemic has brought hardships and empty shelves in many of our stores,” Kyle said at the press conference. “But I can assure you that empty pastures and farms are much scarier for Maui County’s future. Programs like these help Maui County’s farmers and ranchers stay in business to meet our community’s food needs.”
Livestock Producer Assistance Program
An initiative by the Maui County Farm Bureau is now bearing fruit for ranchers whose livestock operations have been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
After careful review of the applications, the Livestock Producer Assistance Program has awarded $12,000+ in funds to 19 livestock producers on Maui and Moloka‘i whose families represent agricultural production on 9,345 acres of land, totaling over 1,500 cows, 980 hogs, 670 goats, 150 sheep, 70 horses, and 330 laying hens.
“The COVID-19 crisis reminded us all of the importance of ensuring our island’s food security,” said Kyle, who also chairs the program. “We all know that empty shelves in the grocery store can be frightening, but I assure you that vacant fields and empty pastures would be far more devastating to our island culture and economy as we move into the future.”
He added, “Livestock help manage thousands of acres of land in Hawai‘i and provide overlooked ecosystem services, such as fire suppression during times of drought like we are experiencing now. Our awardees represent roughly 693 years of ranching experience in Maui county, and we’re glad that the LPAP was able to help these ranchers weather the storm and stay in business.”
Across the Rio Grande do Sul
A longtime collaborator with cattle ranchers in Brazil, Kyle was a recent guest speaker for graduate students and veterinary students enrolled in the Medicina Veterinária (veterinary school) at the University of Passo Fundo (UPF) in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
In a virtual seminar, Kyle discussed embryologic development in mammals, and the key events and molecular mechanisms responsible for sexual differentiation and establishment of fertility in several species of livestock.
“UPF faculty have been great collaborators with CTAHR on several ongoing projects,” Kyle said. “They are very interested in how our approaches in genetics/genomic selection can be combined with advanced reproductive technologies for improving the breeding and management of livestock, as well as the preservation of endangered wildlife species.”
Photo of Mayor Victorino and Kyle Caires: Chris Sugidono / County of Maui