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Monday, August 8,2005

Mandatory reporting deadline looming

by WLJ
— Senate action wanted before Sept. 30. — House approved five-year extension. Among the first livestock industry issues expected to be addressed by the Senate upon getting back from summer vacation at the end of August, is the pending sunset of current mandatory price reporting (MPR) legislation. The current program is slated to come to an end September 30, and livestock industry leaders are pushing for the Senate to approve a five-year reauthorization of the program. The House of Representatives approved such an action on July 27, prior to adjourning for its month-long summer recess. A large majority of Senators, however, are awaiting a review from USDA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) regarding the program’s successes and failures and whether or not it is worth reauthorizing for another five years. The call for that review was in addition to a June 22 hearing on the issue, which featured testimony from industry participants, market analysts and officials with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, which administers the MPR program. Washington, DC, lobbyists said last week, it is likely the Senate will approve a limited one-year reauthorization and then take some time to look over OIG’s review and make a determination on a five-year reauthorization next year. Staffers with the House Committee on Agriculture told WLJ last week, that there wouldn’t be much opposition to a one-year reauthorization. The issue would still have to go through a conference committee to come up with a bill that is suitable to both houses and then be voted on by both the full Senate and House. Lobbyists said that because there will only be a month left between the Senate resuming its session and the reporting program’s deadline, action is expected on the issue within the first week to 10 days of September. When the House reauthorized MPR last month, they did so with only a few changes being made to a couple of the hog reports. Cattle and sheep reports were untouched, sources said. Senate concerns also appear to revolve around the hog reports, however, there could be some modifications made to reports on all species. Western state senators have expressed some concern that final daily reports are compiled and released too early in the day, and that producers aren’t given an opportunity to see the most up to date information that may help them make a marketing decision. MPR was first implemented in 1999 following demands from livestock producers that there be more price discovery and market transparency. MPR requires the largest packers to report live, carcass, grid, formula and boxed beef trades to USDA on a daily and weekly basis. The daily reports are accumulated three times a day, but the final report from a given business day isn’t released until the next morning. — Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.  

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Monday, August 8,2005

Supplements, herding improve grazing utilization

by WLJ
A range utilization study conducted by Dr. Derek Bailey, professor of Animal and Range Sciences at New Mexico State University, may have broad impact for ranchers grazing cattle, specifically those on public allotments. Researchers and cattle grazers have been looking for ways to encourage even distribution of forage utilization across the entire range area, while easing the heavy use of riparian areas. Under traditional range conditions in the West, as much as 30 percent of an allotment gets very little grazing due to its slope, elevation, and distance from water, said Bailey. As a result, cattle stick to grazing in stream-side areas, particularly under drought conditions, which can create conflicts with land managers and users of public lands, and may ultimately lead to a reduction of the number of cattle permitted or available grazing days. As producers are aware, a reduction in grazing ties directly to significant increases in expenditures. In a series of studies, conducted under a variety of pasture conditions, researchers fitted cows with global positioning satellite (GPS) collars to track movement and turned them out on parcels up to 100,000 acres in size. The study showed positive results under moderate late fall and early winter grazing conditions in the Montana foothills. Prior to the study, cattle were introduced to a low-moisture block supplement in penned, dry-lot conditions similar to those experienced during the calving season. After cattle had become familiar with the supplement, they were fitted with the collars and turned out into grazing allotments spanning a wide range of conditions and quality. Researchers found that animals that were conditioned to the blocks were more willing to travel farther away from water sources and stay away longer when “rewarded” with the supplement. Several different protocols were followed and researchers found that supplement stations provided to preconditioned cattle caused them to voluntarily travel farther from water sources and stay away longer than just a straight mineral supplement. When combined with late morning to early afternoon herding the researchers found the best results. “What we determined is that cattle would willingly travel up to a mile or more horizontally and 300-400 feet vertically, up steep slopes to get to the supplement. Once there, they tended to stay in the area to graze for several hours,” Bailey said. Researchers believe that once the cattle had traveled the distance to the supplement, their “reward,” staying and grazing the grass within several hundred yards of the station was not an inconvenience. Researchers also attempted similar studies using cake and liquid supplements. The team determined that neither cake nor liquid supplement under range conditions was effective. With cake, the cattle tended to only stay in the area for an hour or so after it was gone before moving back toward water. “They definitely knew when it was gone. We were feeding 150 pounds of cake at a time. After feeding, the cattle were leaving fewer than 30 grams of feed behind.” Bailey said. Liquid supplements yielded grazing results similar to a low moisture block, but due to increased levels of consumption and higher labor costs, the scientists determined that liquid supplement was not a cost-effective measure. Bailey believes that because the cattle knew there was still more supplement remaining, in both the block and liquid trial, the cattle would remain in the area longer. This particular study showed researchers that when combined with herding, dehydrated molasses protein supplements could by used to easily move cattle away from riparian areas and into areas which were not being optimally grazed, for instance, areas containing dry forage away from water and less palatable grassland along ridge lines. “What we found was that cattle were willingly driven away from hay quality pasture in riparian areas toward dry fescue ridges. The cows frequently trotted the last few hundred yards to the supplement barrels and stayed within 600 yards for quite some time,” Bailey said. Continuously moving the supplement station, a few hundred yards every couple of weeks, creates an even grazing pattern which generates better utilization of the resource. Grazing distributions are dependent on a variety of factors, including the slope of the terrain, availability of water, breed of the animals, palatability of forage and other environmental issues. Numerous studies have been conducted to determine how those factors influence animal impact on forage and how producers can manipulate their animals to create a better herd, all in an effort to prevent the overgrazing of riparian areas. Previous findings suggested manipulating grazing preferences required fencing or other labor and cost intensive features. However, the use of supplement blocks appears to be both cost and labor effective even when combined with herding. Bailey’s studies, combined with the research of a number of agricultural economists, showed increases in labor and supplement cost were offset by better forage utilization and a subsequent increase in available grazing days. Bailey also noted studies in which researchers made culling decisions based upon what range areas certain cows tended to graze. Further studies showed that certain breeds of cattle actually tended to prefer higher more arid slopes. Tarentaise, Charolais, and Piedmontese were more adaptable to climbing higher above and farther from their water sources. Bailey believes that because the cattle were originally bred to forage in the high mountains of Europe, they are better suited to the high range conditions of many western states. Under mountainous conditions, incorporating these genetic lines may also provide a performance improvement for cattle producers willing to try something new. Melvin Armstrong, a Cardwell, MT, rancher and former U.S. Forest Service range analyst, has been using the low moisture blocks for eight years and has had good results improving grazing utilization. Prior to utilizing the blocks, members of the grazing association to which he belongs were having difficulty working with land managers because the cattle were over grazing the bottom land. “In my opinion this is the only thing that will pull them out of the bottoms,” Armstrong said. He estimates that the product and labor involved with purchase and placement of the blocks costs him between $2-3.50 per animal unit month; his records show that the return has been worth the effort. “They pay for themselves, plus, we see an additional 10 pounds on the calves and it’s been putting weight on the cows too,” he said. On the return side, producers participating in the Montana studies have seen an average return of an extra 10 percent of previous allotment cuts. Land managers have also been receptive to restoring allocations when these products are used to alleviate overgrazing concerns. “While it may not be the answer to all problems, it is a good place to start. Guys who are using it are seeing an improvement in utilization,” said Bob Welling, research support manager for Ridley Block Operations. “Producers still have to consider costs.” Bailey said, but he believes that these types of management techniques will benefit grazing operations in the future. “I foresee a day when land managers will actually pay ranchers to graze the land,” he said. Bailey thinks that targeted grazing to create fire breaks, clear land and control noxious weeds will benefit land, public and private. The tools studied by Bailey could provide a start toward that future without the need for costly and intrusive fencing. While they may not benefit all grazers, the management techniques being studied by Bailey and other range scientists may warrant a look by ranchers hoping to better distribute forage utilization under range conditions. — John Robinson, WLJ Associate Editor © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.  

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Monday, August 8,2005

Water treatment compound reduces pathogen spread

by WLJ
University of Georgia (UGA) scientists have developed a method for eliminating the harmful E. coli O157:H7 pathogen in cattle watering troughs. An estimated 73,000 cases of E. coli O157:H7 in humans are reported each year in the United States. Studies have shown that the pathogen can be transferred from one cow to another through the animals' drinking water. "Cattle drinking water is often contaminated with cud (rumen content)," said Michael Doyle, a UGA microbiologist and director of the Center for Food Safety in Griffin, GA. "Cattle water can also have manure in it, and together, this leads to E. coli contamination." In the past, disinfectants like chlorine have been ineffective at removing E. coli O157:H7 from cattle drinking water. With funding from the American Meat Institute Foundation, Doyle led a project that focused on identifying practical treatments for eliminating E. coli O157:H7 in cattle drinking water. The UGA scientists first screened various chemicals in search of an effective control. "We knew right away that chlorine and ozone treatments had little to no effect," Doyle said. "But we were able to ultimately identify two chemical combinations that are highly effective." The best treatments were a combination of lactic acid, acidic calcium sulfate and caprylic acid and another combination of lactic acid, acidic calcium sulfate and butyric acid. "Both treatments include a base chemical, acidified calcium sulfate, or Safe2O," Doyle said. "This chemical has a very low pH, less than 2, which makes it very acidic." Doyle's laboratory studies found that the two chemical formulations not only eliminated E. coli O157:H7, but also killed other enterohemorrhagic E. coli which are related to E. coli O157:H7. But what do the cows think of this new power-drink? UGA animal scientist Joe West fed the treated water to a group of test cows. "We use Calan doors, which are electronically controlled doors," he said. "Each cow has a transponder that works as the door's key." In this way, West can monitor how much water a cow truly consumes. For the study, he measured how much water the cows drank over the seven days and compared that to what they normally drink. He found that the cows drank 19 liters per day of the lactic acid water, compared to 30 liters per day of non-treated water. "They'll drink the treated water, but obviously, they're reluctant to drink it," he said. "So it's not suited for continuous feeding." West said cows could survive on the reduced water intake. But when a cow's water or feed intake is reduced, her growth and milk production also decline. To keep from reducing cows' water intake, the scientists recommend farmers periodically treat their water tanks with the chemical treatment. "A farmer could treat his tanks for 20 minutes and basically sanitize his watering system," Doyle said. "He could treat the holding tanks and the troughs, then flush and refill them with clean water. This would kill the organism and then provide fresh water for the animals." Adding the chemical to his cattle's water supply would be an added task and, for now, a voluntary action for the farmer, Doyle said. "Until someone down the line gets serious about controlling E. coli at the source, this is just a control method available to farmers," he said. "If on-farm controls should be mandated, we have a treatment available that will work." Adding the chemicals to cattle drinking water shouldn't be cost-prohibitive for farmers. "The material is fairly dilute, and we've determined that a very dilute combination can still be effective" Doyle said. — Sharon Omahen, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of Georgia © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.  

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Monday, August 1,2005

2005 corn harvest projections tenuous

by WLJ
— Weather improvement needed. — Yields of 130 bushels could create $3 corn. Recent slides in feeder cattle prices have been more the result of domestic market fundamentals than a heavy influx of cattle coming in from Canada, according to several market analysts. One of the primary domestic market indicators pressuring prices lately has been forecasts for higher corn prices. During mid-July, USDA commodity reporters forecasted that this year’s corn crop would yield an average of 145 bushels per acre, 15 bushels smaller than last year. However, independent market analysts called USDA’s projection pretty optimistic, with most forecasts ranging between 135-140 bushels per acre. At 145 bushels per acre, USDA said corn prices should stay between $1.70-2.10 per bushel, however, Jim Robb, chief analyst at the Livestock Marketing Information Center said even that lofty of an average yield should keep corn around $2 per bushel. “I think that’s pretty optimistic right now,” said Robb. “This year’s corn crop is at a critical stage right now, particularly in Iowa, Ohio and other eastern portions of the Corn Belt where temperatures haven’t moderated to help the tasseling and pollination of this year’s crop.” Robb and several colleagues said it wouldn’t be surprising to see average yields drop below 140 per acre. He added that if summer temperatures didn’t start to cool down, 130 bushel yields might be possible. “If that happens, it’s likely $3 (per bushel) corn could be seen, even as the new crop is harvested,” Robb said. “With calf and yearling prices where they’re at right now, that could be devastating to feedlots’ breakevens and any opportunity for profit into next year becomes even more unlikely.” One thing that could help keep overall corn production higher-than-average this year is a half-to three-quarter-of-a-million acre increase in corn acres planted. Last year, farmers planted a total of 80.93 million acres in corn, with about 73.63 million of them being harvested for grain. This year, estimates are that 81.59 million acres were planted in corn with 74.37 million to be harvested for grain purposes. Last year’s corn crop was the largest in U.S. history, with 11.8 billion bushels being harvested in total. At an average yield of 140 bushels on 73.5 million acres, this year’s crop would be only about 10.3 billion bushels. At 130 bushels per acre, total production would be approximately 9.55 billion bushels. Market analysts said that corn carryover into next year would be severely hampered because of significant production drops, increased demand for corn in the North American ethanol industry, and projections for higher exports, particularly to overseas markets that are suffering through drought right now. USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service has already projected a double-digit percentage increase in corn exports for the rest of this year, and first half of 2006, to Australia, which is really struggling to maintain any semblance of a cattle feeding industry due to drought. “A slide in production, and kick up in demand could start to weigh on the cattle industry,” said Robb. “We will know more come mid-August when the impact from weather becomes more clear.” If corn does get up to $3, most sources said that breakevens on fed cattle for the very late fall and winter market could theoretically jump to $94 or higher. Currently, breakevens on those cattle are hovering around $90. — Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.  

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Monday, August 1,2005

Beef Bits

by WLJ
Canadian calf program concluded The Feeder Calf Set-Aside Program in Canada ended late last month now that Canadian cattle are moving across the U.S. border. The Canadian Agriculture Ministry said that producers are free to market their calves as they see fit, and there are no slaughter restrictions. A notice to industry on July 15 also announced that auctions under the Fed Cattle Set-Aside Program were suspended. Cattle registered in the program will be released as scheduled, though producers who want to voluntarily withdraw some lots from the program before their scheduled release date may do so with preauthorization from their provincial program administrator. Producers that remove cattle from the program without permission will be subject to administrative penalties that may include forfeiting any program payments owed to them. Canadian ground beef recalled Ground beef distributed by Westfair Foods Ltd. of Calgary, Alberta, is being recalled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on suspicion that the beef may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The suspect beef was sold through four British Columbia supermarkets, Real Canadian Superstores of Duncan and Burnaby; Real Canadian Wholesale Club of Burnaby; and Extra Foods of Vancouver. Most of the products were sold in early to mid-June. To date, no illnesses have been reported linked to the contaminated meat. More BSE reported in France One new case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was announced Friday, July 22, in central France. The infected cow is a Charolais, born in 1995 to a herd of the French Vienne department. It is the eighth BSE case detected in the department since 2001. A dozen potentially infected cattle will be euthanized and destroyed in conformity with the current rules under government control. New Canadian plant moves ahead A farming cooperative in northern Alberta is going ahead with plans to build its own meat processing facility. Members of the Peace Country Tender Beef Co-op say they’re not deterred by the long-awaited reopening of the American border to Canadian cattle. The co-op was conceived during the protracted border closing that started after BSE was first confirmed in the province in 2003. It has grown to about 600 members. The co-op is converting a curling club in the small town of Berwyn into a meat processing plant set to open this fall. The organization is also working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on plans for a new slaughter house for 2006. French accented burger served This summer, White Castle is serving up the classic flavors of French onion soup on a bun. Until August 13, the Columbus, OH-based chain is offering the French Onion Cheeseburger, which features White Castle’s classic hamburger topped with French onion cheese and French onion sauce. In-store merchandising, along with broadcast and radio advertising, will support the product’s introduction. A 30-second TV spot titled “French Maid” plays up a man’s fantasy as he eats the new burger. Hormel plans plant addition Hormel Foods Corp. is planning a $6 million expansion of its meat processing plant in Rochelle, IL. The Austin, MN.-based food company will build a 27,500-square-foot addition to manufacture a new line of microwaveable entrees. Hormel also plans to remodel about 25,000 square feet of the existing facility. Processors participate in SD program Through their checkoff dollars, South Dakota beef producers will help train in-state meat processors in the specifics of the new South Dakota Certified Beef program that guarantees consumers they are buying beef born, raised and processed in the state. Directors of the South Dakota Beef Industry Council voted to help fund training, materials and research for the program during their quarterly meeting. About 18 processors are expected to participate in the pilot phase through the fall, with general enrollment in the program to begin around the end of the year. Blood test for BSE Adlyfe, Inc., a privately held biotech company headquartered in Rockville, MD, has announced the development of a sensitive blood test for the protein folding diseases that could provide earlier diagnosis of BSE, according to its press release. The test is designed to detect misfolded proteins that cause neurological diseases, including BSE. Alan S. Rudolph, CEO, said the test is based on using small, synthetic peptides that mimic protein folding. Adlyfe has 11 patents pending on the technology. The test has been under development for three years under the support of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Institutes of Health. Dumeco gets USDA approval Six companies in the Dumeco Group (Dutch United Meat Company) have been inspected and approved by USDA to sell meat. A spokesman for the company said the approval offers an excellent opportunity to sell products directly into the U.S. market, such as spare ribs and other barbecue products. © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.  

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Monday, August 1,2005

Feds pressured by oversupply

by WLJ
— Beef demand still lagging. — Northern trade $2 softer. Early week thoughts of a steady fed cattle market last week went by the wayside come Wednesday afternoon as reports of another possible BSE case raced across the U.S. In addition, domestic market fundamentals, not Canadian cattle imports, were cited for some of the bearishness seen late in the week. As of midday Thursday, just a trickle of cattle had traded hands in Nebraska at mostly $122 dressed, $77 live. Those prices were mostly $2 softer than prices the week prior. Cattle feeders in Texas and Kansas were still holding out in an effort to try to get steady money. Packer bids, as of press time, were mostly $76-77, while asking prices hovered mostly around $80. The market pressure was not said to be the result of Canadian cattle coming back into the U.S. Between July 18-26, only 2,910 head of Canadian fed cattle had been shipped to U.S. packing facilities. That figure is only about two percent of one business slaughter day in the U.S. “It’s more a psychological thing, rather than a realistic determinant,” said Jim Robb, chief analyst with the Livestock Marketing Information Center. The boxed beef market continued to fall last week, with Choice getting down to $124.91 last Thursday morning and Select being reported at $118.36. Choice began the week just over $127, while Select had been at $120.83. Boxed beef volumes were very large last Tuesday and Wednesday, with 748 and 567 loads of cuts and grinding product moved, respectively. That active movement, however, didn’t result in packers processing any more cattle than the previous week. The national slaughter volume between last Monday and Thursday, was ???,???, compared to ???,??? two weeks ago. For the week ending July 24, slaughter totaled 653,000 head, 1,000 head more than the previous week and 7,000 head more than the same week a year ago. Analysts continue to say that only around 625,000 head of cattle are needed to meet current demand levels, both domestic and export markets combined. Finishing weights of cattle continue to be a concern to market analysts, as it takes fewer cattle to meet current beef demand. For the week ending July 24, USDA’s average finishing weight for marketed live cattle was 1,291 pounds, 30 pounds heavier than last year. The average carcass weight for fed steers last week was 840 pounds, three pounds more than a year ago. Packers continue to bleed red ink, and that was keeping their interest in paying even steady money very muted. Through most of last week, packer margins ranged in the minus $12-18 range, analysts said. Packer demand was also considered down due to the extremely active trade volume the previous week. For the week ending July 24, approximately 240,000 fed cattle traded on the spot cash market. That was the largest weekly movement in several months, analysts said. The number of cattle that have been on feed for longer than 120 days, as of July 1, was 3,318,000, called 10 percent above last year and seven percent more than the five-year average. Feeders slide While there were a few exceptions in the feeder cattle market last week, the overall trend was $2-5 softer. Price fluctuations occurred due to a wide range in quality and longer-weaned calves were selling at a premium, compared to calves that had just been pulled off the cows. A moderating in the heat wave for some parts of the country and some rain early in the week in the central U.S., helped prices in isolated areas. Overall supplies of feeder cattle were very light. Buyer demand was listed at moderate to good in most locations, as buyers sidelined by the uncertainties the previous week jumped back in the game. Southern tier states showed better results overall with select markets in Texas and Missouri rising $1-3 higher for lightweight calves, with one report of $3-6 higher. Most markets reported a significant decline in the number of offerings for the week. The few heavyweight cattle being offered were purchased at a discount by feeders facing increasing per-head losses in the fed cattle market. Little activity was reported in northern-tier feeder cattle trade, despite moderate buyer demand in most areas. Analysts believe that feeder calf marketing is being artificially suppressed by the psychological effect of renewed Canadian live animal imports, despite the fact that only 1,105 feeder cattle had crossed the border between July 18-26. The USDA’s report of a “non-definitive” BSE test reported in the middle of the week is likely to drag on the market until a conclusion is reached by the USDA. Until then, prices are likely to remain stagnant and offerings few, despite analysts urging to “sell ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.” Many analysts feel that prices will continue to slump as market concern continues in the face of pending BSE results, a possible spike in corn prices and softening fed cattle markets leading to increasing feeder losses potentially lasting through the end of the year. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange feeder cattle index was down to around $109 last Wednesday, compared to over $111.30 the previous week. — WLJ © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.  

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Monday, August 1,2005

EPA takes over Idaho feedlot inspections

by WLJ
In a letter dated July 14, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) informed the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) that the agency will be resuming federal compliance inspection and enforcement responsibilities for the state’s feedlots. The EPA is concerned that ISDA is not inspecting feedlots at a level conducive to ensuring producer compliance with federal laws. EPA is particularly focused on statutes regulating Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) under the Clean Water Act. ISDA, along with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, has been tasked with feedlot inspections since early 2001. In January of that year, the state signed an agreement with EPA, known as The Idaho Beef Cattle Environmental Control Memorandum of Understanding. The memo, also signed by the Idaho Cattle Association (ICA), outlined specific responsibilities for each agency and recognized the ISDA as the lead inspection and enforcement agency, with the remaining groups playing a support role in the process. Lloyd Knight, executive vice president for the ICA, reiterated his organization’s support for the agreement. “The ICA supports the memorandum and has no plans to walk away. If the EPA wants to end the program, they are going to have to file the divorce papers,” he said. Knight believes the EPA’s criticism of state inspection programs is unfounded. In the past, he says, EPA sent general inspectors, not CAFO inspectors, from the regional office in Seattle, WA, to perform aerial reconnaissance of some of the state’s feedlot operations followed by seven to ten days of “blitz” type inspections once or twice a year. “The state of Idaho has eight or nine guys working here every day,” he said. The state’s agreement with EPA was originally set to span a four-year period ending in early 2005, unless an annual extension was agreed upon by the parties. As meetings between the state and EPA progressed, EPA expressed a multitude of concerns about the inspection program. Representatives of EPA claim that despite ISDA assurances to the contrary, no improvements were made to the program, causing the federal agency to allow the agreement to lapse. Mark MacIntyre, an EPA spokesman, said the agency attempted to remedy the differences and met with the ISDA multiple times over the previous two years to lay out their concerns. Particularly disconcerting to EPA was the nadequate number of inspectors the state had committed to the inspection process. “We have a dairy inspection program in Idaho we are happy with. If we saw the same level of performance on the beef side, we wouldn’t have ended the agreement,” MacIntyre said. The July 14 letter, addressed to Idaho State Department of Agriculture Secretary Pat Tagasuki, claimed that despite a number of meetings and letters, in which EPA expressed serious concerns, the state had not taken sufficient steps to address “serious program deficiencies.” Mike Bussell, director of regional compliance and enforcement for EPA, who worked at length with ISDA to improve the inspection program, also expressed frustration with the lack of cooperation from the state. When the initial agreement was signed, ISDA committed to completing a certain number of inspections annually, a number Bussell said was in the hundreds. To date, the state has only been able to complete a fraction of the agreed to number each year. Of greater concern to EPA is the fact that while the state has attributed the absence of enforcement action to high levels of compliance, follow-up inspections by EPA officials have not upheld that conclusion. According to Bussell, during spot-checks, EPA found “concerning violations” related to wastewater run off into sensitive stream systems. Instead of high levels of compliance, Bussell attributed the lack of enforcement action by ISDA inspectors to a “broad reluctance to levy fines.” Animal feeding operations have been receiving widespread attention recently and state and federal agencies may be feeling the heat when it comes to inspection issues. On July 20, ISDA, in cooperation with other state agencies, announced that it had levied a number of citations against a feedlot operation in Oakley, ID, for alleged violations of waste handling regulations and state water rights laws. The citations stem from a May 23 inspection of the facility during which state inspectors allegedly found several environmental violations including the improper handling of solid waste and surface water runoff. Additionally, inspectors allege the feedlot was irrigating 549 acres for which the operators had no water rights. ISDA confirmed owners of the feedlot have scheduled a compliance meeting with state regulators, but sources estimate fines of $600,000 are possible. While some familiar with Idaho’s investigation at the feedlot believe the investigation and resulting fines are related to EPA pressure, others say that isn’t the case. Knight, speaking for ICA, said,“The state started their investigation in May, and the Department of Ag has been waiting for other agencies to wrap up their investigations. They (ISDA) probably could have issued the violations a month ago.” In a press release related to the investigation of the CAFO facility, producers from across Idaho spoke in support of the state’s investigation, and roundly criticized the owners of the feedlot and their operating practices. In any case, the expiration and subsequent cancellation of the cooperative memorandum between EPA and ISDA will, in effect, divide the responsibility for feedlot inspection between state and federal agencies. While EPA has always retained the right to inspect livestock facilities, the expiration of the memo means feedlot operators are more likely to be visited by inspectors from both departments, a move that the EPA says could begin at any time. — John Robinson, WLJ Associate Editor © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.  

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Monday, August 1,2005

USDA announces ‘non-definitive’ BSE test

by WLJ
—Sample bound for England for confirmatory testing. — Sample first collected in April. USDA announced July 27 a non-definitive test result for a brain tissue sample tested at an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) lab. The sample, which was tested at least three months after being collected, was sent to USDA by an independent veterinarian who had been called to a remote undisclosed farm in April 2005, to care for an animal experiencing calving difficulty. Little was known about the specifics of the case as of press time last Thursday, including the origin or type of animal involved. USDA officials confirmed that they have traced the animal back to its herd of origin, and they have also confirmed that the animal was more than 12 years old, born prior to the feed ban which took effect in 1997. The herd of origin has not been quarantined, and USDA officials indicated any decision about a quarantine or further herd testing would hinge on the test results. During a technical briefing conducted by USDA Chief Veterinarian Dr. John Clifford, indications were the animal was born in the U.S. USDA officials also confirmed that the animal was destroyed after it died on the farm while giving birth. No part of the cow made it into either human or animal food chains. “It is important to note that this animal poses no threat to our food supply,” said Clifford. The veterinarian removed samples of brain tissue from the animal and treated them with a formalin preservative, consistent with proper protocols at the time. The delay between sampling and testing occurred when the veterinarian forgot to forward the samples to the USDA. Sources for USDA said, while “not optimal,” the delay posed no threat to the food chain, and hailed the success of the enhanced surveillance procedures put in place in to prevent such an animal from being processed for consumption by human or animal. To date, more than 419,000 tests have been conducted with an “extremely low” incidence of BSE said officials. Results from the test, conducted by a USDA lab, were non-definitive, suggesting the need for further testing. Samples can yield different results based solely on the tissue being tested. In this case, Clifford said, staining on the brain tissue samples indicated the presence of prion proteins, indicative of BSE, but the staining pattern was not typical and warranted confirmatory testing. Shortly after the USDA made their statement last Wednesday, a spokesman for the department confirmed that officials were in the process of booking flights to transport a tissue sample to both the APHIS Lab in Ames, IA, and the international reference lab in Weybridge, England, for further testing. Results were expected within four to seven days of the sample reaching the labs. Because the tissue samples had been treated with a preservative in preparation for an immunohistochemistry (IHC) test, scientists in both Ames and Weybridge will be limited solely to the IHC test instead of a combination protocol utilizing both IHC and the Western Blot test. Scientists say the Western Blot test cannot be performed on samples adulterated by preservative. — John Robinson, WLJ Associate Editor © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.  

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Monday, July 25,2005

Beef Bits

by WLJ
China owns world’s largest cow herd China, having the largest beef cow herd in the world at 65 million head and growing, produces 12% of the world’s beef supply with 27% of the world’s beef cows, according to Cattle-Fax research. Brazil ranks second, producing 14% of the world’s beef supply from 47.5 million cows. The U.S. beef industry, third with 33 million beef cows, produces 23% of the world’s beef, and is identified as the world’s most productive. Argentina ranks fourth, the European Union fifth, and Australia sixth in the beef cow inventory category with 12.5 million cows. Mexico is seventh with 11.5 million head, and Canada tenth with 5 million beef cows. Plant in South Dakota moves ahead A Ridgefield Farms executive recently said the company will move forward with plans for a beef processing plant in Huron, SD. July 10 was the deadline for investors to withdraw money from the project. But Ridgefield officials said most of the money that had been committed remains intact. Last month, Ridgefield announced a change in its business plan which required officials to give investors a 30-day rescission period. Under the new plan, Ridgefield would spend about $20 million on a fabrication and cold storage facility. A slaughtering plant would be added later. Executives leave Iowa Quality Beef The top two officials at Iowa Quality Beef Supply Cooperative have resigned from the farmer-owned venture that owns the now-closed meatpacking plant in Tama, IA. Gene Rouse, president of the co-op, and Ed Greiman, who was in charge of cattle procurement for the Tama plant, both resigned their positions effective July 31. Rouse will continue in a special projects position for the co-op after Aug. 1, including a source-verification project that will track cattle from the farm to the slaughter plant. The co-op is continuing to search for a partner that would operate the Tama plant. It closed last August when American Foods Group of Green Bay, WI, dropped out of its joint venture with the farmer cooperative. In the meantime, the co-op is selling 1,000 cattle a week to Swift and Company. Brazilian exports jump January-June Beef exported from Brazil during the first six months of 2005 reached $1.46 billion in value, up 30 percent from a year ago, and they exported another $676 million in leather from cattle. According to the Brazilian Meat Exporters Association, the increases came from increased production, not higher prices. Russia was Brazil’s single largest customer, at $200 million, an increase of more than 100 percent. Exports to Arab countries, particularly Egypt, were rising sharply and should surpass exports to the European Union within three years. McDonald’s Q2 profits jump McDonald’s Corp. recently announced its second-quarter results handily beat Wall Street’s estimates as longer hours and new products continue to lift sales. McDonald’s released figures showing that its sales growth pace accelerated in June and said operating earnings will surpass analysts’ expectations by three cents per share. The company reported 3.8 percent growth last month in global same-store sales, or sales at restaurants open at least one year, compared to 2.8 percent for the full second quarter and 3.7 percent year to date. U.S. same-store sales climbed 5.4 percent in June, 4.8 percent for the quarter and five percent so far this year. McDonald’s got an additional boost from an appellate court ruling overturning the ban on imports of Canadian cattle. Chile reopens to U.S. beef Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns last week announced that Chile lifted its ban on U.S. beef and beef products from animals less than 30 months of age. In 2003, the U.S. exported $5.3 million worth of beef and beef products to Chile. Chile imposed a ban on U.S. beef and beef products on Dec. 24, 2003, after a case of BSE was confirmed in Washington state. Burger King grows in Brazil Burger King Corp. has opened its first freestanding Burger King restaurant in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The new restaurant is the company’s fifth store since entering the country last November. The location can seat up to 260 people and has both covered and open-air parking, an outdoor patio, mezzanine and private party room. The fast-food chain also said the restaurant will be open late most evenings to accommodate people who frequent neighboring nightspots. The company said it has met or exceeded projections in Brazil, having already served more than 1.5 million guests in its four food court outlets. Those locations are in malls throughout Sao Paulo. Burger King said more restaurants will be opened in Sao Paulo in the near future. © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.  

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Monday, July 25,2005

Calf market anxiety seen

by WLJ
— Canadian cattle, corn prices and ID top concerns. As summer continues its inexorable passage, cow/calf producers continue to be vexed by a number of questions about the market conditions they will face this fall. “Guys up here are concerned about a number of things including the reopening of the Canadian border, fluctuating corn prices and the status of the animal ID issue come fall,” said Steve Paisley, beef cattle extension specialist for the University of Wyoming. With good grazing conditions prevalent in a number of northern tier states, cattle producers are faced with a decision to either market calves early, taking advantage of more favorable markets, or leaving the calves on the cows until later in the season hoping for a market gain in the face of increasing Canadian feeder cattle imports, uncertain corn prices and a number of export markets closed to U.S. beef. “Right now they have a good calf crop and enough grass to leave the calves on the cows until November or early December if they have to,” said Paisley, about Wyoming producers. Current feedlot breakevens are expected to exert some pressure on fall contracts as cattle feeder losses rise well above the $100 per head mark. Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center, indicated that imports of Canadian cattle are not expected to exert much pressure on calf prices until the fourth quarter. “We don’t see significant imports of cattle for at least the next two months,” he said. Presently, Robb predicts good feeder pricing conditions will continue until near the end of the third quarter, with prices in the $113-$120 per cwt range for the southern tier and a couple of dollars higher in the northern states. Robb cited corn prices as the most critical issue facing producers as sale time draws near. “We are facing a very uncertain situation in the corn market. A national harvest average below 130 bushels per acre could send the corn market well above $3 per bushel, while a harvest of 145 bushels per acre should result in a price closer to $1.90. That’s how volatile the market is right now,” he said. As evidence of the corn market’s importance, Robb noted the historical correlation between price fluctuations in the corn and feeder cattle markets. “For every 10-cent-per-bushel increase in the cash corn market, there is a corresponding $1 per cwt, or larger, drop in feeder cattle,” he said. The time frame for implementation of a National Animal Identification (NAID) system continues unresolved and will remain a question for producers as they prepare a marketing strategy for fall. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) announced on July 6 that the organization had selected a technology partner in an effort to create a privatized system for NAID by October 2005. The NCBA claims the privatized system will balance the needs of producer confidentiality and cost effectiveness with the government mandated 48-hour trace back capabilities. On the same day, R-CALF filed comment with the USDA critical of privatization efforts and in support of governmental oversight. While the USDA evaluates possible options, the two primary industry interest groups continue to work at opposite ends of the NAID issue in an attempt to balance the needs of all stakeholders in a very complex situation. - John Robinson, WLJ Associate Editor © Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use,  without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. ©1996-2005 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.  

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© Crow Publications - Any reprint of WLJ stories, except for personal use, without permission, written consent and appropriate attribution is prohibited. 2008 Crow Publications. All rights reserved.