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Articles from 2003 In October


Food Irradiation Expert Refutes New York Times Article

Loaharanu is referring to an Oct. 15

New York Times

article in which columnist Marian Burrows cites research she says will deter consumer support of irradiated foods, particularly ground beef, in school lunch programs. Starting in January, U.S. public school districts will be able to buy irradiated beef under the federal school lunch program.



In her piece, "Question on Irradiated Foods," Loaharanu says Burrows, without really understanding the scientific facts, "seems to be looking for ways to find fault with food irradiation, even though the technology is proven to be safe."



He likens Burros' arguments to that of the "medieval mentality" that prompted witch hunts simply because folks believed there must be a witch to be hunted.



"When the witch was not found, the hunters claimed that perhaps they did not hunt long or hard enough. So they kept on hunting, hoping that they would find a witch," Loaharanu says. So it is with irradiation naysayers, he adds.



For more than 20 years, the Vienna, Austria-based Thailand native headed the Food and Environmental Protection Section of the UN's joint Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Division. He also managed the Secretariat of the International Consultative Group on Food Irradiation (ICGFI) from its establishment under the aegis of FAO, IAEA and World Health Organization (WHO) in 1984 until he retired from UN service in mid 2002.



Loaharanu initiated the international standards and guidelines in the field of food irradiation adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC). CAC is the legitimate global standard-setting body that protects consumer health and ensures fair practice in food trade.



He also has coordinated more than 20 international food irradiation research projects and assisted more than 30 developing countries in introducing research, development and commercial application on food irradiation.



He co-organized the First World Congress on Food Irradiation, held in Chicago in May. And, he currently serves on the faculty for the online professional Master of Food Safety program at Michigan State University and is spearheading development of an International Council on Food Irradiation to disseminate science-based information on food irradiation.



Loaharanu is also working to set the record straight regarding the Burrows article.



In her piece, Burrows says, "the European Parliament decided last year to put a moratorium on the irradiation of almost all food." She then reports that, in determining that irradiation was a safe way to prevent bacterial contamination, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviewed tests in which animals were fed irradiated food.



"Opponents of irradiation say, though, that the meat in those tests did not have enough of the substances considered in the European tests -- 2-ACBs (alkylcyclobutanones) -- to determine its safety," she wrote. "The only way to determine the effects of a lifetime's exposure to questionable substances like 2-ACBs, they say, is to test them in an isolated form."



"Ms. Burrows' article is very misleading," Loaharanu emphasizes. "The scientific facts are clear, even if she did not bring them to light."



For starters, Loaharanu says the European Parliament didn't enact a moratorium on irradiation, "either last year or any other year. It was the European Commission (EC) that issued a directive (regulation) in 1999 that approved irradiated aromatic herbs, spices and seasonings."



The EC has the jurisdiction to introduce laws, including food laws and regulations, in all European Union (EU) member countries.



"The regulation provides for approving other irradiated foods in the future once all EU countries reach a consensus on additional irradiated foods," Loaharanu says. "Moreover, the FDA approved the use of irradiation for fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry and eggs before the study on potential toxicity of 2-alkylcyclobutanones was first published in 1999."



These 2-ACBs are chemical compounds created in trace amounts (microgram levels) by the irradiation of triglycerides, most notably fat-containing foods such as chicken and beef. Although 2-ACBs are stable in irradiated foods stored at room temperature, the compounds decompose slightly when exposed to heat, light and oxygen. Therefore, the level of 2-ACBs in cooked, irradiated foods at time of consumption would likely be lower than that measured in raw irradiated foods.



"There's absolutely no reason to be alarmed over the presence of 2-ACBs in irradiated foods," Loaharanu says. "The production of these compounds during irradiation is similar to the normal production of benzene, acrylamide, and benzopyrine when certain foods are heated."



Boiled eggs, for example, contain trace amounts of benzene. Potato chips, French fries and pizza contain acrylamide, and, barbequed meat contains benzopyrine, Loaharanu explains.



"This does not mean that we should stop eating our favorite foods. Nor should we stop using heat to process our foods," Loaharanu emphasizes. "The benefits of heat and irradiation far outweigh minute risks that might occur through processing food with these widely accepted technologies. What's more, foods contain many naturally occurring components that tend to react with potential toxic compounds (if they exist in the foods to begin with) rendering them harmless for consumption."



Burros goes on to say that "among the four peer-reviewed studies of the compounds by a group of French and German scientists that were considered by European officials, the most recent looked at rats that were injected with a substance that produces colon cancer. Some rats were then fed 2-ACBs, while others were not. Those fed 2-ACBs developed bigger and more complex tumors, and three times as many of them.



"The report published in the

Journal of Nutrition and Cancer

in December 2002 warned against 'misusing' the study to discredit irradiation of meat in general," Burrows' article continues. "But in a telephone interview, the leader of the study, Dr. Francis Raul, research director at the French National Institute of Health in Strasbourg, France, said he and his fellow researchers called for more study of 2-ACBs. He added, 'It is perhaps too early to start irradiating beef to give to children.'"



Raul's report on toxicological studies of 2-ACBs only proves one point, Loaharanu says. In their purified form and in high concentrations -- about 500 times more than would be ingested by humans consuming irradiated foods -- 2-ACBs could promote colon cancer.



"The authors of this report put the issue into perspective in their conclusions by stating: 'The relevance of this study to the risk assessment of human consumption of irradiated foods remains to be elucidated,' " Loaharanu says. "And it must be made clear that the report did not assess potential toxicity of irradiated foods containing 2-ACBs, but only of purified and extremely high concentration 2-ACBs."



Irrefutably, in high concentrations and in their purified forms, 2-ACBs, benzene, acrylamide and benzopyrine can be toxic if consumed. However, in their pure and isolated forms, these compounds aren't available in supermarkets. Benzene is widely available at gasoline stations, but no reasonable person is likely to consume it.



Prior to approving irradiation of any foods, FDA considered the potential toxicity of not only 2-ACBs, but other substances irradiation might create, Loaharanu says. But, Burrows reports that officials from the Center for Food Safety and the Public Citizen Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program, two D.C.-based advocacy groups, asked FDA officials to not approve the irradiation of any more foods until the safety of 2-ACBs has been determined by specific testing.



"This is a ridiculous request," Loaharanu says. "Even the Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) of Europe, which is responsible for risk assessment of various food safety issues for the EC, dismissed results of studies on the potential toxicity of 2-ACBs," he reports. In July 2002, the SCF concluded the studies were irrelevant in assessing the safety of irradiated food.



"The SCF based its decision on the results of numerous long-term feeding studies in animals that provided evidence supporting the safety of fat-containing irradiated foods," Loaharanu says.



"None of the animal feeding tests carried out under proper scientific protocols demonstrated any toxic effects attributable to irradiation treatment," he continues. "Over the past four decades, all animal feeding studies and other aspects of wholesomeness of irradiated foods were evaluated by independent groups of experts appointed by FAO, IAEA and WHO."



There were some animal and human feeding studies not performed according to proper scientific protocols that showed some toxic effects of certain irradiated foods, Loaharanu admits. "But overwhelming scientific evidence exists to demonstrate the safety and nutritional adequacy of any foods irradiated as part of Good Manufacturing Practices," he says.



Based on these evaluations, the CAC adopted in July a revised Codex General Standard for Irradiated Foods to allow foods to be irradiated "with any dose if necessary and for legitimate purposes."



Loaharanu says, "The bottom line is that the safety of irradiated foods is clearly and undeniably established scientifically."



In addition to FDA, USDA and WHO, irradiation endorsers include the American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Dietetics Association, and the Institute of Food Technologists, just to name a few.



"I strongly advocate the use of irradiation for foods served in school lunch programs," Loaharanu says. "Children are more vulnerable to food-borne infections than most adults are. In my opinion, to prevent the use of such an effective technology to ensure microbiological safety, is, in effect, denying the right of school children to consume safe food."

Time To Give Up On The EU Hormone Ban?

In 1998, the WTO ruled the EU ban violated trade regulations because it isn't based on scientific evidence. WTO ordered it lifted. The EU has repeatedly failed to comply.



In May 1999, the WTO authorized the U.S. and Canada to impose retaliatory tariffs of 100% on imported agricultural products from the EU valued at $116.8 million. Pork, fruit juice and tomatoes account for about 62% of the products facing punitive tariffs.



EU trade ministers are now asking that the tariffs be lifted. The European Commission says it's found that oestradiol 17-beta growth promotant could cause cancer. Also, EU scientists claim evidence of harmful health affects caused by growth promotants containing testosterone and progesterone.



Previous scientific studies, even ones conducted by the EU, show the banned growth promotants pose no threat to human or animal health when used according to approved veterinary procedures.



There's no question the EU ban on imports of hormone-treated beef continues to be an absolute violation of international trade rules. The ban is a textbook demonstration of protectionism.



As U.S. agricultural organizations continue to slug it out with the EU over this issue, the question is: Would European meat consumers shun our beef even if the EU would surrender and lift the ban?



There's ample reason to believe that the perception of "hormone tainting" is deeply ingrained in the EU dietary persona (for example, see

BEEF

, Oct, 2003 "Beef Chat-European Beef"). The reality is that it could take decades for the U.S beef industry to gain an economic foothold in those markets, a foothold that would be marginal and tentative at best.



Plus, the competition for the EU beef market is incredibly fierce today. And as Brazil and Australia brawl for position in worldwide low-quality beef markets, European consumers stand to be big winners. At least a half-dozen other countries have boatloads of beef headed for European ports every day -- beef that in many ways fits European appetites and culinary styles better than North American beef.



This won't set well with a lot of U.S. producers, but the fight seems to be more a war of wills and a few vested interests -- and a test of the WTO's authority -- than over any significant market access. At some point, our trade negotiators need to decide if it's really worth the effort. Is the pursuit of the EU beef market consuming energy that could be expended in other winnable battles -- in markets with more potential?



Of course, for what it's worth, the EU still has to live with the retaliatory tariffs applied by the U.S. and Canada.

Mandatory ID Begins To Gel; Industry Alliance Formed

The discussion no longer was about the prospect of creating value through improved information flow that would allow producers to improve their marketing and production by better responding to consumer needs. It was no longer about improving production efficiency or the quality of the product through improved genetics and management.



Mandatory ID is now just as much about ensuring the health of the cattle herd and the economic health of ranchers. It's about disease control and eradication, and dealing with bio-security threats.



At the same time, animal ID (source-, process- and genetic-verified cattle) has become an issue of market access. Most experts agree that traceability will soon become a requirement of the marketplace. Speed of implementation has also become an issue as the U.S. trails many countries in having a workable system in place.



These pressures also have put the government into the animal ID debate in a big way. APHIS has been very clear it wants a multi-specie animal ID system. As a result, the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, along with the U.S. Animal Health Association, has been actively involved in the process of creating guidelines.



The complexity of tracking an animal through the production system is well known. The multi-specie aspect only adds to the difficulty.



As a result of these frustrations, the most unlikely of bedfellows announced last week an alliance that would create the Beef Information Exchange (BIE). Formed with the purpose of creating a platform upon which information can be exchanged, BIE is a coalition of five companies competing in the animal ID and information networking marketplace. It includes AgInfoLink, APEIS, eMerge Interactive, IMI Global and Micro Beef Technologies. All these companies have been active participants in USDA's National Identification Developmental team.



At the most fundamental level, this alliance is a giant step forward for the industry. Implementation of these companies' systems has thus far been limited by producer fear about purchasing another "Betamax-style" machine. Betamax, you might recall, was a video technology superior to VHS. But, when VHS became the industry standard, those who owned a Betamax found themselves unable to utilize the technology.



A shared platform where information can be exchanged is crucial. Such a shared platform would allow a cow-calf producer using one system to link and exchange information with a feed yard operating on a different product line, and both would be able to work with a packer using another, etc. A set of industry standards allows fiercely competitive companies to compete openly, yet assures all of them access.



This alliance also sends a clear message on two points. First, that the millions of dollars and years of time invested by these companies should be utilized. And secondly, that the government needn't create a system from scratch, but incorporate already existing programs. The BIE alliance also minimizes the need for one national database and the specter of "Big Brother" in the cattle business.



It would be a mistake, however, to view the alliance as pure altruism. These companies have a vested interest in helping design the system to ensure they maintain their competitive advantage in the marketplace.



The take-home message is that the industry must avoid turning over the creation of a national ID system to either the government or the private sector. Rather, the industry must take an active leadership role in defining the standards and platforms that will exist, while letting the free market and private companies compete freely within that context.



A multi-species framework that fails to fully understand the complexities and intricacies of the beef industry would be disastrous. So would a government-mandated monstrosity that makes implementation difficult if not cost prohibitive. But, a system created by an alliance of suppliers with the aim of controlling access to the marketplace is not the correct approach, either.



The key is rapidly developing a framework within which the system can function efficiently, with rules that are flexible enough to allow everybody to participate.

Mandatory ID Begins To Gel; Industry Alliance Formed

The discussion no longer was about the prospect of creating value through improved information flow that would allow producers to improve their marketing and production by better responding to consumer needs. It was no longer about improving production efficiency or the quality of the product through improved genetics and management.



Mandatory ID is now just as much about ensuring the health of the cattle herd and the economic health of ranchers. It's about disease control and eradication, and dealing with bio-security threats.



At the same time, animal ID (source-, process- and genetic-verified cattle) has become an issue of market access. Most experts agree that traceability will soon become a requirement of the marketplace. Speed of implementation has also become an issue as the U.S. trails many countries in having a workable system in place.



These pressures also have put the government into the animal ID debate in a big way. APHIS has been very clear it wants a multi-specie animal ID system. As a result, the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, along with the U.S. Animal Health Association, has been actively involved in the process of creating guidelines.



The complexity of tracking an animal through the production system is well known. The multi-specie aspect only adds to the difficulty.



As a result of these frustrations, the most unlikely of bedfellows announced last week an alliance that would create the Beef Information Exchange (BIE). Formed with the purpose of creating a platform upon which information can be exchanged, BIE is a coalition of five companies competing in the animal ID and information networking marketplace. It includes AgInfoLink, APEIS, eMerge Interactive, IMI Global and Micro Beef Technologies. All these companies have been active participants in USDA's National Identification Developmental team.



At the most fundamental level, this alliance is a giant step forward for the industry. Implementation of these companies' systems has thus far been limited by producer fear about purchasing another "Betamax-style" machine. Betamax, you might recall, was a video technology superior to VHS. But, when VHS became the industry standard, those who owned a Betamax found themselves unable to utilize the technology.



A shared platform where information can be exchanged is crucial. Such a shared platform would allow a cow-calf producer using one system to link and exchange information with a feed yard operating on a different product line, and both would be able to work with a packer using another, etc. A set of industry standards allows fiercely competitive companies to compete openly, yet assures all of them access.



This alliance also sends a clear message on two points. First, that the millions of dollars and years of time invested by these companies should be utilized. And secondly, that the government needn't create a system from scratch, but incorporate already existing programs. The BIE alliance also minimizes the need for one national database and the specter of "Big Brother" in the cattle business.



It would be a mistake, however, to view the alliance as pure altruism. These companies have a vested interest in helping design the system to ensure they maintain their competitive advantage in the marketplace.



The take-home message is that the industry must avoid turning over the creation of a national ID system to either the government or the private sector. Rather, the industry must take an active leadership role in defining the standards and platforms that will exist, while letting the free market and private companies compete freely within that context.



A multi-species framework that fails to fully understand the complexities and intricacies of the beef industry would be disastrous. So would a government-mandated monstrosity that makes implementation difficult if not cost prohibitive. But, a system created by an alliance of suppliers with the aim of controlling access to the marketplace is not the correct approach, either.



The key is rapidly developing a framework within which the system can function efficiently, with rules that are flexible enough to allow everybody to participate.

Another Week Brings More Record Cattle Markets

With the futures market obliterating all records and the beef complex moving higher, the $60,0000 question is how much higher can the market go? What's interesting about this question is that the best market analysts in the business started asking it about $15/cwt. ago. The only certainty is that we are at least a week closer to finding out the answer.



The market was fueled this week by the news of another case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) being discovered in Japan. This time, however, the Holstein bull was only 23 months old. The next youngest of the other seven BSE cases discovered in Japan since the fall 2001 was 64 months of age.



The speculation is that this discovery will likely slow down or stop the opening of the Canadian border to live cattle because it brings into question the well-established, 30-months-of-age-or-younger rule.



Fundamentally, the market remains on very good footing, with showlists being as green and as light as anyone could imagine. With a discount futures market out in front, and with record profits, the incentives are there for cattle feeders to continue to market cattle as quickly as possible. But there is some question about whether the industry has reached the point where it will be nearly impossible to pull cattle ahead.



As a testament to just how strong demand is, and how difficult it has become to find market-ready cattle, there were several pens of cattle traded this week whose delivery is scheduled for the end of October.

Some Basic Tenets Of Good Resource Management

  • Leave the land that has been placed in your care in better condition than when you began managing it.


  • Take half and leave half of each year's pasture growth. The importance of root reserves adequate for a plant to survive the winter and vigorous growth the next year is indisputable. Conservative stocking rates allow roots to penetrate more deeply, and helps make plants more competitive, drought resistant, winter tolerant and productive over the long haul.


  • Never graze the same pasture at the same time two years in a row. This simple concept can be one of the building blocks of most rotational grazing systems. It builds in seasonal changes of use and stimulates diversity by giving both warm- and cool-season plants periods of rest to assure vigor and high levels of production.


  • Calve to grass. While many factors must be considered when determining a beginning calving date, matching your cows' nutritional needs and production schedule to the availability of green grass can lower feed costs and reduce the exposure of newborn calves to winter weather.


  • Cows are lazy. If not forced to move around, cows will spot-graze and overgraze. The reality is that reasonable inputs of labor and facilities are necessary to efficiently and effectively harvest grass with cows.


  • "Manage" is a verb. Stocking rates, stock densities, time of calving, investment levels, and all of their consequences, both positive and negative, fall to the manager.

Targeting Ionophores

Human health professionals are increasingly alarmed about the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in humans and the subsequent development of antibiotic resistance. Some even say the problem is fast becoming a life-threatening public health issue.

To this end, all of the factors leading to the increase in antibiotic resistance, including antibiotic use in agriculture, must be understood, says Brenda M. Afzal, RN, MS. She's community health consultant for the Environmental Health Education Center at the University of Maryland (UM) School of Nursing in Baltimore.

“To best protect the health of our patients and to understand the full range of causative factors,” she says, “we need to have the best data regarding the causes and associations of exposures to diseases.”

Caught in the discussion of antibiotic resistance is the prophylactic use of antimicrobials as growth promotants in food animals. Included in this scrutiny are ionophores (such as monensin, lasalocid, laidlomycin, salinomycin and narasin) — antimicrobial compounds fed to ruminant animals to improve feed efficiency.

Because of the complexity and high degree of specificity of ionophore resistance, it appears that ionophores don't contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance to important human drugs, says T.R. Callaway a member of the USDA Food and Feed Safety Research Unit, Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center, College Station, TX.

“Therefore, it appears that ionophores will continue to play a significant role in improving the efficiency of animal production in the future,” he says.

Callaway says these antimicrobials specifically target the ruminal bacterial population and alter the microbial ecology of the intestinal microbial consortium. This results in increased carbon and nitrogen retention by the animal, increasing production efficiency.

The feeding of ionophores to cattle decreases the feed needed for growth and increases feed efficiency, agrees Gary Weber, director of regulatory affairs for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA).

NCBA maintains a strong stance that ionophores are not a concern for antibiotic resistance in cattle or humans. During the Cattle Industry Summer Conference in Dallas, TX, this year, NCBA members resolved to strongly urge the FDA and other appropriate agencies to reclassify polyether ionophores to reflect their true function as modifiers of rumen fermentation and coccidian prevention compound; and to discontinue classification of polyether ionophores as antibiotics.

No Government Policy?

In 1997, the World Health Organization called for a ban on using antibiotics to promote growth in animal agriculture. In 1998, the European Union banned adding human-use antibiotics to animal feed.

Proponents of controlling antibiotic use are dismayed that at this time, no U.S. government agency collects comprehensive data on antibiotic use for any purpose. In 1999, an interagency task force composed of the FDA Centers for Disease Control, USDA and seven other federal agencies, was created to develop and implement procedures to monitor antibiotic use in human medicine, agriculture, veterinary medicine and consumer products. However, no policies have yet been set in stone.

FDA recognizes that a major issue related to the use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals is their sub-therapeutic use in livestock.

“While this use of antimicrobials is decreasing, it is still a widespread practice,” Jane E. Henney, Ph.D, said nearly three years ago. She was FDA Commissioner until January 2001, and is considered by many to be the engineer of FDA's efforts to have a continued supply of safe and effective antimicrobials available to protect the health of both humans and animals.

“We're taking a renewed look at this practice, and are focusing our efforts on those uses that seem to pose the greatest potential risk to public health,” she added. “As in all of our decision making, science will be used to ground and guide our actions.”

FDA's efforts continue, but it's still unclear the tack the current FDA administration will take, especially with regard to ionophores used in the cattle feeding industry. But with 92.9% of the nation's largest cattle feeding operations using ionophores, according to USDA's National Animal Health Monitoring System, this is certainly no small issue of importance to the cattle industry.

Follow-Up Report: Two-Step Weaning Process For Beef Calves

how to wean beef calves
A scouring calf can quickly become dehydrated. It’s important to keep administering electrolyte fluid until the calf is no longer scouring.

Every cattleman knows that cows and calves show a strong reaction to the traditional method of weaning beef cattle. The response is almost immediate after the mother and her young are separated.

The observable changes include an increase in calling and walking, and a decrease in the time the cattle spend eating and ruminating. The stress of weaning reduces weight gain and is likely an important factor contributing to the number of calves that get sick after weaning.

We began our research by trying to determine if the stress at weaning was related to the end of the nursing or due to the loss of social contact between the dam and calf. Traditional beef calf weaning imposes these two stressors simultaneously, but experimentally we were able to isolate these two factors.

A Two-Stage Experiment

  • In stage 1 of our study, calves were fitted with an anti-sucking device for four days. It prevented nursing but still allowed calves to graze, drink and additionally ensured that calves could engage in all other aspects of social interaction with their mothers. The behavioral response to this situation was almost undetectable. Pairs stayed close together for the first couple of days but otherwise their behavior was virtually the same as control pairs that were still nursing.

  • For stage 2 of the investigation we separated the cows and calves after they had been deprived of nursing for four days. The anti-sucking devices were removed at this time. Since pairs didn't react when nursing was prevented, we were confident that typical weaning behavior would be shown after pairs were separated. However, behavioral response to separation was minimal as well. For example two-step calves barely called and spent more time eating after separation. Thus, we discovered a brand new low-stress way to wean cattle.

Verifying The Benefits

In a series of experiments, we've examined the effects of two-stage weaning and have taken various measurements to verify the benefits.

  • In one study, we strapped pedometers to the legs of calves to record their walking behavior. Calves pastured with their mothers walked about three miles/day whether they were wearing the anti-sucking device or not.

    After pairs were separated, calves were moved into a feedlot pen. Calves weaned in two stages increased their mileage and walked 4.9 miles/day. However, the control calves (weaned abruptly), and housed in the very same pen, walked 12.6 miles/day during the same period. Just as in previous studies, the differences between two-stage weaned calves and traditional weaned calves were dramatic.

  • Two-step weaning was then compared to weaning by separating cows and calves across a fence line. Weaning with fence-line contact has been shown to reduce the behavioral response of cattle compared to remote separation (moving cows and calves far away from each other).

The results of our study conclusively favored two-step weaning. Calves weaned in two steps called less, walked less and spent more time eating than calves weaned across a fence.

Another advantage of two-step weaning over the fence-line method is that two-step calves can be shipped, if necessary, on separation day. In one study, we transported calves on the day of separation and, despite any transportation effects, two-step calves settled far faster (called and walked less, and spent more time eating and resting) than traditional, abruptly weaned calves.

Some Common Questions

  • How long should calves wear the anti-sucking device prior to separation? Preventing nursing for as little as four days is enough to greatly diminish the behavioral response of calves to separation. Even if the duration of this stage is doubled or tripled, calves behave quite similarly.

    While the benefit to calves appears to be gained after nursing has been deprived for just a few days, cows may actually benefit if the pairs are kept together without nursing for a longer duration. We found cows prevented from nursing for eight days were less disturbed after separation than cows prevented from nursing for four days.

    However, even cows in the four-day treatment still showed a greatly diminished response after separation compared to cows weaned the traditional way. We recommend that calves wear the anti-sucking device for four to seven days or up to 10 days to have an even greater calming effect on the cows after separation.

  • Can the extra handling required to attach and remove the anti-sucking device from calves offset the benefits of two-step weaning? First of all, many producers are finding that other necessary chores (e.g., vaccinations, tagging, weighing, etc.) can be done when the devices are inserted or removed. In addition, the handling time required for this procedure is very minimal as the device can be fitted or removed in five seconds.

Along with low-stress weaning, we also believe in low-stress handling in every situation and we always take care to move cattle calmly and quietly. Our feeling is that any extra stress calves may endure due to handling is more than recovered by the tremendous reduction in weaning stress from two-stage weaning.

The benefits of two-stage weaning are entirely dependent on preventing nursing between cow-calf pairs before separation. Feedback from producers, as well as our own results, suggest the retention rate of the anti-sucking device is greater than 95%.

However, we've observed a few calves that were able to learn to nurse while wearing the device — a “skill” that seems to vary from herd to herd. We're currently designing and working with a manufacturer of the device to try and maximize its dependability. Even if no design improvements can be found, we ultimately feel that a dramatic reduction in weaning stress for 95% of the herd when weaned in two stages is far greater progress than weaning 100% by the more stressful traditional weaning way.

The lightweight plastic anti-sucking devices we use currently retail for a little more than $1 each. After being washed and disinfected, however, they can be reused.

The anti-sucking device simply acts as a physical barrier that prevents the calf from getting the teat into its mouth, but doesn't prevent it from grazing, eating or drinking.

Derek B. Haley is a doctoral candidate and Joseph M. Stookey is a professor at the University of Saskatchewan's Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Derek W. Bailey is a Montana State University associate professor. For more information, e-mail Haley at [email protected], or Stookey at [email protected] or 306/966-7154. For information on the anti-sucking devices, visit www.quietwean.com.

Other weaning resources from BEEF:

How To Receive Full Value For Your Calves

What's The Best Time To Castrate Calves? Vets Agree The Earlier The Better

Plan Now To Wean Early

Low-Stress Weaning Helps Boost Calf Immunity

Ranch Management: Quick Tips For Easier Calf Weaning

Non-Cytophathic BVD Type 1b Protection

The annual economic impact of bovine viral diarrhea (BVD), an immune-suppressing virus that leads to secondary infections from other pathogens, is estimated to cost the U.S. cattle industry about $3 billion/year. And, it's estimated that BVD incidence is increasing 10-15% annually.

Novartis Animal Vaccines, Inc., has the newest tool in that battle. Arsenal 4.1 is a four-way, modified-live vaccine for use in open beef and dairy cattle. It's designed to help prevent BVD Types 1 and 2, including the non-cytopathic (NCP) Type 1b strain.

BVD is somewhat misnamed, as diarrhea isn't often seen in affected animals. The main effects are associated with respiratory disease in feeder animals and reproductive disease in pregnant cows, though sudden death in cattle of all ages has been seen.

BVD can cause in utero infections that result in permanently infected (PI) fetuses. When born, these animals shed large numbers of the virus and are often the primary source of BVD disease in beef herds. Thus, exposure to infected animals from outside the herd isn't required.

There are hundreds of BVD strains, which fall into two broad genotypes — Type 1 and Type 2. Within Type 1, there are at least two subtypes — Type 1a and Type 1b. According to researchers, Type 1b appears to be the predominant subtype.

BVD viral strains are further classified by their biotype. A cytopathic (CP) virus causes cell pathology, while non-cytopathic (NCP) viruses show no pathology of tissue culture cells. Both CP and NCP biotypes can occur in BVD Type 1a, Type 1b and Type 2. NCP is the more damaging variation and NCP BVD has been found to be the major isolate in clinical BVD, accounting for 90-95% of all clinical outbreaks. The NCP biotype is also believed to be the cause of all BVD PI animals and is the major cause of BVD-induced abortions.

But, most leading BVD vaccines don't contain the NCP biotype or the Type 1b subtype, Novartis says. Arsenal 4.1 help protect against NCP Type 1b, in addition to Type 2, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), parainfluenza Type 3 (PI3) and bovine respiratory syncytial virus (BRSV).

Arsenal 4.1 should be administered in a single, 2-ml dose, with revaccination annually or as recommended by a veterinarian. It's available in 10- and 50-ml-dose bottles and carries a subcutaneous-only label.

(Circle Reply Card No. 109)