poultry; dairy; equine; livestock; agricultural outreach; agricultural Extension; coronavirus pandemic


The Penn State Extension Animal Systems Team developed a toll-free hotline phone number to convey short educational messages to maintain contact and outreach to Pennsylvania’s animal producing Amish, Mennonite, and other plain Anabaptist populations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Penn State Extension’s programming went largely online via webinars, online courses, and emails. This change in programming excluded a large sector of Pennsylvania farmers who do not use or have access to the internet and, as such, were liable to miss important best management practice reviews and timely updates in animal agriculture. The Animal Systems Hotline offered callers the choice to listen to pre-recorded messages from dairy, equine, livestock, and poultry Extensions. Across the Animal Systems Team, during a span of approximately 22 weeks, a total of 111 messages were uploaded to the Hotline, with a total of 2,201 people calling in to the Hotline. Topics varied across the Extensions from the basics of animal husbandry and health to pasture and nutrition management. Since the development of the Hotline, Extension educators have received calls from plain producers requesting more information about the topics covered on the Hotline messages. While there were challenges with the system used for the Hotline and data collection, the broad reach and numerous callers indicates that the Hotline was a successful method of connecting with plain audiences. [Abstract by authors.]


Amber Yutzy and David Swartz, Animal Systems Assistant Directors of Programs, our colleagues who contributed to the hotline, and Penn State Extension for supporting this unique effort.