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Friday, July 18,2008

Federal drought relief for Colorado

by WLJ
Federal drought relief for Colorado agriculture Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter recently received notice that his June 24 request for emergency drought assistance in parts of southeastern Colorado has been approved. The request to the federal Farm Service Agency asked that farmers and ranchers be granted immediate access to Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres in southeast Colorado for emergency haying and grazing. Despite the above-average snowfall in the Colorado mountains this past winter, some parts of southeast Colorado have seen only 19 percent of normal precipitation and livestock is at risk of becoming stressed. At this time, six Colorado counties have been approved for CRP grazing: • Effective July 11, 2008: Baca, Bent, Kiowa and Prowers; • Effective July 7, 2008: Phillips and Yuma. "I’m pleased the federal Farm Service Agency has approved this request," Ritter said. "It’s crucial that we do everything we can to help Colorado’s farmers and ranchers get through this challenging time." — WLJ

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Friday, July 18,2008

CDA lab expanding food safety tests

by WLJ
CDA lab expanding food safety tests The Colorado Department of Agriculture’s (CDA) Inspection and Consumer Services Division has been notified that they will be receiving a federal grant to detect contamination in the U.S. food supply. This grant is one of only four new microbiology laboratory Cooperative Agreements awarded nationwide. The grant is administered by the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service. FERN is an integrated network of laboratories across America that works to quickly respond to food-related emergencies. "We are very excited to expand our role in food safety," said Keith Wegner, grant administrator and Laboratory Services section chief. "We had originally asked for $174,000 and we received $245,000; I believe that shows the increasing importance on food safety." The funding, which will begin in October 2008, will expand current CDA testing on fresh produce and include validation studies, method development, and related research for food-borne pathogens, contaminants and adulterants. "The department is committed to ensuring a safe, high quality, and sustainable food supply," continued Wegner. "It is vital that our laboratory continues to strive for the latest scientific methods and technology and this grant will help us further develop our food safety capacity." According to FERN, the goal of the cooperative agreement is "to enhance and expand the capabilities and capacities of the FERN laboratories to be able to analyze various food matrices for microbiological threat agents utilizing FERN methods in order to be able to quickly and accurately respond to any potential threats to the nation’s food supply." CDA’s biochemistry laboratory provides analyses on a variety of matrices including animal feeds, fertilizers, soil, vegetation, and water. The laboratory also includes a microbiology section which employs microbiological techniques to analyze human and animal foods for harmful bacteria and examines animal feeds for the presence of antibiotics and prohibited materials. — WLJ

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Friday, July 18,2008

Food service professionals experience being a Cowboy for a Day

by WLJ
Food service professionals experience what it’s like to be Cowboy for a Day Carrying a catalog with more than 10,000 items, from napkins to carrots and steak, foodservice sales is no easy job. Specialized knowledge is often required. For example, a chef may ask about the beef: Where does it come from? What were the cattle fed? How were they handled at the farm? Being able to answer with confidence can make the difference and the sale. "We wanted to share the answers to those questions," explains Marty Berlin, a Certified Angus Beef LLC (CAB) account manager. That’s why CAB, Facciola Meat Company and Sysco Central California organized "Cowboy for a Day" this spring, Berlin says. Mark and Abbie Nelson, Five Star Land & Livestock, Wilton, CA, served as hosts for 19 foodservice professionals. The day was full of information sharing about what goes into managing a registered Angus operation. "We take any opportunity we can to invest in the public’s knowledge of what we do here," says Abbie Nelson. "So much gets written by anti-meat activists that just isn’t true. We want to set the record straight. Plus, as seedstock producers, we learn a lot by listening to our end users. They make our industry happen." Ray Nicholas, Facciola president, understands the importance of training his team in cattle production basics. "It allows us to complete the circle, to know and tell the entire story," he says. "When we are asked how animals are raised or where, or what they are fed, it is nice to have the answers. Being the most knowledgeable on our products allows us a closer connection with our accounts." On a morning wagon ride around their ranch, the Nelsons explained production details from managing to marketing. They fielded questions on genetics, health, cattle handling, nutrition and land use. "Our team was surprised to see that not just one rancher has the animal start to finish. They were amazed at the work and science that goes into giving each animal the best chance to qualify for the Certified Angus Beef brand," says T.J. Leonard, CAB specialist at Sysco. "Natural beef products have been common in California for some time," says Berlin. "The group had lots of questions on the differences in the terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ and what was required of the producer. They had lots of questions on why producers use antibiotics and implants. This was a great way to get them the facts." They learned about genetic and measuring tools that improve beef as Brett Setter, Jackson, CA, scanned a yearling bull using ultrasound. Their first look under the hide of a live animal showed marbling and the ribeye in real-time. Other presentations covered cattle industry segments, managing for top quality, purebred cattle marketing, and legislative topics. Bob Fox, lobbyist for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, shared his unique perspective on answering hard questions related to animal welfare. The day wasn’t all work, though, and Sysco used it as an award for their top CAB salesmen. Attendees were treated to a ride in a stretch Hummer, CAB steak lunch, and cowboy poetry by Norma Fox. The job is still a challenge, but after being a "Cowboy for a Day," the foodservice pros better understand cattle production. Few of their counterparts have been on a ranch and talked with producers about how they care for their animals. "That extra credibility can be just the edge in converting another restaurant to the Certified Angus Beef brand," Berlin notes. — WLJ

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Friday, July 18,2008

41 Beef Talk

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Cow size—calf value The mushroom season this spring was short. The area is still short on feed and the cow size question remains unanswered. Like all discussions, the temptation is to set aside the challenges of yesterday and replace them with immediate thoughts. Unfortunately, questions are not answered, and yesterday’s challenges eventually will become tomorrow’s problems if unanswered. Now is a good time to continue the cow size discussion. The stocking rate question simply will become a question of purchasing hay. The logical approach is twofold. The first approach is trying to meet the immediate needs of the current set of mother cows. The second is evaluating whether one is feeding the right cows. That continues the cow size discussion. Many things come into play. There are some overall facts that can be fairly well stated. The more difficult part of the discussion is evaluating traits through inter-relationships among the traits and within the environment in which the cattle are being produced. Cow and calf size are easily noticeable while cow milking ability cannot be observed except for a brief period at calving. Cow size is not simply weight since cows may be thin or fat on a short or tall frame. The bottom line is finding the right cow that can survive, raise a marketable calf, and be reasonably efficient on the resources available. Those resources quickly are becoming economically challenged. The necessity of addressing the long-term needs of the herd no longer can go into next week’s discussion. The right cow is not extreme in any trait, but one that combines several traits into one efficient working unit. The unit needs to be bred to a bull that will settle the cow and add value to the calf, which, in the end, will pay the bills. Just today, the closeout arrived for the final set of steers from last year’s calf crop. The first figure I always look at is death loss. This set of 55 calves made it through the feedlot with no deaths. Death loss for the calves at the Dickinson Research Extension Center never has been an issue. However, dead calves take chunks out of net return. In this case, the calves averaged $33.82 net return per head. The calves were sent to the lot on Jan. 15 and weighed in at 758 pounds (pay weight). The calves were valued at $98 per cwt. Doing the math, they were valued at $742 at arrival, plus $33.82 net return in the feedlot, so their total value back to the ranch just exceeded $776 per head. Being a data person, I could look up the significance of that number, but many years have gone by when our targeted value back to the ranch was $500. So even without the stats, the lot closeout was good. True net return to the cow has not been figured yet because variable and fixed costs need to be subtracted for the cow and bull to determine the ranch net return. However, in terms of the cowherd, the more valuable the calf and the lower the production costs, the more net return to the ranch. It takes the right cow mated to the right bull in the local environment to make the desired net return. These calves had an average daily gain in the feedlot of 4.27 pounds per day. The converted (feed efficiency) dry matter to gain was 4.69 pounds and the frame score was 5.1. They exceeded the required ribeye with an average yield grade of 2.36 at an average live weight of 1,277 pounds and a 41.8 percent grading choice or higher. Therefore, given the calf value, the cows are still here and will remain. However, let’s not forget we are working on the long-term question. What cow do we need? — Kris Ringwall (Kris Ringwall is a North Dakota State University Extension Beef Specialist, director of the NDSU Dickinson Research Center and executive director of the North Dakota Beef Cattle Improvement Association. He can be contacted at 701/483-2045.)

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Friday, July 18,2008

41 Beef Bits

by WLJ
Bone-in cuts headed to Korea U.S. beef ribs and other bone-in cuts are expected to be imported this week for the first time since they were banned in South Korea nearly five years ago, industry sources said last week. Local meat importers said the initial shipment of about 2.5 tons of bone-in beef were set to arrive last Wednesday. Nerp Corp., a local meat importer, arranged to buy the beef directly from U.S. beef exporter Creekstone Farms. The cuts will likely be used for seasoned rib dishes and broth. Sources said that after the ribs arrive, it will take about 15 days for the shipment to clear customs and quarantine inspections. The new import marks the first shipments of bone-in products from the U.S. to South Korea since December 2003. Groups defend antibiotic use Defending the use of Antibiotics is the purpose of a recent letter which the Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA) and other Texas livestock groups sent to members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The Committee is preparing to vote on reauthorization of the Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA) which authorizes FDA to collect fees to improve its review of applications for new animal drugs. The letter sent by TCFA and other groups urges the Committee to reauthorize ADUFA without allowing any new language that would prohibit certain food animal antibiotics. ADUFA was enacted in 2003 and is set to expire in September. Last week, an Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health approved the ADUFA legislation and sent it to the full Committee. USDA to list retailers of recalled products Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer recently announced that beginning next month, USDA will begin listing retail stores receiving meat and poultry products involved in Class I recalls—those of the most serious concern to public health. "The identity of retail stores with recalled meat and poultry from their suppliers has always been a missing piece of information for the public during a recall," said Schafer. "People want to know if they need to be on the lookout for recalled meat and poultry from their local store and by providing lists of retail outlets during recalls, USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service will improve public health protection by better informing consumers." Beef Board launches new Web site It has a new look, a new feel, and it’s coming straight to your home. It’s www.MyBeefCheckoff.com, the new Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) Web site designed to be the one place to go to find out how national beef checkoff dollars are invested and the results of those investments. "The site is interactive, well organized and very user-friendly," says CBB member Richard Nielson, chair of the producer communications committee. "Most important is that the design is very versatile, allowing us to deliver a number of different services to different users. For example, with the launch of the new site, we’re also offering ‘sign-and-go’ newsletters in beef and dairy editions to help producers stay up to date on their checkoff." The new Web site debuted July 15 and includes: Easy access to CBB members and staff, expanded state beef council information and access, producer profiles, links to checkoff-funded sites, and a robust newsroom. Stored U.S. beef clears Korean inspections More than half of stored U.S. beef has been cleared from quarantine inspection two weeks after the government lifted a ban on American beef imports, officials said recently. According to the National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service, a total of 2,925 metric tons, or 55 percent, of U.S. beef that has been stored in warehouses since last year, was cleared from quarantine inspection as of July 13. The Seoul government banned imports of American beef after finding spinal bones in the beef in October. The amount of beef that has been waiting for import resumption since last year had been about 5,300 metric tons. National Beef’s Q3 profits rise National Beef Packing Co. LLC said net income totaled $74.3 million during the 14 weeks ended May 31, 2008, compared to $13.6 million in the 13 weeks ended May 26, 2007, primarily due to the extra week in the reporting period this year. The nation’s fourth-largest beef processor said while the average volume of cattle processed per week fell by about 7 percent in its third quarter, average sales prices per head increased by about 3.4 percent compared to a year ago. The company reported net sales of $1.53 billion in the quarter compared to $1.48 billion in the year earlier quarter. Live cattle prices during the quarter declined 5.8 percent and average cattle weights increased 2.1 percent.

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Friday, July 18,2008

Tips for a successful battle against Mycoplasma bovis

by WLJ
Tips for a successful battle against Mycoplasma bovis When bovine respiratory disease (BRD) affects your operation, the dangerous complex wages a battle of illness, death and economic loss. Playing a significant role in the impact of BRD, Mycoplasma bovis is notorious for being difficult to identify and challenging to treat. Therefore, it is important to suit up with key information for a successful fight. "In some classes of cattle, Mycoplasma bovis has grown to become one of the biggest concerns among respiratory pathogens," said Daniel Scruggs of Pfizer Animal Health. "However, it may be difficult to recognize early in the disease process, so treatment may be delayed, resulting in less favorable recovery. Like any other respiratory pathogen, the key to controlling and treating Mycoplasma bovis is early detection and effective antimicrobial therapy." Because respiratory disease caused by Mycoplasma bovis progresses slowly, the affected cattle may not show obvious signs of illness until much later than calves with respiratory disease caused by other pathogens. When left untreated during the earliest stages of infection, affected cattle become chronically ill or their recovery and return to productivity is diminished. Typical early warning signs include a low-grade fever, slight cough, an increase in breathing rate, mild depression, and runny eyes. When deciding on a treatment method, it is critical to choose a proven, effective antibiotic that fights Mycoplasma bovis and the other major BRD pathogens to reduce chronics, reduce the loss of cattle due to BRD, and avoid significant risks to performance. "Early identification, intervention and successful control and treatment measures significantly increase the opportunities for a successful outcome against Mycoplasma bovis," Scruggs adds. Scruggs also emphasizes that strategies to minimize exposure of new incoming cattle to cattle already showing signs of Mycoplasma bovis are important to reducing new infections. Don’t keep chronics in hospital pens adjacent to new pulls or recently received cattle. Sort hospital cattle and remove non-responders to a location that does not jeopardize healthy or recently pulled cattle. With careful observation, early treatment and effective therapy, the fight against Mycoplasma bovis doesn’t need to become a war. — WLJ

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Friday, July 18,2008

Buy-in waiver for disaster assistance programs underway

by WLJ
Buy-in waiver for disaster assistance programs underway USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will allow producers who would otherwise be ineligible for the new disaster assistance programs to become eligible by paying a fee as required by the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (the 2008 Act). The 2008 Act requires producers who wish to participate in the new disaster programs to have crop insurance or non-insured crop disaster assistance (NAP) coverage for the land for which assistance is being requested, and for all farms in all counties in which they have an interest. Since the 2008 Act was enacted after the application periods had closed for those programs, producers who did not have such coverage could not comply with this requirement in order to be eligible for the new disaster programs. However, the 2008 Act authorizes a waiver that allows producers to pay a fee, called a "buy-in" fee, to be eligible for this new disaster assistance. Every producer whose crops, including grazing lands, are not fully covered by crop insurance or NAP may take advantage of this one-time opportunity. The buy-in fee is due no later than Sept. 16, 2008, 90 days after the date of enactment, as required by the 2008 Act. Those who miss this opportunity will not be eligible for disaster assistance. Producers are also reminded that the payment of the applicable buy-in fee does not afford the producer crop insurance or NAP coverage; it only affords eligibility for the 2008 disaster programs. The crop insurance and NAP coverage requirements will be waived in 2008 for producers who did not obtain crop insurance or NAP coverage by the applicable sales closing date if the producer files an application for waiver and pays a buy-in fee in an amount equal to the 2008 applicable NAP coverage or catastrophic risk protection plan fee for the crop or grazing lands. Producers who meet the definition of "Socially Disadvantaged, Limited Resource," or "Beginning Farmer or Rancher," do not have to meet the Risk Management Purchase Requirement and, therefore, are not required to pay the buy-in fee. The buy-in fee for 2008 eligibility only for either the catastrophic risk protection insurance (CAT) or NAP is $100 per crop, but not more than $300 per producer per administrative county, or $900 total per producer for all counties less any previously paid fees for CAT and/or NAP. Producers can contact their local administrative FSA County Office to file the application for waiver and pay the applicable fees. The applicable buy-in form must be completed and applicable fees paid by Sept. 16, 2008. Payment of the applicable fees will allow the producer to be eligible for benefits for losses under Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) Program, Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), Tree Assistance Program (TAP), and Emergency Assistance Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP). The 2008 Act authorizes funds to be used to make payments to farmers and ranchers incurring eligible crop production/quality losses under the SURE Program, grazing losses under LFP, livestock death losses under LIP, and losses suffered by producers of livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish under ELAP. The 2008 Act also authorizes TAP. To be eligible for SURE, TAP, and ELAP, producers must meet the Risk Management Purchase Requirement by purchasing at least the CAT level of crop insurance for all insurable crops and/or NAP coverage for non-insurable crops. To be eligible for LFP, producers must meet the Risk Management Purchase Requirement by purchasing or obtaining for the grazing land incurring the losses where assistance is being requested, a policy or plan of insurance under the Federal Crop Insurance Act, including pilot programs such as the Pasture, Rangeland, Forage Program (PRF) or NAP coverage by filing the required paperwork and paying the administrative fee by the applicable state filing deadline. The Risk Management Purchase Requirement does not apply to LIP. The SURE program will be available to eligible producers on farms in disaster counties, designated by the secretary, including contiguous counties that have incurred crop production losses and/or crop quality losses during the crop year. However, Congress determined that payments would not occur until the calculation at the end of the marketing year. It also will be available to any farm where, during the calendar year, the total loss of production on the farm, because of weather, is greater than 50 percent of the normal production of the farm. The LFP program will be available to eligible livestock producers who suffered grazing losses for eligible livestock because of drought on land that is either native or improved pastureland with permanent vegetative cover or planted to a crop specifically for providing grazing. The LFP program will also be available to eligible livestock producers who suffered grazing losses for eligible livestock because of fire on rangeland managed by a federal agency if the eligible livestock producer is prohibited from grazing the normal permitted livestock on the managed rangeland. The LIP program will be available to eligible livestock producers on farms that have incurred livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality because of adverse weather, as determined by the secretary during the calendar year, including losses because of hurricanes, floods, blizzards, disease, wildfires, extreme heat and extreme cold. The TAP program provides assistance to orchardists and eligible nursery tree growers who produce nursery, ornamental, fruit, nut or Christmas trees for commercial sale that lost trees, bushes, or vines because of a natural disaster, as determined by the secretary. The ELAP program will provide emergency relief to producers of livestock, honey bees and farm-raised fish because of losses from adverse weather or other conditions, such as blizzards and wildfires, as determined by the secretary. Because Congress did not provide a rulemaking exception for these programs, FSA must first publish a proposed rule seeking public comment, followed by a final rule. FSA is working to develop detailed regulations and software for these programs. Sign up for these programs is not expected to be held until this winter. — WLJ

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Friday, July 18,2008

Schafer tells Farm Bureau USDA is in a race to the finish line

by WLJ
Schafer tells Farm Bureau USDA is in a race to the finish line Speaking last week at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Council of Presidents meeting in Washington, D.C., Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said his agency is running to the finish line to conclude agriculture’s priority issues before year’s end. Ranking at the top of the Agriculture Department’s list, as well as a top priority for AFBF, is implementation of the farm bill. "It is time to set aside political differences and implement the bill," said Schafer. Successfully completing international trade negotiations, including the Korea free trade agreement and the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round, are also top priorities for the agriculture industry. According to Schafer, USDA’s certification system to ensure Korean consumers that they are receiving U.S. beef from cattle under 30 months of age has been successful to date. As for Doha, Shafer said it would remain a top priority until the end of the administration. Yet, he said, "We won’t just ink any deal. The agreement has to provide better access to U.S. producers." Touching on increasing food prices and the role of biofuels, Schafer said he was reassured last month at the world hunger meeting in Rome when world leaders agreed ethanol was not to blame for higher wheat and other commodity prices. Instead, reinforcing AFBF economic analysis, Schafer said ethanol is actually helping to keep gasoline prices down. Further, USDA has committed $1 billion toward research and development of renewable fuels, with a special focus on cellulosic biofuels. But, said Schafer, until those biofuels become available, it is important the country maintains a stable and predictable renewable fuels policy. "Efforts to waive or repeal the renewable fuels standard would hinder progress toward reducing our dependence on imported oil and greenhouse gas emissions," Schafer said. Lastly, Schafer said he is still very much engaged in finding a solution to the growing labor problem facing U.S. agriculture. USDA estimates that 50 percent to 70 percent of the current farm workforce is undocumented. — WLJ

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Friday, July 18,2008

U.S. will likely never achieve bacteria-free packing environment

by WLJ
U.S. will likely never achieve bacteria-free packing environment The U.S. agriculture secretary recently expressed confidence in the nation’s food safety system, but said the meat processing industry will always face challenges because the bacteria that animals carry evolves. "I don’t think we’ll ever see a totally bacteria-free environment in the United States," Ed Schafer said during a recent visit of several Nebraska meat processing plants. His tour didn’t include the Nebraska Beef Ltd. plant in Omaha which recalled 5.3 million pounds of meat that has been linked to 41 E. coli infections in Michigan and Ohio. Schafer said he thinks the company, not the USDA inspectors at the plant, should be held responsible for the tainted meat. He said the inspectors are only there to make sure the plant follows USDA rules. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has concluded that Nebraska Beef’s production practices were insufficient to effectively control E. coli bacteria. Now the focus is on determining exactly how the meat was contaminated at Nebraska Beef, he said, and making sure steps are taken to prevent future problems. Schafer’s tour was designed to showcase innovative ways companies are working to keep meat safe. He visited a Hormel pork plant in Fremont where the processed, canned meat Spam is made, a Cargill Meat Solutions beef plant in Schuyler, and an Omaha Steaks processing plant in Omaha. Schafer said he’s amazed at the relatively small number of people who get sick from eating meat each year when the number is compared to the millions of pounds of meat produced. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that E. coli sickens about 73,000 people and kills 61 each year in the U.S. Most of those who die have weak immune systems, such as the elderly or very young. E. coli Industry critics say staff shortages are compounded by a change in USDA regulations in the late 1990s that gave slaughterhouses more responsibility for devising their own safety checklists. That policy, critics say, places slaughterhouses on an honor system that can lead to abuse. But meat companies say they are developing new strategies to control bacteria. At the Cargill plant, cattle carcasses are washed down with chemical solutions before and after the hides are removed to help reduce E. coli. Later in the process, sides of beef are examined under ultraviolet light that reveals any hint of chlorophyll. The presence of that plant chemical on the beef suggests contact with feces and possible E. coli contamination. The beef is pulled aside so any contaminated areas can be removed. The hide-washing system and UV scanners Cargill uses are examples of the kind of measures the meat industry has developed to control E. coli since a 1993 outbreak in which four children died and hundreds of people became ill after eating undercooked hamburgers from Jack in the Box restaurants. "Most of this equipment you had to invent, and test and test," said Vaughn Blum, general manager of the Cargill plant. At Omaha Steaks, all of the ground beef is irradiated after it has been packaged to kill any bacteria that is present. Hormel uses a high-pressure pasteurization process to ensure that its pork is safe. That step also takes place after packaging. But Schafer doesn’t think innovative food safety measures like the ones he saw in Nebraska should necessarily be required for all plants because each company chooses what works for them. Schafer said the plants he visited all appeared well run and safety was a priority. "I wish everybody would have a chance to see the process," Schafer said. Then they could see the cleanliness of the plant and all the effort that goes into producing a safe product, he said. — WLJ bacteria was discovered in the late 1970s and is present in the intestines of most cattle. It also can be found in deer, goats and sheep. It doesn’t cause problems for the livestock, but the E. coli 0157:H7 variant can cause severe illness in humans.

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