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Articles from 2006 In December


Best Wishes For A Peaceful And Fulfilling 2007

One of the more touching vignettes I've ever read appeared just before Christmas in my hometown paper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In a regularly appearing column entitled "Bulletin Board," in which readers contribute their favorite anecdotes and memories, an anonymous author wrote:

"When I was a very little girl, my mother had health issues that led her to hurt me emotionally and sometimes physically. I would run to our workhorses for comfort. I could not have been more than four years old, and my head would just reach their chests.

"I would wrap my arms around a big horse leg and lean into the mare's chest. She would drop her soft nose to my shoulder, and the gelding would come in close behind me and rest his soft nose on my other shoulder. There they would stand, completely motionless. They encompassed me in a horsy hug until my sobbing stopped and my world righted itself.

"Again and again, I took comfort in the closeness of those horses. What they did was an act of love and compassion. I thought so then -- and 50 years later, I still think so.

"But, you know, maybe I touched their souls, too."

That heart-wrenching piece is compelling on many levels. I ached for the emotionally tortured little girl seeking solace, and teared up at the mental picture of those gentle beasts that sensed her need and provided the vulnerable tot with comfort. Just as powerful, however, was the author's ability to one day understand, empathize and presumably forgive her mother's behavior toward her.

I don't know how long into the author's life it took her to grasp and forgive the frailties of her mother, but that she did must have been tremendously liberating.

She embodies one of the greatest of virtues -- forgiveness -- the one most at the center of peace in any form or forum. "Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me" is a verse from an old hymn I remember as a kid. And it really is true that true and lasting peace begins not in the negotiation chambers between warring factions or governments but in the individual hearts of all men and women.

It begins at home with loved ones, and encompasses friends, acquaintances and strangers. And the simple acts of kindness that forgiveness and peace engender can spread like a virus, from one person to another and to another.

What's so wonderful about the Christmas holiday season is the sense of goodwill it fosters in so many folks as they exchange greetings, smiles and kindnesses -- with strangers and loved ones alike -- in a way they normally might not at other times of the year. From our outfit to yours, here's hoping your 2007 is filled with the peace of the holiday season, health and prosperity.
-- Joe Roybal

Minnesotans Registering Their Premises At 26% Clip

More than 11,300 Minnesota livestock producers have voluntarily enrolled in the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), reports AgriView. That's slightly more than 26% of the state's 44,109 livestock premises, said Ted Radintz, Minnesota's National Animal ID coordinator.

The Minnesota support level is on par with the premises registration effort nationally, which stands at about 24%, says Bruce Knight, USDA under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs. Based on census data, USDA estimates there are 1,433,582 livestock premises in the U.S.

Radintz says Minnesota beef producers, like their national cattlemen's organizations, tend to favor a voluntary approach to NAIS. The National Pork Producers Council, however, favors a mandatory program.

Animal owners can register their premises online at: animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/premises_id/register.shtml, or by phone, or mail, with their state, tribe, or territorial animal-health authority.
-- Joe Roybal

Lawmakers Gear Up For New Immigration Bill

Counting on their new majority in Congress, Democratic lawmakers and their Republican allies, are working on measures that could place millions of illegal immigrants on a more direct path to citizenship than a bill passed in the Senate this past year, the New York Times reports.

Lawmakers may abandon a requirement in the Senate bill that would compel several million illegal immigrants to leave the U.S. before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship. Also under consideration is denial of funding for 700 miles of fence along the Mexican border, a law Republicans wrote this year and that passed with significant Democratic support.

Details of the bill, which would be introduced early in 2007, are being drafted. The proposal represents a significant shift since the November elections.

The Senate plans to introduce its immigration bill next month, while the House will consider its version later. President Bush hopes to sign an immigration bill in 2007.

Major lawmakers drafting the legislation include Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ), along with Representatives Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Luis Guiterrez (D-IL).
-- Alaina Burt

FDA Rules Food From Cloned Animals Is Safe

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in a 700-page "draft risk assessment" released this week, says milk and meat from cloned cows, pigs and goats are safe to eat. Coming after five years of study, the FDA announcement that cloned livestock is "virtually indistinguishable" from conventional livestock could make the U.S. the first country to allow products from cloned livestock to be sold in grocery stores.

The announcement doesn't include meat and milk from genetically modified animals, which involves introducing a new gene. A clone is a genetic twin of the original animal that provides the tissue sample from which a cell line is made. Clones are not genetically modified.

Forbes reports FDA officials believe special labels won't be needed for such food products, though a decision on labeling is pending. Because scientists concluded there's no difference between food from clones and food from other animals, "it would be unlikely that FDA would require labeling in those cases," says Stephen F. Sundlof, director of FDA's Center for Vet Medicine.

Even with formal approval, it is unlikely consumers will regularly find cloned meat at stores. The New York Times reports an estimated 500 or 600 cloned cows in the U.S., out of approximately 44 million beef and dairy cows. Cloned animals are too expensive to use for food products, upwards of $15,000/animal. Instead, livestock producers seek to clone animals for breeding stock.

David Faber, president of Trans Ova Genetics, a 25-year-old Sioux Center, IA-based firm, called the FDA report: "a milestone in the advancement of breeding and developing superior genetics for food production in the U.S. and around the world."

"The use of cloning technology in beef and dairy reproduction will allow breeders to advance the quality, consistency, health and safety of milk and meat by allowing specific propagation of the genetics that lead to this better product," he said in a statement. "By selecting elite animals and applying cloning technology, breeders can choose animals that naturally produce the quality of milk or meat consumers want, or animals that are more resistant to disease threat.

"The most elite, upper-tier of the genetic pyramid will be cloning candidates, allowing the influence of those genetics to improve breeding herds striving to improve milk and meat production," Faber said.

Trans Ova Genetics provides embryo transfer programs, in-vitro fertilization processes, sexed-semen applications, genetic preservation and cloning technologies.

FDA's announcement, however, brought criticism from consumer groups that argue the science backing the decision is shaky, and citing consumer surveys indicating consumer anxiety over animal cloning, let alone eating them.

"Consumers are going to be having a product that has potential safety issues and has a whole load of ethical issues tied to it, without any labeling," Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, told Forbes.

Meanwhile, in the same article, Carol Tucker Foreman, director of food policy at the Consumer Federation of America, said FDA ignored research that shows cloning results in more animal suffering. Her group plans to ask food companies and supermarkets to refuse to sell food from clones, she said.

However, the Forbes piece says FDA scientists claim that by the time clones reach 6 to 18 months of age, they are virtually indistinguishable from conventionally bred animals.

Labels should only be used if the health characteristics of a food are significantly altered by how it is produced, said Barb Glenn of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

"The bottom line is, we don't want to misinform consumers with some sort of implied message of difference," Glenn said. "There is no difference. These foods are as safe as foods from animals that are raised conventionally."

Cloning animals has always been legal, but an FDA-requested voluntary moratorium on the sale of cloned animal products has been in place since 2001 in order to study the effects of milk or meat from such animals. The moratorium will stay in place until the new policy is finalized, which may be as early as the end of next year.

The public has 90 days to comment on draft risk assessment.
-- Alaina Burt and Joe Roybal

Illinois Extension Plans Co-Product Feeding Seminars

Eight seminars planned by University of Illinois (UI) Extension this winter are designed to help cow-calf producers utilize by-products from ethanol production.

UI Extension's Dave Seibert says corn co-products, mainly corn gluten feed and distillers dry grain solubles, can play a major part in reducing the cost of beef-cattle diets. "However, it is important for producers to have a good understanding of these and other by-products, transportation costs and feeding guidelines," he says. Seminars are planned for:

  • Jan. 16, Pekin, Tazewell County Extension office, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Jan. 17, Perry, John Wood Community College, 1-3 p.m.; and in Jerseyville, Super 8 Motel, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Jan. 31, Macomb, intersection of IL 67 and 136, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and in Roseville, American Legion Hall, 7-9 p.m.
  • Feb. 2, Lewiston, Fulton County Extension office, 8 a.m.-noon
  • Feb. 12, Hennepin, Steel Workers Hall, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • Feb. 20, Petersburg, Wankel Pioneer Feed store, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Contact local Extension for more info, or Seibert at 309-694-7501, ext. 224; or dseibert@uiuc.edu.
-- Joe Roybal

Scientists Remove Prion Infectivity From Animal Blood

A method of removing prion infectivity from scrapie-infected animal blood proved effective in tests on hamsters, reports HealthCentral.com. The research may help develop a way to prevent the spread of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human form of BSE, the article says.

Researchers ID'd a molecule called L13 that selectively binds to the prion protein. They passed scrapie-infected hamster blood through devices containing the L13 molecule, and then injected the blood into 96 hamsters. None of them became infected.

The article says scientists also found L13 selectively can bind to the prion protein from human infections of vCJD, which suggests it may be able to remove prion infectivity from human blood.
-- Joe Roybal

Schering-Plough To Beef Up Cattle Presence

Schering-Plough Animal Health (SPAH) is expanding its U.S. cattle operation, which includes creation of separate business units for beef and dairy and located in Omaha, NE.

"Our ambition is to grow our U.S. cattle business significantly in the future, through a heightened level of partnership and collaboration with customers in both the beef and dairy segments," says Raul Kohan, SPAH president.

The company believes stronger and more frequent customer contact by the new team will better enable it to more closely align with customer's needs. Newly created positions will include a head of the U.S. cattle business, business unit directors, additional product management, national account managers, feedlot account managers, a ruminant nutritionist and an order buyer/stocker specialist.

The new team will located in a global distribution facility under construction in Omaha, which will open in early 2007. The new team will join nearly 200 SPAH colleagues currently located in Omaha working in research, production and distribution.
-- Schering-Plough Animal Health relea

2007 Looks Better For Feeding, Worse For Cow-Calf

Red ink was the story for cattle feeders in 2006, Livestock Info Marketing Center (LMIC) analysts say (www.lmic.info/). Meanwhile, many cow-calf operations did rather well in 2006, despite widespread drought, higher production costs and lower cattle prices.

LMIC analysts expect cattle feeders to better the dismal results of 2006, while cow-calf returns in 2007 may be near those of 2006 if corn prices stay under control.

"In 2006, annual average cattle feeding returns based on all production costs and feeding in a commercial Southern Plains feedlot were the worst on record (LMIC estimates go back to 1975). Average monthly losses per steer sold in calendar year 2006 were about $75/head. For the year, only three months had positive returns (January, August and September) and five sale months had losses exceeding $100/steer," LMIC reports.

Meanwhile estimated cow-calf returns over all cash costs of production, plus pasture valued at rental rates, remained positive in 2006, reporters say. But those returns declined significantly from 2005, thanks to higher production costs and lower prices for calves and cull cows. In the Southern Plains, LMIC estimated returns over cash costs plus pasture rent were about $48/cow, the lowest cow-calf return since 2002, and $87 less than 2005. In the LMIC-calculated cow-calf returns, the last negative returns year was 1998, the report says.

To make money in 2007, cattle feeders will need to put a sharp pencil to their cattle-buying decisions, and stay atop feedstuff costs much more than in recent years, LMIC says.

While cow-calf operations will face lower calf prices in the new year, cull cow prices are expected to strengthen.

"With normal weather, cow-calf production costs will at least stabilize in 2007 and could even be a little below 2006's in many regions. Still, cow calf returns will be similar to 2006's and well below the profit levels posted in 2004 and 2005," LMIC reporters say.
-- Joe Roybal

Two New Check-Off Funded Web Sites

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) has launched two new checkoff-funded Web sites: www.beefresearch.org, and a Spanish-language version of its www.BeefItsWhatsForDinner Web site, www.LaCarneDeRes.com.

Beefresearch.org showcases checkoff-funded research in a reader-friendly presentation of fact sheets and summaries, graphics, resource listings and a handy glossary of terms.

LaCarneDeRes.com is aimed at the ever-growing Hispanic population and features recipes, nutrition and cooking info developed for Spanish culture and tastes. The latest census data confirms Hispanic buying power is increasing, and is expected to reach upwards of $863 billion in 2007, compared to $212 billion in 1990.
-- Alaina Burt