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Thursday, December 20,2007

BeefTalk

by WLJ
August 1, 2005 The cattle business is considered mature in many respects, but maturity does not imply an absence of change. The Dickinson Research Extension Center (DREC) recently invited several individuals in to review and discuss the current state of animal waste systems. In particular, the DREC needs to address the situation, not only from a research perspective, but also from the pure management view. Research centers also are production units that need to follow the rules of play. Federal and state governments, or a local governing board, generally set these rules. What was interesting about the discussion, and perhaps very indicative of where the world is going, was the array of terms discussed. A normal cow/calf operation certainly would have a well-thought-out plan for feeding the cowherd and managing it through calving. A typical discussion may involve the feeding method, hay quality or perhaps the addition of grain in the ration. If something like grain is fed, then how should it be fed and where would the feed bunks be located? Water placement would be critical, especially as the cattle head into the Northern winter winds. This all sounds generic and are common discussion points for an afternoon of cow talk. At the review, none of these points even surfaced. A completely new list of terms for today’s cow/calf producer was brought up. Critical to the placement of a cowherd in today’s environment are issues such as water runoff and manure analysis. These new terms percolate through the discussion, broadening the discussion beyond just the immediate location of the cows. Last week, the definition of an animal feeding operation (AFO) was noted. AFOs include cows and calves that remain in one location for more than 45 days throughout the year and affect the normal growth of desirable plants. How many winter-feeding yards produce an excellent crop of weeds the next summer? That makes your location an AFO and means you need to determine if you need a permit from the Department of Health to operate your existing cow/calf enterprise. That statement causes some to cough. There is no grandfather clause. What you see is what you will be. The discussion moved on with more questions. Is the location of the winter-feeding grounds impacting ground water or air quality? What is the effect of compaction? Do all those cows and calves compact the soil such that springtime plant growth is inhibited? What about pathogens or antibiotic residues? Is there any indication the nitrogen cycle is impacted? If a cowherd has the potential to affect the environment, a permit will be required, along with appropriate managerial or facility changes, to assure the environmental impact is negligible. Not only the physical aspects of the cow/calf operation entered the discussion. The plans to accommodate waste removal also need to be evaluated. What is the nutrient availability of the manure ,and how should it be composted and spread on designated fields? Is there enough land to accommodate the volume of waste produced? Are there compositing sites available? If the word “runoff” came up, the next series of discussions centered on the need for adequate retaining dikes for composting sites and good grazing and cropping systems to assure appropriate utilization of the waste once applied to the fields. Perhaps precision agricultural techniques need to be evaluated. A heavy sigh! Whatever happened to feeding hay bales and just watching the cows eat? Do you know what a VAPS is? More next time. May you find all your NAIS-approved ear tags. — 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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Thursday, December 20,2007

Black Ink

by WLJ
August 1, 2005 Once a cow is pregnant, the role of genetic selection is finished. Now it’s up to nature and management to determine if the calf will live up to its potential. Cow nutrition and weather play leading roles in the months before calving, but gestation is a fixed term. Given the breeding date, you can look up when the calf is due. After it hits the ground, however, management can vary the milestones. You can take your time, balancing use of resources with the need for sales revenue and beef quality. A century ago, if you didn’t like the market for two-year-olds, they often became threes. Today, we know that the longer you take to raise a calf to a finished endpoint, the more can go wrong. Younger finished cattle may also open doors to a billion-dollar export market. Weaning can profitably take place at less than 90 days of age to nearly a year in some herds. Most ranchers aim for an industry standard of about seven months, but there is a trend toward earlier weaning. Researchers have found weaning at less than five months allows calves to adjust while under the protection of maternal antibodies. It also lets spring calvers regain condition before winter, and makes feeding more efficient for all. Ohio and Illinois studies show calves that start on a grain-based diet earlier in life develop the type of rumen bacteria more likely to let each potential fleck of marbling bloom within muscle tissues. That’s compared to calves that remain on a forage-based diet until they are yearlings. Nebraska trials indicate beef from yearlings tends to be tougher, too. Up to 70 percent of the feed cattle consume goes to body maintenance—and that’s every day. No wonder more producers see greater efficiency in resource use to aim for harvest of finished cattle at 13 to 14 months rather than placement on feed at 16 to 18 months. As interest rates inch higher, the economic reasons for faster finishing grow. Producers who wean early do not generally sell lighter calves. Rather, they retain ownership and maintain the plan of nutrition as calves get used to independent life. Then they step up to higher daily gains. Any setbacks to slow-grow or maintenance diets risk lower beef quality, especially on calves with growth implants. Given the right combination of genetics and nutrition, implants are not harmful to beef quality, but strategy is important. Tradition rules much of cattle country, partly because of the “disconnect” between cow/calf, stocker, feedlot and packer segments. Land and resource control is another factor. It’s easy to stick with a program of grazing calves that should be in a feedlot because a landlord only allows yearlings. Indeed, there is a widespread bias among non-farm landlords. What their fathers told them is true: It is easier to deal with yearlings. cow/calf pairs require a longer season and may graze less evenly. Bulls can cause problems with fences and neighboring herds. However, producers who see merit in the calf-fed route should begin negotiations to evolve new grazing plans with such landlords. Heifers could be an option, or the pasture could be part of a larger pasture rotation of cow/calf pairs, resulting in fewer grazing days and the same income as yearlings provided. The trend toward calf-fed beef may gradually affect supply and demand on the range. Grass pastures are often hard to find because of long-term relationships, but if yearlings continue to lose the quality edge, they will become less profitable, and then, less numerous. A few custom grazers have already begun to offer contracts with cow/calf pairs as a grass-harvesting alternative to yearlings. While the role of genetic selection ends at conception, expression and evaluation of calf genetics and those of the cow are keys to adapting any herd to a calf-fed program. Observation and measurement may lead to different selection decisions down the road. Producers may add to their balanced trait criteria with rapid early growth and the ability to deposit marbling at an early age. Next time in Black Ink, we’ll look at what’s on your grill. — Steve Suther (“Black ink” is a cattle management column written by Steve Suther, industry information director for Certified Angus Beef. The column is not designed for strictly Angus producers, and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of WLJ or its editorial staff.)

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Comments

by WLJ
August 1, 2005 I t came and went without a lot of fanfare—I’m referring to R-CALF’s mid-year meeting in Reno, NV. I suppose they had a lot to talk about at the meeting, but the perplexing part of this episode is that it was kept pretty quiet. Here at WLJ, we didn’t run anything about the upcoming meeting because we had no clue about it, and, trust me, we pay attention to what R-CALF is up to. Their quest to slam the USDA over its handling of the Canadian border situation may not be over after all. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals did indeed hand U.S. District Court Judge Richard Cebull his head over his decision to grant R-CALF a temporary injunction, and gave a fairly lengthy list detailing his lack of judgement. R-CALF obviously didn’t like the ruling from the appellate court and they are contemplating their options. The three-judge panel outlined their logic in a 56-page document. They said that Cebull never referred to any case law to justify his decisions to favor R-CALF’s expert testimony. The judges said that Cebull must consider USDA’s decisions and justifications as fact, and then attempt to prove them wrong. Even though USDA has bungled a few items on this BSE deal, the court maintained they are still the authority. Some of the highlight comments from the court’s decision included, “They will reverse only where the district court abused its discretion or based its decision on erroneous legal standard or clearly erroneous findings of fact.” That may give R-CALF some wiggle room to pursue the case further. “The district court failed to abide by this deferential standard,” the ruling said. “Instead, the court committed legal error by failing to respect the USDA’s judgement and expertise. Rather than evaluating the Final Rule to determine if USDA had a basis for its conclusions, the district court repeatedly substituted its judgment for USDA’s, disagreeing with USDA’s determinations even though they had a sound basis in the administrative record, and accepting the scientific judgments of R-CALF’s experts over those of the USDA.” “The district court, in this instance, impermissibly substituted its judgement for that of the USDA. The USDA, in its final rule calculated Canada’s BSE prevalence rate to be between .03 and .04 per million head of cattle. The district court gave no reason for departing from this calculation and, instead, adopting the calculation of R-CALF’s expert wholesale, of 5.56 cases per million head.” I spoke with Leo McDonnell about R-CALF’s intentions and he said that the Ninth Circuit didn’t shut them down on the entire case and that they intend on playing this thing out. He said they are still considering their legal options. He said that they won’t try and change venues, and they won’t go to the Supreme Court. He did say that Cebull did indeed get spanked by the Appellate Court, and they are not sure that he will even agree to hear the case on a permanent injunction request against Canadian beef and cattle. R-CALF’s contention still is that USDA opened the Canadian border and then tried to justify their actions. He said that USDA’s BSE scientific working group said in 2003 that USDA shouldn’t open the border and USDA disbanded the group because they didn’t support USDA’s goal of resuming trade with Canada. The thought that the U.S. has never imported beef from a BSE country may be true. But, prior to the U.S. having BSE, even though it was a Canadian case, USDA has been trying to change the perspective on BSE. The overlying thought ever since Canada had their first cases was, when the U.S. gets a case—not if—the U.S. should start to change its mind set on BSE world wide. The World Animal Health Organization (OIE) has always left wiggle room in their recommendations on beef trade from countries that have had BSE. Right now it’s the under 30 months of age rule and specified risk material removal, prevalence rates, surveillance programs and a host of other recommendations that are allowing other countries to even consider buying U.S. beef. Frankly it’s in every cattle producer’s best interest to work to support the perspective that the disease is still insignificant. At this stage of the game, it’s not that we have it, it’s all about what we do about it. — PETE CROW

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Thursday, December 20,2007

California water may be privatized

by DTN
That’s 15 percent of the federally controlled water in California, which would make it the largest grant to irrigators since the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was created in 1903, agency officials said. The Westlands Water District, a coalition of giant agribusinesses in the fertile San Joaquin Valley, draws its water from the Central Valley Project, a vast irrigation system that also supplies drinking water to about 1 million households. If drought-like conditions persist in the West, a deal would guarantee the farmers’ irrigation pumps will flow, even if that means some cities in the San Francisco Bay area will get less drinking water. “Can a proposal that appears to put a small group of farm operations ahead of the taxpayers and our fish and wildlife resources be justified because it may help one federal agency deal with a specific drainage problem?” said Hal Candee, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council who is participating in the negotiations. Westlands declined to comment, saying Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, had asked participants to refrain from speaking about the negotiations in advance of last Wednesday’s meeting. Feinstein said in a statement that the purpose of the meeting is “to examine whether the serious drainage issues facing the Valley can be resolved.” The proposed settlement, documents for which were obtained by The Associated Press, would give the Westlands farmers a stake in a massive reservoir, millions of dollars in pumps and pipes, and permanent rights to enough water to serve 8 million people. It is one of two settlements being considered. The second proposal would offer landowners a contract for less water, but would still ensure that Westlands farmers get their water before cities in Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties. Westlands is the nation’s largest water district and its members include Harris Farms, one of California’s biggest farming operations, and Tanimura & Antle, the nation’s top lettuce grower. More than a decade ago, the district sued the government after a botched federal project left thousands of acres of cropland tainted by salty, polluted runoff, and caused the death or deformation of thousands of birds. The proposed water-rights deal would settle that lawsuit. Westlands recently hired two former Bush administration officials, one who is helping to negotiate the deal with the Bureau of Reclamation, a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Susan Ramos, a former assistant regional director at the Bureau of Reclamation, and Jason Peltier, former water policy adviser at the Interior Department, both took management posts at the district. Either plan would need congressional approval. Bureau officials say the proposals would be cheaper than an official plan registered with the courts that would cost $2.6 billion to retire almost 200,000 acres of tainted Central Valley cropland and clean up salty runoff from surrounding areas.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Canada focused on beef research

by WLJ
The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC), a division of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), is offering industry affiliates and producers more information on research and development that has been undertaken on behalf of the Canadian beef cattle industry. Several research projects have been completed that provide insight and benefit the industry. Fact sheets have been developed on each project to provide accessible and easy to read information. “The goal of the fact sheets is to provide information on the projects the BCRC is undertaking in order to advance industry knowledge through research and technology development,” says Andrea Brocklebank, research manager for CCA. “Thirteen project fact sheets have been completed to date and they are an effective way to provide an overview of the detailed research that went into each project. The full reports are quite in-depth and scientific—which many people find difficult to read; however, we feel it’s important that this information be public knowledge and available to industry. Readers should appreciate and find the fact sheets very useful.” As the beef cattle industry moves into the future, it is becoming increasingly important to have a strong foundation supported by research and development. The BCRC was established in 1997 to determine research and development priorities for the beef cattle industry, and to administrate the research funding allocation of the National Check-off. A portion of the funds collected from the National Beef Cattle Research, Market Development and Promotion Agency (National Check- off) are directed towards BCRC to sponsor development. Any individual or organization, including academic institutions, private industries, government or non-government from Canada or elsewhere, with a proven ability to carry out research projects in areas that could be useful to the Canadian beef industry are eligible to apply for research. Research proposals are evaluated on their relevance to research and development priorities, their scientific merit, and their likelihood in succeeding to help the Canadian beef industry remain competitive and sustainable. The BCRC has funded 45 projects and initiatives since its inception. Research topics range from bluetongue and anaplasmosis risk to best management practices improving environmental sustainability of grasslands. The fact sheets are located on the CCA website at www.cattle.ca/research%20and%20development/bcrc/factsheets.htm. Additional fact sheets will be made available upon completion of new research projects.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Market holds steady

by WLJ
News last week that South Korea had shut off beef trade, at least temporarily, presented the market with a potential setback, and perhaps enough reason to stall fed cattle trade. The news of banned materials being found in a shipment from Cargill’s Friona, TX, plant gave traders on the floor at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) reason to cash in their chips last Wednesday, taking profits from over-bought contracts, sending the market lower. Live cattle contracts and feeder contracts had run up impressively over the prior week, so it appeared the sell-off would be likely anyway. Whether it would have been as steep a drop without the unfortunate news from South Korea was difficult to determine, however, after setting new life-of-contract highs, some profit taking was inevitable. Regardless, that reversal brought an end to last week’s upward momentum and stalled any action in the cash market until later in the week. Analysts last week said they expected trade to develop at steady to slightly higher money despite the pullback in the futures market and the bad news from overseas. As of mid-day last Thursday, asking prices were holding firm at $94 and up in the southern Plains and at $148 plus in the north. Prior week sales averaged $90-91 live basis in the north, with dressed trade at $140-143; in the western Corn Belt, live sales traded at $88-90 and dressed sales ranged between $140-142. In the southern Plains, live sales traded at $91-91.50 and dressed sales in Kansas were in a narrow range of $143-143.50. Despite the problems in Korea last week, the domestic market showed signs of life and packers were able to move the cutout values higher on good product movement. As of mid-day last Thursday, the Choice boxed beef cutout was up at $144.66 while Select was higher at $138.90. There were reports last week that beef shipments to Canada and Mexico have picked up in recent days as a result of the slipping U.S. dollar against foreign currency. Forward contracting by domestic buyers is also adding support to the cutout as demand begins to pick up seasonally at home. Depending on the results of the Korean investigation, the boxed beef markets should continue to strengthen as we progress into the fall. That strength will be critical if the industry is to maintain fed cattle prices at expected levels in the fourth quarter. Packers last Thursday processed 124,000 head, down 1,000 from a week earlier, but up substantially from 105,000 head last year. For the week to date tally through last Thursday, packers had killed 497,000 head, 1,000 fewer than the same period a week prior and 57,000 more than the same period in 2006. Feedlots remain in a very current condition, with reports of some pulling cattle forward. However, premiums in the futures markets for the final quarter of this year are likely to limit that practice soon, if they haven’t already. CME live cattle contracts ended last Thursday’s session in the red across the board. August live cattle issues declined 50 points to settle at $92.92, while October fell 62 points to $98.15. December 2007 and February 2008 contracts dropped back below $100, dropping 32 cents on the December contract, which ended at $99.95, and 57 cents on the February contract, which closed the day at $99.45. Feeder cattle Corn markets gained some strength last week after private analysts began releasing crop projections that proved to be bullish for the market. That forecast, which predicted a 148 bushel per acre average yield, added to the positive tone for the corn market and amounted to a 12.644 billion bushel production forecast for U.S. corn. This was much lower than current expectations for a crop near 13 billion bushels. December new crop corn traded higher last Thursday following the report to end the Chicago Board of Trade session five cents higher at $3.41. That prediction, coupled with a tough couple of trading days in live cattle markets, sent feeder cattle contracts sharply lower, dropping them from contract record highs set early last week. The August contract fell $1.05, closing last Thursday’s session at $115.92. September was down the same amount, closing at $116.35, and October dropped 87 points, ending the day at $117.32. Cash trade last week was a different matter altogether, particularly for those cattlemen selling yearlings on Superior’s Winnemucca, NV, video sale. Prices being paid for yearling cattle were very good. For example, 190 head of 780-785 lb. steers sold in a range of $113.60 to $118.75, while 238 head of 800 to 840 lb. steers sold in a range of $115.10 to $117.25. In addition to solid prices being paid for heavyweight feeder cattle, lighter weights, particularly those for later delivery, sold well, such as 160 head of 600 lb. steers which brought an average of $127.50 or 200 head of 500 lb. steers which brought an average of $141. Country auctions were also strong last week as a result of a good mixture of positive news, from continued good grazing conditions in many areas keeping cattle on grass to the run in contract trade. For example, at Oklahoma City, OK, compared to the prior week, feeder cattle and calves sold firm to $2 higher, with some instances of $3-4 higher on 500-650 lb. steers. According to market reports, demand was extremely good for light receipts. Meanwhile, to the north in West Plains, MO, steers under 450 lbs. and heifers under 500 lbs. were $2-5 higher. Heavier weights sold steady to $2 higher, with the advance mainly on weights over 600 lbs. In particular, steers over 800 lbs. and heifers over 700 lbs. sold $2-3 higher on moderate to heavy supply and good demand. According to market reports, some producers in the area are selling calves somewhat lighter than usual because of a lack of recent rainfall. In Hub City, SD, feeder steers and heifers sold mostly $2-3 higher on a light test, typical for most markets in the north and western portions of the country where runs were still seasonally light last week. Hot, dry conditions in the northern Plains are also preventing some cattle producers from moving cattle. There have been several consecutive weeks of hot conditions from Idaho and Montana east through the Dakotas and into the upper Midwest. Farther west, along the coast, and particularly in California where producers have been suffering the impact of a very dry year, sale prices remain strong for offered cattle. In Cottonwood, CA, last week, stocker and feeder cattle under 600 lbs. were $1-2 higher, while those over 600 lbs. sold steady. According to market reports, smaller and single lots sold for prices $7-10 below top offerings.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Tyson posts larger-than-expected profit

by WLJ
Tyson Foods Inc., the world’s largest meat processor, reported a bigger-than-expected profit for its third fiscal quarter last week and raised its profit forecast for the year as it rebounds from last year’s losses. Tyson credited higher average sales prices for chicken, beef, pork and prepared foods, export growth and a cost-cutting program that is ahead of a target of saving $200 million this year. Those factors more than offset higher feed prices for animals, boosted by demand for corn for producing the alternative fuel ethanol. Analysts said chicken, Tyson’s second largest business by sales after beef, drove the quarter’s gains on higher profit margins under the cost-cutting program, higher shelf prices in stores, and export demand led by China. Springdale, AR-based Tyson said that it earned $111 million, or 31 cents a share, for the three months ended June 30 versus a loss of $52 million, or 15 cents a share, a year earlier. “I feel great about the progress we’re making,” chief financial officer Wade Miquelon said in a conference call. For the quarter, sales rose to $6.96 billion from $6.38 billion a year earlier. Tyson raised its forecast for the fiscal year ending in September to between 82 cents and 92 cents per share from an April estimate between 65 cents and 90 cents. It was the third profitable quarter after three quarters of losses last year that yielded a net loss of 17 cents per share in fiscal 2006, which ended last September. Export sales jumped 31 percent to $661 million, including a $70 million increase in chicken leg quarters to China, other Asian markets, Africa and the Middle East. CEO Richard Bond said antibiotic-free chicken launched in the U.S. market in June is already a hit among consumers and retailers and promises to boost growth in fresh chicken sales. Sales and operating income improved from the previous quarter and from a year ago in all four segments—chicken, beef, pork and prepared foods. Bond said the cost management program launched last year had already beat its goal of saving $200 million this year, helping reduce general costs by 12.4 percent for the first three quarters. Bond said he expects more than $250 million in savings this fiscal year from the effort. Tyson said the volume of meat sold fell, as expected, after the plant closings and because of higher prices for its products. But the average sales price for all its meats increased, allowing it to book higher revenues. Feed costs were higher as corn soared because of demand to make the alternative fuel ethanol. Tyson said in its chicken business, the second largest segment by sales after beef, net grain costs were up $113 million in the quarter from a year earlier.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Montana finds first 2007 case of equine West Nile

by WLJ
Montana’s first clinical cases of West Nile virus (WNV) in horses this season have been confirmed in Blaine and Phillips counties, according to Montana acting State Veterinarian Dr. Jeanne Rankin. Neither horse had been vaccinated against WNV. The virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes become infected by feeding on infected birds. The virus does not appear to spread from horse to horse or from horse to person. Person to person spread, though extremely rare, may occur by means of organ transplants or from infected mothers to their infants through breastfeeding. Horses appear to be affected by WNV much more often than any other domestic animals. Infection can cause encephalitis, affecting the nervous system, and can cause severe complications and death in horses. The disease also affects humans. Many horses infected with WNV do not develop any illness, but of horses that become ill, about one-third will die or need to be euthanized. Although WNV has been documented in the U.S. since 1999, the first case of WNV in Montana was confirmed in a horse in Yellowstone County in 2002. During that season, 134 equine cases were reported in 26 Montana counties and 38 of the horses died or were euthanized. In 2003, WNV was confirmed in 193 horses in 34 Montana counties. A total of 70 horses died or were euthanized. Only 17 of the 193 confirmed horse cases were fully vaccinated. In 2004, WNV was confirmed in 11 horses in seven Montana counties and five horses died or were euthanized. Only one of the 11 horses was fully vaccinated, and that horse survived. In 2005, WNV was confirmed in 10 horses in eight Montana counties. A total of four horses were euthanized. None of these horses were vaccinated. In 2006, WNV was confirmed in 26 horses in 11 Montana counties. A total of seven died or were euthanized. None of these horses were vaccinated. Montana also confirmed two human cases of WNV in 2002, 228 cases in 2003, six cases in 2004, 19 cases in 2005 and at least two cases in 2006. To diagnose WNV in equines requires a serology test that can be conducted at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Bozeman, MT. Clinical signs of encephalitis in horses include loss of appetite and depression in addition to any combination of weakness or paralysis of hind limbs, muzzle twitching, impaired vision, incoordination, head pressing, aimless wandering, convulsions, inability to swallow, circling, hyperexcitability, or coma. “These are also clinical signs of Western and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, viral diseases that affect the nervous system and can cause severe complications and death in horses,” Rankin said. In addition, rabies cases may also present with similar neurological signs and should always be considered as a differential diagnosis. These diseases also affect humans. Vaccination and mosquito control continue to be recommended as methods to help protect horses against the virus. For mosquito control, thoroughly clean livestock watering troughs on a regular basis, remove any potential sources of water in which mosquitoes can breed, dispose of water-holding containers such as discarded tires, and do not allow water to stagnate. If possible, horses should be stabled inside from dusk to dawn to reduce contact with mosquitoes. “There are USDA licensed vaccines available to help prevent equine cases of WNV encephalitis. For horses not previously vaccinated, two initial doses given three to six weeks apart are recommended,” said Rankin. Following the two initial doses of vaccine, the vaccine manufacturers also recommend an annual booster and some veterinarians recommend two boosters each year, particularly in high-risk areas. Combination vaccines are also available. Combination products provide protection against multiple diseases including West Nile virus, Eastern, Western or Vene-zuelan equine encephalitides, and tetanus. For horses that contract WNV, an equine-origin antibody product that aids in the treatment of horses is also available. Supportive veterinary treatment such as anti-inflammatories, administering fluids, and the use of a sling to keep the animal upright have also been used in equines diagnosed with WNV. Horse owners are encouraged to contact their local veterinarian for more information regarding WNV vaccine and treatment. More information is also available at the Montana Department of Livestock website at www.mt.gov/liv.

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Water, water everywhere raises risk of livestock disease

by WLJ
Rushing water, stagnant ponds, or even the dry stages after wet periods can lead to outbreaks of livestock disease. Mosquitoes and biting flies, capable of carrying and transmitting diseases, thrive in the damp weather, and naturally-occurring anthrax can take a toll on livestock and wildlife when pastures dry after prolonged wet periods. Horse owners should take precautions against mosquito-transmitted diseases by having their animals vaccinated against West Nile Virus and the reportable diseases Eastern and Western Equine Encephalitis. “If you wait until cases of ‘sleeping sickness’ occur in your area, you may have waited too long to vaccinate,” said Dr. Bob Hillman, Texas state veterinarian and head of the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the state’s livestock and poultry health regulatory agency. “You need time for the vaccine to do its job, which is to build the animal’s immunity to a particular disease,” he said. “Vaccine can provide the best disease protection possible, but it’s also crucial to keep up with booster shots, as recommended by the vaccine  manufacturer or your private veterinary practitioner. In 2006, 111 horses were confirmed to have West Nile Virus in Texas. So far this year, the disease has been confirmed in one horse, located in Willacy County.” Three cases of Potomac Horse Fever, which is not a regulatory disease, have been confirmed in Kerr County by the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. Potomac Horse Fever, first detected in Maryland in l979, is not typically found in Texas. Clinical cases usually are found near rivers, streams, ponds or canals. The infection involves tiny flukes that are parasites of water snails. The flukes hatch their offspring into the water, and these are then picked up by aquatic insects that molt into flying insects, including caddis flies and mayflies. Horses can become exposed to Potomac Horse Fever when they eat or drink anything contaminated with the insects. Kerr County equine veterinarians are urging all owners to call their practitioner if equine animals exhibit signs of Potomac Horse Fever, which can include a reluctance to eat, fever, diarrhea, colic or inflammation around the hoof. Treatment includes antibiotics and supportive care. Biting flies can mechanically transmit equine infectious anemia (EIA), sometimes called “swamp fever.” This incurable disease, for which no approved vaccine exists in the U.S., is a regulatory disease. TAHC regulations require horses and other equine animals to have a negative test for EIA within the previous 12 months before entering the state, or going to events, assemblies, trail rides, undergoing change of ownership, or entering a breeding farm. The most commonly known test for EIA is the “Coggins” blood test. The incidence of EIA has dropped dramatically since l997 when 750 equine animals in Texas were found to be infected. Since January 2007, only 29 infected animals have been detected. “EIA-infected horses can develop severe anemia, fever and swelling. In severe cases, EIA can kill the animals, but many times, the infected animal has few signs of disease,” noted Hillman. “Prevent EIA transmission by avoiding blood-to-blood contact between infected and ‘clean’ equine animals. Disinfect medical instruments and tack, and control flies. Biting flies carry blood from one animal to the next on their mouthparts, and they play a key role in the mechanical transmission of EIA.” Infected equines must be maintained at least 200 yards away from other equine animals, euthanized, or sent to slaughter. “In the past, untested equine animals could be sold for slaughter through a livestock market. At the slaughter plant, blood samples were collected and sent for laboratory testing. Now that Texas equine slaughter plants have been closed, we can not ensure that horses moving to plants in other states or countries are tested. Therefore, we are requiring all horses to have a current EIA test, even when being sold for slaughter,” said Hillman. Rain, followed by hot weather can coax the invisible bacteria Bacillus anthracis to the surface, a situation that has occurred on a ranch in Tom Green County where 17 head of cattle and a number of white-tailed deer have died. “Anthrax in Texas occurs nearly every year, and it is a reportable disease to the TAHC. If we know an outbreak is occurring, we can let ranchers in the area know that it’s time to vaccinate their livestock. There is no preventive treatment for wildlife,” said Hillman. Anthrax naturally occurs worldwide and in many states of the U.S. Disease outbreaks have been reported in Minnesota, South Dakota and Canada this year. When an anthrax-infected animal dies and isn’t properly burned, the bacteria will infiltrate the soil and lie dormant (but not spread) for many years. Under ideal weather and soil conditions—a cool, wet spring, followed by a hot, dry spell—the bacteria will resurface on grass and forage. The disease cycle starts again when another animal ingests the resurfaced anthrax bacteria. TAHC regulations require that an infected animal’s carcass, manure and bedding be incinerated. This prevents wild animals from being exposed to the disease, and it kills the bacteria, preventing another site where the anthrax bacteria can resurface. Hillman urged ranchers to wear gloves and long sleeves when preparing the burn site and to avoid moving the carcasses, if possible. Exposure to anthrax carcasses could cause a handler to develop a black skin lesion that requires prompt medical treatment. “There is no need for vacationers or hunters to worry about naturally occurring anthrax. Just don’t touch or handle sick or dead animals, and don’t pick up bones or shed antlers. We usually advise hunters not to hunt feral or wild swine in the area during an anthrax outbreak. Feral swine may root around carcasses of anthrax-killed animals, becoming exposed to the bacteria but not contracting the disease.” Hillman advised swimmers to avoid ponds or streams if dead animals are nearby. The same advice goes for pets, too. By the time hunting season starts, he said, cool weather usually puts an end to anthrax cases. “Always harvest only healthy-looking animals, and, as a routine practice, wear gloves when processing meat,” he said. “In Texas, it is often ‘feast or famine,’ drought or flood,” said Hillman. “With each of the conditions, there are concerns about livestock health. So, while ranchers enjoy the lush grasses the rains have produced, they may have to control pests to lower disease risks. However, I don’t know many ranchers who would choose last year’s drought over some extra vigilance this year.”

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Thursday, December 20,2007

Beef Talk: The J game–vaccinate

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
The Dickinson Research Extension Center is getting ready to ship some calves. A quick review of the vaccination efforts at the center notes that the calves were vaccinated for viral and bacterial invaders in the spring during branding. The calves will be vaccinated again prior to weaning and at weaning. The development of a vaccination program involves consulting with a veterinarian. The goal is to prepare calves so they will be better able to withstand the rigors of weaning, marketing and subsequent comingling at the new feed yard. There are many products that produce the “desired response” when administered according to label directions. The phrase “desired response” is a mouthful. Although memory can be very misleading and, over time, the relevancy of older thoughts and technology can change, the term “J” always comes to mind when a “desired response” is sought for a particular vaccination program. Back in graduate school days, actually back before much of the molecular genetics world was known, the J game was at work. The reason for the J game was to add diversity to living organisms so they could respond to the many viral and bacterial invaders that are constantly trying to put us down. That doesn’t include several other pathogenic classes of organisms that are not our friends. The terms were simpler and perhaps easier to understand. One of the more interesting, yet difficult, sessions utilized a text titled “Biochemistry” by Lubert Stryer. This particular edition, published in 1981, provides some understanding of what the “desired response” looks like. The “desired response” is a functional protein given the broad name of “antibody.” These antibodies, more appropriately called immunoglobulins, are not easy to visualize. One immunoglobulin is generally drawn schematically as a Y. The Y is not just J genes, it actually has several components. Within the Y are two types of chains, heavy and light. There are five types of heavy chains and two types of light chains. These chains may seem simple, but are not. Within the chains, some parts are called constant, which means they change little in how they are made up and some parts are called variable, which means they can vary. The variable chains contain amino acid sequences that are not the same and do not remain constant. This variance adds increased diversity to the structure of the various antibodies. If things are not complicated enough, there are the “J” genes that join the variable and constant segments of the light and heavy chain, in other words, the J game, all adding to the confusion of the ‘desired outcome’ when a set of calves are vaccinated with a particular vaccine or antigen. Without going out on a limb too far, if a producer actually figured all the different ways an antibody can be configured, in other words, how many different ways could you combine the constant, variable and J regions of an antibody, the answer would be in the billions. Sorry if this is confusing, but the bottom line is still true; vaccinate your calves to produce antibodies that will protect them against the handful of commonly known viral and bacterial invaders and then manage your calves so that they will prepare themselves to produce a good antibody response against all those invaders that are not named. The world is not a simple place, but calves are geared up to survive, especially when all the right tools are put in their toolbox. Good luck! And, if you thought tagging calves is difficult, tagging is nothing compared with antibodies.

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