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Survey Finds Producers Optimistic

Optimism reigns among U.S. beef producers in the face of the lone U.S. case of BSE.

Optimism reigns among U.S. beef producers in the face of the lone U.S. case of BSE. A total of 62% of the respondents to an electronic survey of BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly readers indicated they were still optimistic in the short-term about beef industry prospects. Meanwhile, a whopping 93% indicate they are optimistic in the long-term about the industry's prospects.

The survey was conducted after the Dec. 23 announcement by USDA that a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) had been discovered in a Washington state Holstein cow, but before USDA's announcement confirming the infected cow had originated in Canada.

What's more, a total of 46% of respondents say they planned to increase their herd size in 2004, while 5% said they plan to decrease herd size. Another 47% weren't yet sure about their plans.

A total of 722 of the newsletter's 35,000 readers responded to the survey carried in the Dec. 31 special issue of BSE coverage. The data was collected from Jan. 2-5.

  • Of respondents, 60% rated media coverage of the BSE issue as “unfair,” while 40% rated it as “fair.”

  • Readers were highly supportive of recent USDA actions taken in the aftermath of the BSE announcement. Of respondents, 80% agree with USDA's ban on downer cow slaughter, while 8% disagreed and 12% weren't sure. And, 72% of respondents agreed with the stepped-up implementation of a national identification (ID) system for livestock, while 9% disagreed and 18% weren't sure.

  • 82% of respondents said the industry has done a good job of managing the BSE issue to consumers and the media, while 17% disagree.

  • 94% of respondents rated USDA's job of handling the BSE issue in terms of openness and fairness to consumers and the beef industry as “good” or “fair,” while 5% rate it as “poor.”

  • Of respondents, 58% said they plan no changes to their operations as a result of the BSE discovery, but 22% said they do plan changes, while 19% aren't sure at this point.

Among the changes planned in light of the BSE discovery, most cited by a wide margin was a readiness to move into electronic ID for their cattle. “I want to be ready for the national ID system,” one respondent wrote.

“As a yearling operator, I will pursue documentation on the animals I purchase this year,” wrote another.

“As much work as it will take, I will start tracking purchased feedstuffs, as well as my own, and document all incoming and outgoing cattle,” another responded.

For the full package of survey results visit