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Friday, July 18,2008

41 Beef Bits

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

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Friday, July 18,2008

Tips for a successful battle against Mycoplasma bovis

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

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Friday, July 18,2008

Buy-in waiver for disaster assistance programs underway

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

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Friday, July 18,2008

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

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

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Friday, July 18,2008

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

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

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Friday, June 27,2008

Cattle markets lower on surging corn futures

by WLJ
Cattle markets lower on surging corn futures Skyrocketing grain futures put a damper on fed cattle futures last week, which through Wednesday had traded mostly steady for near-term contracts. The futures are still well ahead of the current cash trade, which has been enough to encourage yards to keep their pens full. All near-term fed cattle futures were down late in Thursday’s trade, with June contracts dropping 5 cents lower to $98, August losing 55 cents to $103.85, and October contracts moving 60 cents lower to $111.27. The reopening of beef trade with South Korea, along with expectations for higher protein prices in coming months has helped maintain confidence in cattle markets as the year moves forward, though the decline in the Choice-Select spread still remains as a cause for concern. The situation negatively impacts feeders, who are already operating in the red as a result of high grain prices. "Market analysts and cattlemen will likely point to various reasons for the counter seasonal decline in the spread during the first five months of the year," noted market consultant Steve Meyer. "In our opinion, the main culprit is the deterioration in food service demand at the same time when feedlot inventories were larger than a year ago." Meyer also lays partial blame on the attitude of feeders and their tendency to keep cattle on feed for longer. "It did not help that feedlots were holding on to cattle as long as they could in hopes of getting a better deal and, in the process, putting a bit more fat on their animals, thus boosting the choice beef supply," he explained. "Currently the spread is back to more ‘normal’ levels and we suspect that the spread will get a bit larger going forward as feedlots have fewer head on feed and as they try to turn them a bit faster..." As evidenced by the latest cattle on feed report, cattle supplies are not expected to grow anytime soon, and analysts say that when looking at current feeder cattle price premiums to fed cattle, a significant herd reduction is doubtful anytime soon. Wachovia Capital Markets analyst Dan Vaught explained in a conference call last week that cattle markets typically hold up well during recessions, as consumers buy more retail meat for eating at home rather than dining out. Though a severe cutback in cattle supplies are unlikely, says Vaught, these consumer trends should help keep prices strong going forward. "In my opinion, we are not going to see a big cutback in cattle supplies this year. Any decrease will be demand-driven, not supply-driven," he said. Packers were reluctant to do cash business early in the week, preferring to hold off until later rather than meet early asking prices, though there were signs on Thursday that significant trade could develop if packers showed interest in bidding higher. DTN analyst John Harrington noted that, "buying interest does seem to be improving with early bids around $94-95 in the South and $150-153 in the North. Asking prices are holding at $98-99 in the South and $155-158 in the North. We could see trade develop today if packers are willing to show enough money, though aggressive cash business may be more likely on Friday." Indeed, while trade volume remained at a standstill at midday Thursday, buying interest seemed to be slowly improving. At least one regional buyer in the North who offered to "call in" at $155, with the best bid from a major packer in the North being $152. The South remained at a virtual standstill with buyers waiting until Friday before showing serious interest. Beef cutouts jumped significantly higher, with Choice gaining 92 cents to go to $164.62, and Select going $1.41 higher to $159.60. Light to moderate box movement was seen early, with 56.08 loads of choice cuts, 57.57 loads of select cuts, 22.55 loads of trim, and 37.82 loads of grind. Thursday’s slaughter total of 127,000 brought the week-to-date total to 508,000, which was 5,000 head above one year ago. Feeder cattle Luckily for most producers, last week’s cash trade for feeder cattle didn’t suffer the same blow that the futures market did, as near-term feeder cattle futures all lost as a result of higher corn futures. June corn contracts finished Wednesday up 17.4 cents, which was enough to scare August feeder cattle futures down 92 cents, closing at $112.55. A bullish cattle on feed report and a shrinking supply of quality feeder cattle has motivated feedlots to keep their pens full, and prices have started rebounding from the corn price scare of previous weeks. Feeders continued last week to seek out those cattle which are heavier and will spend fewer days on feed, especially those quality cattle with good preconditioning programs and health records. "The best demand was noted for the heaviest feeders (which were responsible for most of the steady trends) as feedlots search for ways to limit expensive days on feed," explained USDA market reporter Corbitt Wall. "Feeder cattle prices are on the verge of inverting as cost-of-gains surpass the value of the cattle. This could change the way we view feeder markets if heavier cattle yield a higher price/cwt than lighter weights and fleshy cattle have more value than those in thin condition, which could be hard for buyers to swallow." Some demand exists for lighter-weight feeders to turn out on grass, but due to the increased attention on heavy cattle, prices for light feeder calves have been suffering, with demand slowing for these cattle where prices remain steady. "Calf demand is suffering as backgrounders have lost interest in feeding commodity feed to calves and those that exclusively graze calves have already turned their cattle out," said Wall. "Midwestern farmer-feeders usually pick up the calf market this time of year, as they mostly have their crops planted and are looking for a summer project. But, these producers are banking on selling corn this year and many in the flooded regions are not sure how much corn they’ll have anyway." Fed cattle contracts, which have reached near their historic highs, have helped to re-boost the confidence of those seeking feeder cattle for cash, but Wall says that it may not matter how much live cattle are worth if feedyards can’t find some way to cut their cost of gain. "These lofty price levels look promising to cattle feeders but a profit will still be very difficult to obtain if they have to grind $7.50 per bushel corn," he notes. "Most commercial feedlots have been implementing at least some level of by-product feeds in their ration to cut costs. Increased competition for these feedstuffs has caused prices to escalate as Distiller’s Dried Grains increased by as much as $25 per ton this week alone." Last week’s sale at the Oklahoma National Stockyards saw receipts of 8,556, and compared to the week previous, feeder steers and heifers sold $2-3 higher. Steer and heifer calves were not well tested, but the few weaned calves available sold near steady. Demand was good for all classes except unweaned new crop calves, which found narrow outlets. The run continued to include significant numbers of plainer cattle from outside of the area, and also included were several shipments of light, No. 2, thin-weaned calves that found fairly good acceptance. Steers weighing an average of 723 lbs. sold for $111.17, while 725 lb. heifers brought $102.96. The Joplin Regional Stockyards near Joplin, MO, received 5,973 head last week, where steers were $1-3 higher. Heifers under 650 lbs. were steady, with weights over 650 lbs. steady to $2 higher. Demand was moderate to good for the moderate supply. Several load lots of yearlings were in the offering. Steers weighing 722 lbs. sold for $111.77, while heifers weighing 732 lbs. sold at $102.26. A total of 1,862 head were received at last week’s Winter Livestock Feeder Cattle Auction in Dodge City, KS, where compared with the last week, steers weighing 800-900 lbs. went $3-5 higher. Heifers weighing from 500-700 lbs. were steady to firm. There were not enough cattle in other classes and weights for an adequate market test, though a steady to firm undertone was noted. Feeder steers weighing 722 lbs. sold at $113, while heifers weighing 680 lbs. were good for $105.27. There were 3,200 head received last week at the Bassett Livestock Auction in Bassett, NE, where good quality weaned fall calves and yearlings coming off of grass made up the bulk of the consignments. Due to no sale the previous week, a market trend was not established. Demand was strongest for 800-900 weight cattle. Steers weighing 716 lbs. sold for $119.15, while 733 lb. heifers brought $109.41. Last week’s sale at the La Junta Livestock Commission Company in La Junta, CO, saw 1,032 reported receipts, with feeder steers and heifers steady to $1 higher. Demand was noted as good for the cattle offered, with 793 lb. steers selling for $104, and 713 lb. heifers going for $101.50. The Stockland Livestock Auction in Davenport, WA, received 540 head last week, not enough for an accurate trend. However, a firm undertone was noted. Buyer demand was noted as moderate to good for most classes of feeder cattle. Buyers paid $99.48 for 718 lb. steers, while heifers weighing an average of 728 lbs. sold for $94.71. — WLJ

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Friday, June 27,2008

Beef Bits

by WLJ
Tenderness may soon have test Depending on the outcome of research being conducted by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), claims of "tender" beef may soon have to be verifiable, according to AMS Livestock and Meat Marketing Specialist Kerry Smith. The agency is busy working on the feasibility of setting objective standards of tenderness, and has had four subcommittees working on key elements of the issue since March 2007. Several universities, representatives from industry, other government organizations, trade groups and retail professionals have all been included in the process. By July, AMS plans to have an updated Web site where interested parties can follow the progress of the initiative at www.ams.usda.gov/sat. Carl’s Jr. shifts menu, will open in China Carpinteria, CA-based Carl’s Jr. restaurants will soon have stores opening in China, after CKE Restaurants announced that it is partnering with BreadTalk Group Limited and Aspac F&B International to open 100 franchised Carl’s Jr. restaurants in the country over the next eight years. Beijing and Shanghai will see the openings of the first stores sometime before March of 2009, with locations in the municipality of Tianjin and the provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu to follow. The plan comes on the heels of Carl’s Jr.’s announcement that it will be placing the Prime Rib Six Dollar Burger on its menu in a move which goes against the fast food industry’s recent reliance on value menu items. The new premium burger is a part of the chain’s line of "meat-as-a-condiment" offerings. Hallmark supervisor takes plea deal Daniel Ugarte Navarro recently pleaded no contest to charges of animal cruelty stemming from an undercover investigation which showed Navarro and another employee abusing non-ambulatory cattle at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing plant in Chino, CA. The case ultimately led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history. Another worker pleaded guilty in March to three misdemeanor counts and was sentenced to six months in jail. Navarro faced five felony and three misdemeanor counts and up to eight years in prison, but pleaded no contest to two felony counts of animal cruelty and two misdemeanor counts related to illegal moving of crippled cows. Under the terms of his plea deal, he will face a sentence of 210 to 365 days in jail when he returns to court in August. Cold storage report sets record USDA’s cold storage report for May 2008 set a record for the decline in total pork stocks: the draw-down of 85 million pounds topped the previous record of 52 million pounds set in 2005. Total pork stocks, at 567 million pounds, still is 15 percent above stores from May 2007, but 13 percent below the level of just a month earlier. Meanwhile, total beef in cold storage is about flat with levels of a year ago and a month ago. Overall, total meat of all types in cold storage is 10 percent above levels of a year ago, but 8 percent lower than a month ago. Poultry, meanwhile, is stacking up more quickly. Chicken stores in May, at 754 million pounds, were 23 percent above levels of a year ago, and even with the month earlier. Shoppers trading down beef grades, cuts As food shoppers "trade down" to cope with higher food prices, they will likely purchase cheaper cuts of meat and lower beef grades, a retail food consultant said on recently. These cut and grade trade downs can be expected in addition to some shoppers choosing cheaper proteins pork and chicken over beef, Willard Bishop Managing Partner Jim Hertel said during a Webinar on the future of food retailing. Hertel predicted food inflation as high as 7 percent to 11 percent annually for at least the next two years, as increased global protein demand, reduced global grain production and biofuels competition for feed inputs such as corn continue. Red meat production at record high for May U.S. commercial red meat production totaled 4.22 billion pounds in May, up 4 percent from the 4.08 billion pounds produced in May 2007, USDA said in its monthly Livestock Slaughter report. Beef production, at 2.38 billion pounds, was 4 percent above the previous year. Cattle slaughter totaled 3.14 million head, up 3 percent from May 2007. The average live weight was up 19 pounds from the previous year, at 1,251 pounds. Pork production totaled 1.82 billion pounds, up 3 percent from the previous year. January to May 2008 commercial red meat production was 21.0 billion pounds, up 7 percent from 2007. Accumulated beef production was up 4 percent from last year, pork was up 11 percent from last year, veal was down 11 percent and lamb and mutton production was down 4 percent.

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Friday, June 27,2008

Grant extended to eradicate scrapie in Colorado sheep and goat herds

by WLJ
Grant extended to eradicate scrapie in Colorado sheep and goat herds The Colorado Department of Agriculture has received a grant extension by USDA to help sheep producers with the cost of testing their herds for scrapie susceptibility. "The Department began this program in September 2003 and it has been extremely successful," said assistant state veterinarian, Dr. Keith Roehr. "A genetic test can detect resistance to scrapie so we are very happy to have this grant to help protect Colorado’s sheep industry." Scrapie is an infectious, and fatal, disease of sheep and goats, which causes a degeneration of the central nervous system resulting in a variety of behavioral and locomotive changes. The disease is a member of a family called Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs). In 1947, the first case of scrapie was diagnosed in the U.S. in sheep originating from Britain via Canada. Scrapie costs the sheep industry between $20-25 million per year, but resistance to the disease in sheep can be determined by a genetic test. The grant funds will pay for half of the testing costs on a total of 500 rams and 200 ewe lambs. The Rocky Mountain Regional Animal Health Lab performs this test for $13.75 for the first 10 samples and $11 per additional animal. Through the cost share program within the federal grant, the cost is reduced for the producer by half. Producers who want to participate in the program must have all sheep tagged with an official premises identification tag. Premises identification tags are available by calling toll free 866/USDA-TAG. "Producers are required to tag goats due to Colorado’s loss of commercial goat status," continued Roehr. "If Colorado is to receive that status again, we must remain vigilant in protecting our herds from this disease." Educational outreach to sheep and goat industries is another important factor for the grant; meetings are being planned across the state to help educate livestock owners about scrapie and how to protect their herds. Additional details on the meetings will be sent at a later date. To register for genetic testing or to set up a meeting, contact Ed Kline at 303/249-0685. — WLJ

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Friday, June 27,2008

Watch for blue-green algae

by WLJ
Watch for blue-green algae Producers should be on the lookout for green to blue-green scum or a gelatinous mass on the surface of their livestock’s fresh water supplies. "Algae blooms cause major disruptions not only because of their offensive odor and appearance; they can be potentially fatal to livestock," says Roxanne Johnson, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension Service water quality associate. "Not all algae blooms are toxic, but without laboratory analysis, it is impossible to identify poisonous species." This scum actually is not an algae, but photosynthetic bacteria called cyanobacteria that rely on sunlight for energy. As they store energy, they create a tiny cavity of air that allows them to move up and down in the water to areas with more nutrients. As environmental conditions improve with warm weather, calm winds and abundant nutrients (particularly phosphorus and nitrogen), the bacteria numbers increase. A "bloom" of green or blue-green algae on the surface of the water may appear overnight, accompanied by an unmistakable musty, earthy or putrid odor. "As cyanobacteria break down, they release toxins that can be an irritant to human skin and potentially lethal to animals," Johnson says. Concentrations of algae develop as wind moves the toxin to the leeward, or downward, shore, where producers may find evidence of toxicity, such as dead mice, snakes and other animals near the water's edge. Toxicity is dependent on the species consuming the water, and the concentration and the amount of water ingested. Blue-green algae produce two toxins, each with different symptoms. Signs of neurotoxin poisoning usually appear within 15 to 20 minutes after ingestion. In animals, symptoms include weakness, staggering, difficulty in breathing, convulsions and ultimately death. In humans, symptoms may include numbness of the lips, tingling in fingers and toes, and dizziness. Signs of liver poisoning may take hours or days to appear. Liver toxins can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting in humans and death in animals. Most blooms are obvious to the naked eye; however, blue-green algae can be present in water without a visible bloom, Johnson says. She advises producers to treat their water if they've previously had blooms. Treatments include using an aeration/mixing device to create turbulence in the water or minimizing nutrient levels by establishing vegetated buffer strips around the water to intercept nutrients before they reach the water. Another long-term strategy is limiting livestock’s pond or dugout access to areas that have been stabilized to prevent damage from trampling. Producers also may choose to pump water to a tank or trough after fencing the water source to keep livestock out. Johnson advises producers to clean stock tanks on an annual basis to keep algae growth to a minimum. Some producers are adding dyes, such as Aquashade, Blue Lagoon and Admiral, to nonflowing pond water to filter out ultraviolet rays. According to the products’ labels, this treatment is most effective when used early in the season for water intended for livestock consumption. It is not recommended for human drinking water. Algaecides, such as copper sulfate, are effective in killing algae blooms. However, these algaecides also can kill fish and damage the ecosystem of inland waters, Johnson says. Lethal levels of toxins may result as a consequence of algae cell walls rupturing when copper sulfate is used. For procedures on treating water, check out NDSU Extension Service publication AS-954, "Livestock and Water." It’s available online at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/livestoc/as954w.htm. Other treatments include suspending barley straw loosely in a mesh bag in the affected pond. A study from the Center for Aquatic Plant Management in Berkshire, England, says the most effective time to apply straw is before algae growth begins because the anti-algae agents released by the straw are more effective in preventing algae growth than in killing algae already present. The straw becomes active within a month and will continue to inhibit algae growth up to six months. "While there are no quick fixes to control blue-green algae once they appear, reducing the amount of nutrients washed into ponds may eventually lessen the intensity of the bloom," Johnson says. — WLJ

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