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Monday, July 24,2006

Obituary: Benjamin F. Hofeldt

by WLJ
Benjamin G. Hofeldt, 82, died of natural causes at his ranch south of Chinook, MT, on July 2, 2006. Funeral services were held on Saturday, July 15. Ben was born on Dec. 17, 1923, to Henry and Alvina (Struve) Hofeldt in Chinook, MT. He was rai/.sed on the family ranch, along with four brothers and two sisters. He attended grade school in the Bear Paw Mountains and graduated from Chinook High School. After leaving high school, Ben came back to the mountains to ranch. He made his home at the Runyun Place, along with his mother, who was widowed when Ben’s dad passed away in 1942. Ben was just 18 years old. Ben married Ruth Olson on June 16, 1945. To this union three sons were born: Rodney Benjamin, Douglas Fred and Clark Allen. Ben leaves behind his three sons, Rodney (Carolina), Douglas and Clark, all of whom are carrying on his legacy in the ranching profession. He also leaves six grandchildren, Clayton Hofeldt, Tanith (Dale) Daugherty, Angie Hofeldt, Dustin Hofeldt (Vicki), Kyla and Shaina Hofeldt and one step-great granddaughter, Makayla Wilke. Ben is also survived by three brothers, Paul, Hans and Lawrence Hofldt, one sister, Hilda Drugge, and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by four infant siblings, 7-year-old sister Margaretha, sister Christine Miller, brother Roy Hofeldt, his parents, and his wife of 55 years, Ruth Olson Hofeldt.

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Monday, July 24,2006

Wilderness proposal passes committee

by WLJ
The U.S. House Resources Committee last week approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-ID, which will create 492 square miles of federal land in central Idaho as protected wilderness while conveying other public land to the state and local governments. Lloyd Knight, executive vice president of the Idaho Cattle Association, said the group is still opposed to the legislation. “We are concerned about the addition of more wilderness in the state. We are also opposed to the fact that some of the language that would have provided compensation for ranchers who lost grazing land has been taken out of the bill,” Knight said. “We are still committed to working with Representative Simpson on the bill though.” The Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA) designates three new federally protected wilderness areas in the rugged mountain peaks of the Sawtooth and Challis National Forests—the Ernest Hemingway-Boulder Wilderness, the White Clouds Wilderness and the Jerry Peak Wilderness. The CIEDRA bill will also add 600 acres protected from development to the existing Sawtooth National Recreation Area. In return, local governments in Stanley, Clayton, Mackay, Challis, Custer and Blaine counties will get almost 4,000 acres of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property to sell, manage or develop into affordable housing or public facilities. Another 960-acre parcel of BLM land near Boise would be given to the state for a new off-road vehicle state park. As a concession, the Department of Interior will be required to release from study 130,000 acres of public land which had been earmarked as potential wilderness, allowing federal land managers to issue permits for grazing, mining, logging or other commercial uses. Although Democrats on the House Resources Committee had voiced concern over the Idaho bill during a hearing in October 2005, the measure was approved on an unanimous voice vote last Wednesday. The measure now will be scheduled for a final vote on the House floor and then must make it through the U.S. Senate before the end of the year when this session of Congress concludes. “I’m pretty confident it will pass the floor of the House,” Simpson said. “After that, it depends on how quickly the Senate moves it.” The latest version of Simpson’s wilderness bill added 11,000 more acres to the proposed wilderness areas than previous versions, for a total of 315,215 acres. It also dropped an earlier provision that would have compensated ranchers financially in return for surrendering their grazing rights within the proposed wilderness areas. — John Robinson, WLJ Editor

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Monday, July 10,2006

Beef absent of antibiotics may not be safer

by WLJ
In light of recent legislation in both the House and the Senate proposing to ban antibiotics from livestock feed, some say beef will not be any safer with such measures imposed, according to an Institute of Food Technologists’ study released last week. Chicago Tribune reported the study, conducted by the panel of food scientists and microbiologists, was provoked by marketing campaigns during the past decade by organic food advocates who have suggested there is an overuse of antibiotics making the food less safe for human consumption. The claims stated in the proposed legislation cite critical danger to humans. One particular group mentioned in the study is the Organic Trade Association, based in Greenfield, MA, which serves as a host organization of the U.S.’s organic producers. The association refers to 10 studies during 2000 and 2001 regarding the use of antibiotics to support their claims that antibiotics have been abused by U.S. farmers and ranchers. The most recent study was pursued to “bring balance” to the issue, according to Michael Doyle, chairman of the panel. “The study does raise questions about those groups using this as a basis for their promotion of organic and natural products,” Doyle said. The study is being presented as organic and natural meat sales reach new highs. The most recent data shows a 13.5 percent jump in organic and natural meat sales from 2004 to 2005 and reports of continued skyrocketing growth are being made. Within four years, sales have nearly doubled to $681.3 million annually, according to AC Nielson, a research and consulting firm. Doyle said his intentions are not to advocate the misuse of antibiotics, but rather warn against reducing the levels of antibiotic use in food production, claiming elimination would have little effect on bacteria that might develop resistance to antibiotic treatment in humans. Rather, he said, stopping the use of antibiotics in feed would cause livestock to gain immunity to the drugs making them ineffective in treating disease. “The fact is that if we cut back on antibiotics in animals raised in food production, we would see a marked increase in food costs because we’re going to have a lot of animals we’re not able to treat effectively,” he said. “Overuse in humans, not regular use in animals, creates strains of resistant bacteria that hurt humans. Prior human exposure to antibiotics is the greatest factor for acquiring an infection with antibiotic resistant bacteria,” said Doyle, not routine treatment of animals. The panel reviewed 20 years of research into antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance to make their claims. — Mike Deering, WLJ Editor  

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Monday, July 10,2006

Beef Talk: Grazing plan will eliminate the need to hit panic button

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
Around mid-June to early July, Mother Nature usually kicks summer into gear. The first noticeable symptom in the upper Great Plains is an increase in temperature and a decrease in moisture. It’s a thin line in determining if a drought is in progress, or if one is simply experiencing good haying weather. There is a concern surfacing, however, that livestock feed may be in short supply. Panic may be too harsh of a word, but some producers do panic. Before the panic button is pushed, some simple principles need to be noted. If a grazing system is not in place, now is the time for action. Go see a grazing specialist and get a plan started. The North Dakota State University Extension Service or Natural Resources Conservation Service, located in almost every county in the country, could help a producer get started. A decade of poor grazing management will take several grazing seasons to correct so normal production can occur. Operations that have effective grazing systems in place are in a position to manage through dry times as well as wet times without upsetting the focused direction of the ranch operation. A basic principle of grazing management calls for 30 pounds of dry matter per day for a 1,200-pound cow/calf pair. A similar amount is destined to end up in a haystack somewhere for every day the 1,200-pound cow needs to be fed when confined. Granted, these are basic numbers that have a significant cushion for waste and some carryover. Larger cows need more and smaller cows need less, but if a producer can find six months of grazing, then six 1,000-pound bales should get baled up and hauled home to provide a feed base for the non-grazing months and adequate acres need to be available during the grazing period. How many acres does it take? Producers can find the answer to that question by visiting a range specialist familiar with their local landscape. For producers stocking 1,200-pound cows in southwestern North Dakota on lowlands, 1.43 acres per animal a month is needed under good range conditions. That figure goes all the way up to 6.88 acres per animal a month in pastures that are in fair range condition, but dry, according to Lee Manske, Dickinson Research Extension Center range specialist. Upland landscapes in good range condition could be stocked at 2.29 acres per animal a month with 1,200-pound cows. These generic stocking rates equate to just less than 14 grazing acres per cow. In addition, six acres are needed for hay, provided 1,000 pounds of hay is harvested from each acre. In a normal year, 2,000 productive acres would support 100 mother cows and their calves until weaning and allow producers to get a good night’s sleep. If you travel east, by the time you get out of North Dakota, you could very easily be closer to 1,300 acres and if you travel farther west or to drier climates in general, the acre requirement is going to go up. None of us have a direct line to Mother Nature. Even Mother Nature simply averages the good with the bad and goes on from year to year. But in these years, where it appears to be drying out, take a quick count of your acres and your cattle. Figure out what type of land you are grazing, and what your typical hay yields are going to be, and get a good estimate of the weight of your cows. If the numbers start to add up to more than what the books are telling you, a survival plan needs to be put in place, which means the producer sells cows or buys hay. Don’t panic. Assess your operation first, seek out good advice, develop a plan and stick to it.

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Monday, July 10,2006

Fed trade stagnant

by WLJ
Fed cattle trade was at a standstill last Thursday with packers and feeders several dollars between asking and offer prices. Thursday afternoon, $5 split the two. Jim Gill at Texas Cattle Feeders Association said he didn’t expect trade to develop until late Friday. “We haven’t seen a trade one. People are going to be asking $85-86 and packers will be offering $81, is my guess. I think we stand a good chance of getting $85,” said Gill. Most analysts last week were calling for mostly steady trade, when it finally developed. Retail movement was light to moderate leaving packers with plenty of supply and not enough demand to continue paying the feedlots’ asking prices on a short kill week. With this said, one can assume with validity that warehouses are packed full of beef, adding to an existing plentiful supply with a steady to sluggish demand. USDA estimated last week’s slaughter number at 375,000 head Thursday. This number is down significantly from the week prior’s 497,000 head and up from last year’s 359,000 head as a result of the Fourth of July holiday. Last Thursday, 125,000 were slaughtered, which was dead-even with a week earlier, but 7,000 head more than 2005. With light retail demand Thursday afternoon, boxed beef prices also took a downward trend. Choice cutout was at $153.29, down 91 cents. Select cutout values dropped 33 cents to $131.33. Although boxed beef was down, retail trade is still stronger than a year ago and looks to maintain good support on moderate demand. According to Darrell Mark, economist at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, the question now becomes what hap-pens to demand after the holiday break. “We can expect to see some fill-in business after the holiday as weather looked to be conducive for grilling over the weekend. This should help support beef values for the rest of the week,” said Mark. “However, business that has been transacted on a forward basis has taken place at lower money.” Carcass weights are still running approximately 14 lbs. above year ago levels and along with this is an expected increase in Choice grading cattle in the weeks ahead. This, along with an expected seasonal decrease in demand for middle meats, will likely begin to weigh on cutout values as next week progresses, according to Mark. “As of right now, we would not expect beef values to crash and burn, however, a pull back into the lower to mid $140s would seem very reasonable basis the Choice cutout,” he said. End meats should hold together better than middles as, seasonally, buyers turn to these items as lower priced alternatives to more expensive cuts in late summer and into the fall. A resumption of Asian beef trade is also expected to lend support to round and chuck values as China opens their borders and Japan prepares to do so by the end of this month. Mark said to look for boxed beef market values to soften further early next week. Last week’s Chicago Mercantile Exchange trade was volatile, trading lower. On Thursday last week, August contracts traded 90 points down, closing at $85.95. October fell 58 points to close at $89.88. December contracts dropped 48 points, settling at $90.25. Feeder cattle Auction markets remained strong across the country for the most part. However, due to the holiday, little auction trade circulated as most livestock markets were closed. The two largest, Joplin, MO, and Oklahoma City, OK, closed their doors to honor Independence Day. Last Monday in Woodward, OK, a solid run of feeder steers averaged $1-2 higher. Feeder heifers were $2-4 higher, with instances of 850 to 900 lb. heifers selling $6 higher. Steer calves sold $2-3 higher, while heifers sold $4 up. Demand was described as very good for all classes. In Sioux Falls, SD, Thursday, a little over 400 head sold. Compared to last week, feeder steers over 975 lbs. sold steady to $2 higher with the greatest advance over 1,100 lbs. Buyer demand was called good. In Nebraska markets last week, 6,525 head sold. These numbers included Bassett Livestock Auction, Bassett, NE, Huss Livestock Market LLC, Kearney, NE, and Loup City Commission Co, Loup City, NE. Compared to the previous week, steers under 800 lbs. sold steady to $2 higher and over 800 lbs. sold $3-5 higher. Heifers under 700 lbs. sold $3-5 higher and over 700 lbs. sold $1-2 higher. The bulk of the trade consisted of average to good quality yearlings off of short summer grass. Demand was described as good to very good for all classes and weight ranges. The auctions maintaining the upward trend certainly served as no representative for the futures market. Midday trading last Thursday showed an upward pattern, but that quickly changed with contracts in all months dragging lower before the close. August contracts traded $1.20 lower to close at $116.05, down from Wednesday’s $117.25. Downward was September trading, slumping $1.11 to settle at $115.75. October lacked 73 points from the day prior’s trade, closing Thursday at $114.83. November closed $1.20 lower. — WLJ  

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Monday, July 10,2006

Idaho producers hold mid-year meeting

by WLJ
—New policies on beef for troops set. Members of the Idaho Cattle Association (ICA) met in Jackpot, NV, June 20-22 for the annual Mid Year Conference. Nearly 150 producers were in attendance as members heard the latest updates on policy priorities important to Idaho’s cattle industry, and those present set new policy positions in place to guide the association in the coming months. The conference was highlighted by the announcement of an Executive Order by Governor Jim Risch—also a cattle producer and ICA member—that outlines the steps that will be taken by the state to regain the Brucellosis Class Free Status that was lost in January. Those steps include the development of a brucellosis management plan and appointing of a task force that will develop recommendations to manage wildlife and cattle interactions in eastern Idaho. Updates were provided on the efforts of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) by Andy Groseta, NCBA Policy Division Chairman and Cottonwood, AZ, cattle producer and Cevin Jones, NCBA Region 5 Vice President and Eden, ID, cattle feeder. Groseta and Jones provided an update on NCBA’s push to permanently repeal the Death Tax, amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and exempt manure from regulation as a hazardous substance, among other issues. Conference attendees enjoyed a presentation by Dr. Sam Barringer, a veterinarian with Pfizer. Dr. Barringer has served for over a year in Iraq as a veterinarian and major in the Army Reserves, assisting with animal health, human health, and biosecurity issues. Dr. Barringer offered personal insight into the positive efforts of the U. S. Military to make life better for everyday Iraqis. Ty Groshans of the American Angus Association provided those present with an update on the Angus Source program. Angus Source is a program that provides source verification services to producers that utilize Angus genetics. The Wolf Management Workshop included representatives of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Governor’s Office of Species of Conservation, and USDA-Wildlife Services. Panel speakers outlined the steps that have been taken to facilitate state management of wolves until delisting of wolves in Idaho becomes a reality. Planning efforts are underway for future workshops around the state. New policy positions were also taken by members at the conference, including the decision that ICA will work with Idaho’s Congressional Delegation and NCBA to ensure that U.S. troops are supplied with U.S. beef. ICA also took a position on the proposed Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act. Based on existing ICA policy stating concern for the creation of wilderness and of permanent grazing buyouts, while also recognizing the right of individuals to seek solutions that are in their best interest, ICA does not support the passage of this legislation as currently written because it will potentially establish a precedent for grazing permit buyouts and it fails to adequately protect and promote grazing within the SNRA and the proposed Boulder White Clouds Management Area. — WLJ  

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Monday, July 10,2006

New Mexico producers meet in spite of drought

by WLJ
Over 100 cowboys from across New Mexico converged on Silver City, NM, recently, despite drought and fire, for the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) mid-year meeting. Caren Cowen, executive director for NMCGA, was pleased by the conference. “It was a good turn out in light of the drought and fires.” Cowen continued, “Policy issues discussed included a measured approach to death tax reform and capitol gains as well as the need for the IRS to provide longer time frame for 1031 exchange on lands sales. Other resolutions addressed water rights, jaguar critical habitat, The Nature Conservancy involvement in federal land management, country of origin labeling, archeological clearances necessary for land conservation projects, the state’s growing elk herd and other state issues.” A new membership contract was unveiled to the attendees with hopes of attracting more interest and support for the organization. Cowen was pleased with the conference and looks forward to next year as the group has already begun work on its agenda for the 2007 Legislature.

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Monday, June 26,2006

West Nile season begins early

by WLJ
West Nile Virus has once again started to plague many western states. According to the Centers for Disease Control, active cases of the disease have been detected in mosquitoes and birds in California, Idaho, Utah, South Dakota and Wyoming, and nine other Midwest and East Coast states. In Texas, Mississippi and Colorado, the disease has already been transmitted to humans.   A spring and early summer which has dumped above normal amounts of precipitation in some West Coast states has contributed to the problem by offering mosquitoes more breeding grounds than in past years.   In Utah, parts of which are currently well above normal for precipitation, the problem this year comes six weeks sooner than last year. Utah County Department of Health spokesman Lance Madigan said the batch of mosquitoes that tested positive was in Goshen, UT. That area was the center of West Nile activity during the 2005 season. “There’s a lot of marshy land down in the south end of the county,” Madigan said. “That’s why we’ve been planning on doing aerial spraying down there.”   Utah County officials also emphasized the need to vaccinate horses. The county led the state in equine cases of West Nile Virus in 2005.   The county regularly samples mosquito larvae found in standing water to locate pools of the disease. This is the first positive mosquito test in the state, although two magpies tested positive for the virus in Salt Lake County last month. In an effort to be proactive and limit the spread of the disease, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Forestry has offered $150,000 in grants this year to assist communities with mosquito spraying costs. Several other states, including South Dakota, have also set up grant programs in an effort to control the spread of mosquitoes which have been found to carry the disease. South Dakota’s grant program is expected to spend $518,000 this year in an attempt to limit the spread of the disease.   In Colorado, where much of the state is much drier than normal, one of only a handful of human cases so far nationally was confirmed in Weld County, located in the north central portion of the state. In western Colorado along the Utah border, officials have also found the disease in Mesa County in a bird submitted to the Department of Health for testing. The impact of the disease on horses can be serious and, in many cases, fatal.   Veterinarians in most states are recommending that horse owners vaccinate animals as soon as possible in an effort to minimize the likelihood of infection. Because the vaccine requires a series of shots, it is important to begin the vaccination process before the disease begins to spread more rapidly.   In horses that do become clinically ill, the virus infects the central nervous system and causes symptoms of encephalitis. Clinical signs can include: loss of appetite, depression, fever, weakness of hind limbs, paralysis of hind limbs, impaired vision, ataxia, head pressing, aimless wandering, convulsions, inability to swallow, circling, hyperexcitability, or coma.   In humans, infections are generally mild, and symptoms include fever, headache, and body aches, occasionally with skin rash and swollen lymph glands. More severe human infection may result in headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis, and rarely, death. In order to avoid being infected, health department officials recommend the following precautions be taken to limit exposure to insect vectors of the disease:   • Drain standing water near the house and work areas.   • Avoid being outside at times when mosquitoes are most active, particularly at dawn and dusk.   • If you cannot avoid being outside at dawn and dusk, use a mosquito repellent which contains DEET to help prevent insect bites.   • When practical, wear long sleeve shirts and pants to limit the amount of skin exposure. Although West Nile Virus is not frequently transmitted to humans, health department officials across the nation are urging caution this year and warn individuals who exhibit any of the symptoms listed above to contact their health care provider immediately.

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Monday, June 19,2006

Beef Talk: Keep your bull at home

by Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University
There is nothing more serious in the cattle business than buying a bull. Much time is spent evaluating available information, such as performance data and pedigree, to assure that the right bull is brought home. Not everyone will use the right information (a personal bias), but when the gavel strikes the podium, the bull has a new owner and home. The process essentially has bonded the bull to the new operation. There is always the need to look over the fence as the bull settles into the new surroundings. With the increasing size of the beef cowherds, multiple purchases are common for more operations. With reasonable cull prices (local sale results show bulls weighing a ton netting more than $1,500 in the sale ring), a very real option is to sell marginal bulls and replace them with improved sires. This leads to serious bull sorting and buying and the ultimate end point, bull turnout. For most beef operations, bull turnout is in progress or soon to begin. Trailing or hauling cows to pasture is one task that, with today’s high fuel prices and equipment expenses, needs to be thought through to minimize trips. Bull turnout is just another reminder of the need to travel and position bulls and cows accordingly. Bulls and cows simply don’t appear in the same pasture. A fairly thought-out process needs to be completed to assure that every animal gets to the proper pasture. The Dickinson Research Extension Center routinely travels 50 miles round trip to deliver bulls to cow pastures. The trip is not going to break the bank, but repeated trips add up. As bulls are prepared for turnout, breeding soundness exams already should be in hand. Any bull that turned up infertile already should have had the opportunity to visit the local sale barn. In case the infertile bull was kept for a recheck, don’t forget to do the recheck and, at the same time, check for new problems that weren’t detected during the earlier breeding soundness exam. As the bulls start detecting the presence of cows beginning to cycle, keep an eye out for any aggressive fighting that has created some lameness. Lameness and subsequent pain are important to detect because subtle structural unsoundness will not improve in the breeding pen. Most producers can recall the new bull that never got turned out. Rivalry in the bull pen benched the bull and the dollars invested before delivery to the cow pasture. It is frustrating, but bulls are bulls and even a roughneck takes second seat to bulls that have a focused intention. Perhaps a sigh of relief is in order as the bulls walk out of the trailer and greet the cows. The territory is ripe for problems and the need to recheck pastures becomes a routine activity, even with high fuel prices. Structural problems or pain related to injury takes a toll. Reproductive issues, including bulls that injure their penis regardless of the cause, can result in a bull that has no interest in breeding cows. A bull not breeding cows easily will cost $40 in lost revenue per day. The bottom line is that monitoring a bull is important. The failure to pick up and replace nonperforming bulls hits the pocketbook. With all the challenges of maintaining an effective, sound and performance orientated bull herd, the end reward is good calves that fit the market. All the headaches are worth it, unless the worst-case scenario occurs: Upon checking the cows, you find the neighbor’s bull is in your pasture.

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Monday, June 19,2006

Canada will wait for U.S. on feed ban

by WLJ
Agri-Food Canada has been working to put a newly enhanced feed ban in effect for several years. The new regulations would eliminate the inclusion of all specified risk materials in all animal feed, not just cattle feed. However, last week, Agri-Food Canada said the agency would postpone any rule-making decisions until the U.S. publishes a similar change to its feed ban. Canadian officials said the delay was made at the request of the Canadian beef industry which hopes to harmonize its regulations to those of the U.S. in order to be more competitive. Cattle producers last week applauded the delay in implementation. If the rule is scrapped, it will help Canada maintain a competitive edge, while also lowering processing costs which would increase significantly if the industry was forced to dispose of the waste covered by the proposed rule. While Canada waits for direction from the U.S., there appears to be little movement in that direction. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which is responsible for monitoring feed production, is not currently considering any tightening of its feed ban regulations which prohibit the feeding of ruminant animal protein to cattle, while allowing the feeding of poultry litter and plate waste. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency first announced two years ago that it planned to issue an updated feed ban which would eliminate all specified risk materials, condemned cattle, carcasses, and other products from all animal feed, pet food and fertilizers. The delay may put those changes on hold permanently if the U.S. does not show intention to follow suit. Last summer, former FDA commissioner Lester Crawford announced FDA intended to introduce a similar ban to the one proposed in Canada and already in effect in Europe. Crawford resigned his post three days after making the announcement, which left the controversial proposal with few supporters either in the industry or the government. Instead of the strict feed ban originally proposed by Crawford, FDA instituted a modified ruminant feed ban which prohibits the use of ruminant brain, spinal column, distal ileum and other specified risk materials (SRMs) from being used in the production of feed for cattle. Dr. Steven Sundlof of FDA said removing just the brain and spinal cord would greatly reduce any remaining risk while minimizing waste disposal problems. “By removing the brains and spinal cords from the animal feed stream, you’ve taken out 90 percent of the risk,” he said. Last October, FDA moved to further tighten the feed ban. Under the new rule, brains and spinal cords from cattle older than 30 months would be banned from all animal feeds, they said. The brain and spinal cord are among the SRMs—the tissues most likely to contain bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) prions if an animal is infected. Agri-Food Canada’s decision last week brought swift criticism from opponents on both sides of the border. Dr. Neil Cashman of PrioNet Canada, a group devoted to studying brain wasting diseases, including BSE, said the ban “should be instituted as soon as possible.” — John Robinson, WLJ Editor  

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