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Beef Xpress April 2011

Livestock disease surges in Vietnam, STEC to be studied, Utah approves vet school and more stories

Livestock disease surges in Vietnam

Vietnam is under siege from a number of contagious animal diseases. A total of 26 provinces and cities across Vietnam have declared an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), while bird flu and blue-ear syndrome in swine are becoming more pervasive nationwide, says the director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Animal Health Department, Hoang Van Nam.

The country didn’t have enough vaccines to properly combat poultry and cattle diseases and local authorities intentionally have not reported what was actually happening to the public despite the outbreak of the diseases, Nam says.

“It is not necessary to slaughter all the cattle infected with FMD; we can eat their meat if it is cooked properly,” says Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat. “We need to instruct people how to hygienically slaughter cattle infected with FMD,” he says.

STEC to be studied

Michigan State University (MSU) has been awarded a $2.5-million grant to study how to reduce shedding of shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) from cattle. The project will study shedding from cattle and develop strategies to reduce the shedding, with the intent of decreasing the number of illnesses caused by STEC.

“More than 70,000 people become ill due to STEC every year,” says Roger Beachy, director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

“Understanding how the bacteria contaminate water and food supplies will help prevent thousands of illnesses and improve the safety of the nation’s food.”

STEC is a leading cause of foodborne and waterborne infections. Most outbreaks are caused by contact with fecal materials from cattle and other ruminant animals, yet little is known about shedding from these animals. The MSU research will be led by Shannon Manning, an assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.

Utah approves vet school

Utah legislators have given the go-ahead to create a $1.7-million veterinary school partnership between Utah State University (USU) and Washington State University (WSU). The program would allow students to take their first two years of classes at USU and complete their last two years of clinics at WSU.

Rep. John Mathis, R-Vernal, says 20-25 Utah students go out of state each year to get the degree. Supporters say the program would save money in comparison to having USU operate its own veterinary program, which Mathis says would cost about $10 million.

More veterinarians needed

Bipartisan legislation termed “The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act” has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. The measure is aimed at helping address a critical shortage of veterinarians serving rural areas and would make the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program tax-exempt, thereby increasing the number of veterinarians who can participate. The act would also apply to similar state programs that encourage veterinarians to practice in underserved communities.

Nationwide, there are 500 counties that have at least 5,000 farm animals but no veterinarians in the area to treat them. Recent studies indicate that the supply of veterinarians working in food supply veterinary medicine will fall short by 4-5% annually through 2016.

Pressuring the President

U.S. Senate Republicans told President Barack Obama in March that they’ll block confirmation of a new U.S. Commerce Secretary until he submits pending free-trade bills with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress. All three agreements were signed during the Bush administration, but Obama has yet to send them to the Senate for ratification. Without completion of the agreements, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) says U.S. trade in the amounts of $11 billion to South Korea, $3 billion to Colombia, and $1 billion to Panama are at risk.

U.S. exports to Korea boom

January 2011 beef export figures show U.S. beef exports to South Korea are surging. In fact, they totaled nearly 12,000 metric tons for the month, valued at $49.2 million – an increase of more than 60% in volume and 80% in value over a year ago.

Contrary to many reports in the international media, the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) situation in South Korea is not a major factor in the recent surge, says the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Rather, it’s due to a sharp increase in consumer demand, which had gained momentum well before the November 2010 FMD outbreak.

Meanwhile, measures to curb FMD in South Korea have thus far resulted in the culling of 35% of that nation’s swine herd. This will likely result in an increase in pork exports to Korea not only from the U.S., but also from Europe, Canada and Chile, USMEF says.

BEEF Book Corner

In his memoir, “Putting the Horse before Descartes: My Life’s Work on Behalf of Animals,” Colorado State University bioethicist Bernie Rollin relates with self-deprecating humor, detail and East Coast brashness, how a New York City-raised pioneer in animal ethics came to dedicate his life to improving animal welfare. In addition to his personal journey of discovery and development, this irreverent, 300-page memoir provides current and historical perspective into the field of animal ethics, as well as insight into trends in animal care and food-animal production.

In the section on “Religion and Animals,” Rollin quips of how in the fifth grade he “resolved to become a philosopher, seeing the power of reason to disturb.” It’s a sure bet that this personal look into the field of animals and ethics will tweak the nose of more than a few folks whose vocations and/or avocations revolve around working with animals.

It’s available for $35 in hardcover at or