Community Agriculture Alliance: COVID considerations on the ranch |

Community Agriculture Alliance: COVID considerations on the ranch

Todd Hagenbuch
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Spring is when our local ranchers are typically self-quarantined only because they are busy feeding, calving and fixing fence. This year, however, staying home and away from others is important to avoid exposing yourself and others to COVID-19.

According to the world health organization, COVID-19 is transmitted through two routes: respiratory droplets generated when an infected person exhales, coughs or sneezes, as well as contact with any surface where droplets containing the virus could land. COVID-19 appears to persist on surfaces for a period of a few hours to a few days, but the virus’s ability to survive may be influenced by temperature, humidity and the type of surface. Heat, high or low pH, sunlight and common disinfectants all facilitate die-off of coronaviruses. 

Ranching and farming are specifically called out as exceptions in the stay-at-home order put out by Gov. Jared Polis because anything regarding the production and distribution of food is important for our residents’ well-being. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful. Ranch families still need to take precautions into the summer to keep family, employees and neighbors safe.

Farms and ranches have a lot of surfaces that are touched regularly by a lot of people. Because these are places where the virus can be present, clean these surfaces often. This includes all doorknobs and handles, including the ones on the house, the barn and the machine shed. Think about the handles you wouldn’t normally think about, too. Think of steering wheels, tools and more.

Clean these nonporous surfaces thoroughly with a detergent and then sanitize them with a bleach solution made up with 1/3 cup bleach per gallon of water or a similar, commercially available disinfectant. Use wipes or spray containing at least 70% alcohol for touch screens or other wipeable electronics. Wash clothes, rags or other cloth items in the warmest setting possible and dry completely. 

If you are producing consumable products on your farm or ranch, then you should already be practicing food safety measures. Continue to follow those guidelines and use a food-safe disinfectant where possible to clean surfaces that food touches. Additionally, you may consider reducing the amount of contact consumers have with food products or deliver foods.

As we move into late spring and early summer, we’ll be branding our calves, working yearlings coming in for the summer. Extension, in partnership with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and Colorado Livestock Association, have created guidance on how to minimize exposure to COVID-19 while completing these necessary activities. Visit for that information.

Remember, Extension is here to help you in these tough times. Call us at 970-879-0825 with questions or visit our web page for more COVID-19 and agriculture related information.

Todd Hagenbuch is the director and agriculture agent for Routt County Colorado State University Extension.

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