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Monday, March 7,2005

Most dairy cattle to be TB tested prior to entering Texas

by WLJ
Beginning March 18, Texas will join more than 33 other states that require most dairy cows and dairy bulls to have a negative test for bovine tuberculosis (TB) within 60 days before entering the state. Targeted animals entering Texas will have to be officially identified with an ear tag and will be restricted at a designated facility until they test negative for TB at six months of age. With 807 registered dairies, Texas ranks among the top 10 states in the nation for dairy cattle and milk production. Nearly 62,000 dairy replacement animals entered the state in 2004. The new regulation provides testing exemptions for dairy cattle that originate from herds tested yearly under a TB-accreditation program, neutered dairy cattle being fed for slaughter, and dairy cattle delivered directly to slaughter. These animals, however, must have a certificate of veterinary inspection, issued within 30 days prior to movement. “During the past 18 months, the 335,000 cattle in Texas’ dairies have been tested for cattle TB, and it is only prudent to ensure that incoming replacement dairy cattle also are free of the disease,” said Dr. Dee Ellis, who heads up animal health programs for the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). Beef cattle will continue to enter Texas under existing regulations. Ellis pointed out that concerns about cattle TB in dairy operations have increased, particularly after four dairies and two related operations were found to be infected detected during the 2004 federal fiscal year, from October 2003 through September 2004. Two infected herds and a dairy heifer-raising facility were found in New Mexico, a dairy heifer-raising facility in Arizona, states which had USDA’s TB-free designation. An infected dairy was found in Michigan. During Texas’ statewide dairy testing, an infected herd was found in Hamilton County, and subsequently depopulated. Ellis explained that infected cattle can expose herd mates to the TB bacteria by coughing or contaminating feed with drool or nasal discharge. In confined operations, like dairies, TB can spread more readily. Because dairy animals often are kept for several years, infected animals can develop the characteristic internal lesions in the lungs, lymph nodes and other organs, and begin the cycle of disease exposure again. Infected cattle may pose a risk to handlers who work with the animals daily. Milk from commercial dairies, is heat-treated, or pasteurized, to kill bacteria. At slaughter, state or federal meat inspectors examine carcasses, collect tissue samples for testing, and condemn meat unsafe or unfit for human consumption. “Because there is no effective treatment for cattle TB in livestock, infected herds must either destroyed under a government indemnity, or payment, or the herd is placed under quarantine and tested repeatedly over a period of months, until all animals that respond to a test are depopulated. After being released from quarantine, the herd still is subjected to a yearly test for five years, to ensure the animals remain free of the disease, Often, the best option is depopulation, as this eliminates the potential for the disease to reoccur or spread,” said Ellis. After two TB-infected cattle herds were detected in 2001, Texas lost its USDA TB-free designation just a few months shy of its two-year anniversary for achieving the coveted status. New Mexico and California also have lost TB-free status, and Michigan last summer gained split-state status, while it continues to deal with TB in cattle and free-ranging deer in the state’s Upper Peninsula. Ellis said the plan to regain Texas’ TB-free status was developed with the dairy and beef cattle industry, and one aspect involves testing all dairies a chore already accomplished and at least 2,400 purebred or seed stock beef cattle herds. More than 500 beef cattle herds have been tested in Texas, with no TB infection detected, but more herd tests are needed to provide adequate disease surveillance. The USDA has extended funding to pay for herd tests, and more than 500 private veterinary practitioners in Texas are certified to provide the service.

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Monday, March 7,2005

Packer pays damages

by WLJ
A jury in the U.S. District Court in Omaha awarded a judgment in favor of South Sioux city resident Carol Marmo for damages and injuries she suffered due to numerous releases of hydrogen sulfide gas by IBP, Inc. This trial was the culmination of a nearly five year court battle for Mrs. Marmo and vindication for the community in a more than fifteen-year fight against IBP for damages caused by massive chemical emissions from IBP’s Dakota City wastewater treatment facility. Mrs. Marmo is represented by the law firms of Croker Huck Kasher Dewitt & Gonderinger of Omaha and Resolution Law Group, PC of Washington, DC, in her battle. Richard Dewitt, one of the attorneys for Mrs. Marmo, exclaimed, “This is a great victory for the Siouxland community. IBP poisoned the air around its Dakota facility for more than a decade and now they are finally being called to account.” Dewitt then continued, “while this is only the first case of many that will be tried, including cases involving asthmatic adults and children, this result shows that IBP’s behavior will not be tolerated.” During the last decade, the community has been studied by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality cited IBP for violations of law, the Department of Justice has filed suit against IBP, and community members have engaged in a long fight to stop IBP from polluting the local air. “Finally, the community’s right to clean air has been vindicated in the courts,” explained Michael Goodstein of Resolution Law Group,“there are more of these cases to be tried before the impact of IBP’s actions can be fully addressed, but tonight the people and children of Siouxland can breath a little easier.” Mr. Dewitt concluded, “We got involved with these cases because we saw that people in the community—particular the elderly and children—were injured. The stories of respiratory problems and asthma in this community are astounding.” Hydrogen sulfide is a highly toxic gas produced in massive volumes during the processing of wastewater at IBP’s Dakota City facility. The IBP facility emitted nearly a ton a day of this toxin into the environment in the Siouxland area. Persons exposed to hydrogen sulfide, especially sensitive ones such as the elderly or children, can suffer significant distress including eye, nose and throat irritation and asthma. The next trial in this series will begin on April 5, in the Nebraska District Court in Omaha, NE. — WLJ

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Monday, March 7,2005

Researchers compile text on forage toxins

by WLJ
There’s very little chance it will leapfrog “The Da Vinci Code” on any bestseller lists, but a new book compiled and edited by two University of Missouri professors might just gain a devoted cult following. Agronomist Craig Roberts and animal scientist Don Spiers, along with Chuck West of the University of Arkansas, co-edited “Neophytodium in Cool-Season Grasses” (2005 Blackwell Publishing). The less-than-catchy title belies the significance of the work, which addresses every aspect of naturally occurring toxins in pasture grasses’ a huge problem for livestock producers in Missouri and around the world. “Neophytodium” is the Latin word for the fungus also called the endophyte—that occurs in tall fescue grass. Although the endophyte makes tall fescue more resistant to drought and other stresses, the most common strain produces toxins that sicken grazing animals. One of the less obvious symptoms is a dramatic decline in the animal’s weight gain—and the producer’s profits. “It’s been estimated that in the United States, the annual loss to cattle producers alone is $600 million,” Spiers said. “The magnitude of the fescue toxicosis problem is huge. It’s very important to have the latest information on how to address the problem, and this book represents all the authors world-wide who are doing the top work.” He said animal scientists at MU and other institutions are examining genetic markers in grazing animals. “Can we identify animals that are sensitive, remove them and have only those animals that are resistant? Those are the sorts of things we’re looking at.” “Basically, this is an international book,” Roberts said. “It includes contributions from just about every kind of agricultural scientist you can imagine: veterinary toxicology, molecular biology entomology plant pathology, biochemistry—and of course agronomy and animal science. These are all different disciplines, but in here they’re all dealing with toxicology.” Roberts said the book contains “a wide range from basic science to practical applications,” starting with the molecular biology of the endophyte and concluding with “straight practical application: what happens in the field.” Although producers might find the information useful, he said, “It’s intended mostly for educators, researchers and decision-makers in the forage and livestock industry. All graduate students in forage and livestock, veterinary sciences and animal sciences would benefit from this book. They need the straight scoop on this.” A definitive text is long overdue, Roberts said. “With all the phony home remedies, this book will serve as a myth-buster.” The book includes a list of 97 alleged remedies for fescue toxicosis, all recorded by Eldon Cole, MU Extension livestock specialist in Lawrence County. The suggestions are often contradictory and sometimes ridiculous. For example: “Chase sore-footed animals with pickup, horse, dog or four-wheeler to stimulate circulation.” Toxicosis has been a problem in Missouri since the 1940s, when farmers began planting their pastures in tall fescue. “They’ve grown to just accept it as a problem they have to live with, so they take that loss,” Spiers said. “But in this day and time, efficiency is the name of the game, so it’s important they do everything they can to manage this problem.” Roberts predicted that “Neophytodium in Cool-Season Grasses” will have an impact that outstrips its sales figures. “This book will influence agricultural policy,” he said. “Right now, it’s the authoritative book on the subject, and it addresses economics, agriculture, commerce and even ethics.” Spiers agreed. “There is not other book out there as up-to-date as this one is, that has brought all this information together.” For more information or to order a copy of the book, log onto http://store.blackwell-professional.com and insert the following number in the search section (0813801893). — WLJ

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Monday, March 7,2005

Simmental adds $ indices

by WLJ
The American Simmental Association (ASA) has added dollar indices to its Spring 2005 Sire Summary. Working with USDA geneticist, Dr. Mike MacNeil, ASA blended EPDs with five years of economic data on prices and costs to predict the dollar differences between sires when used in a commercial operation. Terminal Index (TI) is designed for evaluating sires’’ economic merit in situations where they are bred to mature Angus cows and all offspring are placed in the feedlot and sold grade and yield. Consequently, maternal traits such as milk, stayability and maternal calving ease are not considered in the index. The All-Purpose Index (API) evaluates sires being used on the entire cow herd (bred to both Angus first-calf heifers and mature cows) with a portion of their daughters being retained for breeding and the remaining heifers and steers being put on feed and sold grade and yield. All EPDs, with the exception of tenderness, are taken into consideration in this index. The indices calculate the estimated differences between bulls in net dollars returned per cow exposed. For example, a bull with a +23 and +1 for TI and API would be expected to return $23 and $1 more per cow exposed than a bull with a 0 for both indexes. Besides being a tool to improve seedstock, commercial producers can use these indices to determine how much a bull is worth. Or, put another way, how much they can pay for one bull compared to another. For example, when buying a terminal sire, a producer can quickly figure a bull scoring +30 for TI is worth an extra $3,600 over a $0 bull if both are exposed to 30 cows over 4 years ($30 x 30 head x 4 years = $3,600). For more information visit ASA’s web site at www.simmental.org, or contact Dr. Wade Shafer at 406/587-4531. — WLJ

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Monday, March 7,2005

Senate opposes Canada imports

by WLJ
— USDA’s final import rule nixed. — House proposal expected next. The full Senate voted 52-46 in favor of a resolution of disapproval against USDA’s proposed final rule concerning imports from “minimum BSE risk” countries. A similar proposal is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives over the next two weeks, sources said. The Senate resolution, originally introduced by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND, specifically cited the issue of allowing live cattle and an expanded category of beef from Canada beginning March 7. The resolution means that a majority of the Senate is against USDA implementing its final rule concerning imports from countries that USDA deems as having minimum risk for BSE and that possible legislation concerning the issue might be proposed in the future if the agency doesn’t work toward amending or changing the rule, congressional aides told WLJ. On the House side, Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-ND, is expected to propose a similar resolution of opposition before mid-month. Aides with several House members said they expect a similar result as in the Senate concerning a vote on the issue. However, the bill is expected to hit a roadblock in the form of President George W. Bush, who isn’t expected to sign it. His veto of the bill could be overrode, but it takes a two-thirds vote in the Senate, and whether that much support exists is uncertain. Aides with several Democrat representatives said that last week’s decision by a federal court judge to delay reopening the border will help efforts to force USDA to rethink the final cattle and beef import rule. In addition, Pomeroy, in a published statement, praised R-CALF USA for its legal challenge of USDA’s rule and said it gives notice that regulatory actions aren’t beyond reproach. “It is not the first time R-CALF has prevailed against USDA in court. The last ruling found that USDA was exploiting a very narrow window for the import of boxed beef and that they had blown open a loophole beyond any recognition. This is the second judicial success they’ve had, and it reflects on the shoddy work product of USDA,” Pomeroy said. — Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor

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Monday, March 7,2005

Southwest rolls out stock ID

by WLJ
A program to register and identify livestock is being launched in Arizona to help quickly trace the origin of diseased animals. The Tri-National Livestock Health and Identification Consortium will begin as a voluntary program but will eventually be required of all livestock breeders and owners, said Katie Decker, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Agriculture. Arizona will join Colorado, New Mexico and two Mexican states in the pilot program. "It's consumer-driven. The consumer wants food safety," she said. The program is being spearheaded by agricultural officials in Colorado, Decker said, and Arizona will sign an agreement later this month to participate. Larger animals will have radio frequency identification tags implanted in their ears. Smaller animals will be tagged differently, but officials haven't yet decided how. The identification system, which will allow authorities to trace the origin of an infected animal within 48 hours, will eventually apply to all but domesticated pets, Decker said. Arizona officials hope to get at least 20% of the state's food producers to participate by the end of the year, said Albert A. Davis, a project specialist with the state agriculture department. Some breeders have already objected to the program, however. "Privacy is a grave concern to ranchers. They don't want their competitors to know their numbers (of cattle)," Davis said. But only the state veterinarian will be given access to the database, and access will be restricted to times when an animal is diagnosed with an infectious disease, like tuberculosis or BSE, Davis said. At least one local cattleman said he plans to sign up his company for the program. "I'm all for it," said Scott Shill, cattle and feedlot manager for Wellton-based McElhaney Cattle Co. "It will improve our ability to track diseases and any kind of problem with the system.” The USDA is expected to eventually require all livestock owners to participate but no date has yet been set. — WLJ

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Monday, March 7,2005

Sun Capital buys Creekstone

by WLJ
Sun Capital Partners, a private investment firms with positions in dozens of U.S. companies, including retailers like Mervyns and Sam Goody, has acquired a majority interest in Creekstone Farms. John Stewart, the company's chairman and holder of a large minority stake, will continue to operate Creekstone. According to Stewart, Sun will also invest additional money in the company to expand its physical plant to give it added scale. "That will allow us access to additional major retail accounts," Stewart said, "and that will put us in a position to become the natural beef leader nationwide.” "We are very enthusiastic about our relationship and investment in Creekstone, a company with a top-notch plant, brand and management team," said Steven Liff, managing director, Sun Capital. “Through our investment, the company will be able to take advantage of new opportunities to grow much faster and accomplish its goal to become the market leader in branded beef.” Creekstone specializes in Black Angus Beef and Natural Black Angus Beef programs, with all animals raised without antibiotics or hormones, fed a vegetarian diet, and source-verified back to the farm of origin. No terms for the acquisition were announced. Additional Creekstone sources indicated to WLJ last week that the company’s inability to test cattle for BSE and ship beef to Japan and other overseas market hurt their ability to compete with larger processors and that getting another investor in the fold helps them maintain their business viability. — WLJ

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Monday, March 7,2005

Texas creates ID

by WLJ
A Texas animal health official says a national animal identification program will help the livestock industry stay ahead of threatening diseases that could hurt farms nationwide. "It (the identification system) enables us to protect animal health in our country as best as we possibly can," Bob Hillman, executive director of the Texas Animal Health Commission, told beef producers at the 43rd Blackland Income Growth Conference recently in Waco. Though a mandatory animal identification program has yet to be established, the animal health commission is already issuing premises identification numbers on a voluntary basis. The commission assigns premises identification numbers to farms, ranches, feedlots, livestock markets and other locations with an address and having livestock handling facilities. Producers can go to the Web at http://www.tahc.state.tx.us and sign up electronically, or call 800-550-8242. Approximately 200 premises identification numbers have been issued statewide, Hillman said. However, electronic ear tags, database infrastructure and other aspects of the system are still in development, hinging on the amount of federal money allocated for the system. Electronic ear tags could be ready for distribution to those with premises identification numbers by mid-year, Hillman says. By 2006 mandatory premises identification could be required, but 2008 is more realistic before required participation in the animal identification program is implemented, he says. If an outbreak of the highly contagious hoof-and-mouth disease were to hit the United States' beef industry, the identification program would allow animal health officials "to get ahead of the disease." "We've got to have that ability," he says. The goal of the national identification system, in cases such as hoof-and mouth disease, is to identify any suspicious animals within 48 hours and all the places they have been. Consumer confidence and strengthening food safety are other advantages the program would bring. — WLJ

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Monday, March 7,2005

USDA: Beef production to slow

by WLJ
Beef production will be slower than expected after Canadian cattle are allowed back into the U.S. this month, the Agriculture Department said. Cattle prices should remain relatively high because of competition between U.S. and Canadian packing houses, according to a report issued by the Agriculture Department’s chief economist. Banned since the discovery of BSE in May 2003 in Alberta, live cattle imports from Canada are scheduled to resume on March 7. “Based on increased slaughter of steers and heifers in Canada, U.S. packers will have to compete more aggressively for the pool of slaughter-ready cattle, somewhat dampening an expected decline in fed steer prices.” Average prices for slaughter-ready cattle should be $80 to $85 per 100 pounds (45 kilograms), the report said. The 2004 average was $84.75. Commercial beef production is estimated to be 25.7 billion pounds (11.6 billion kilograms) this year. That’s 400 million pounds (180 million kilograms) less than the department had projected for 2005. The change was because Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns decided not to allow meat from older Canadian animals into the U.S. on March 7. Now, imports of meat as well as live cattle will be restricted to animals younger than 30 months. The brain-wasting disease is thought to pose less of a risk to younger animals. The department also dropped its estimate for cattle imports, saying it expects Canada to ship about 1.3 million head to the U.S., not two million as previously projected. Ranchers have been seeing near-record prices for cattle, and a ranchers’ group is suing to keep the border closed. A meatpackers group is suing to open the border even wider, expanding what’s allowed to include older animals as well. Packers say the ban has cost the industry more than $1.7 billion in revenues. — WLJ

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Monday, March 7,2005

Tyson fined for environmental violations

by WLJ
Tyson Foods Inc. Springdale, AK, will pay an $18,400 fine to settle several environmental violations that occurred last year at its Temperanceville, VA, poultry processing plant, according to the Virginian-Pilot (Hampton Roads, VA) newspaper. The newspaper said processor will also upgrade the processing plant. The State Water Control Board, which next meets on March 15 in Richmond, must approve the settlement. The board can alter the terms but usually adopts what state regulators have negotiated with violators. According to a proposed settlement with Virginia regulators, problems surfaced at the Accomack County complex last May, when an inspector from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality saw wastewater spilling from an earthen holding pond into a local stream. Processing plant wastes were seeping onto the ground from a malfunctioning pump station nearby, according to case records. The newspaper said the plant reported another wastewater spill two months later about the same time regulators were noticing high levels of copper, a toxic material, in Tyson discharges. Tyson operates its own sewage system at the plant. Under a state permit, the system releases thousands of gallons of treated wastewater per day into Sandy Bottom Branch, a marshy tributary of the Pocomoke Sound and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. Sandy Bottom is classified as impaired by the state environment department, meaning it does not meet clean-water standards in this case because of too much copper and phosphorus. State officials said Tyson has maintained a strong environmental record during its years in Temperanceville. But for its recent problems, the company received four violation notices in June, July, September, and November 2004—and the $18,400 fine. In letters from Tyson officials, the newspaper said, the company blamed a combination of bad weather, bad timing, poor housekeeping and tighter state regulations for most of the troubles. Heavy rains in April and May last year overwhelmed the holding pond, which accepts wastewater from the 35-acre processing plant complex. This, combined with some pumping outages and sediment buildup in the pond, largely caused the overflows in May and July, company officials said. In response to the incidents: • The earthen berm has been raised and thickened by 113 percent to prevent future overflows. • Although the copper concentrations exceeded state limits, the company said they should not be considered harmful or toxic. • Tyson spent $75,000 last year on a chemical additive to neutralize copper—which it said worked most of the time. • The company is studying continued high measures of copper in its discharges, and may ask the state to revise its stricter copper limits, first imposed in 2000. — WLJ

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