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Articles from 2005 In February

Canadians Using NAFTA To Sue U.S. For Border Closure

About 500, mostly Alberta, cattlemen have filed 121 claims under NAFTA seeking at least $325 million in compensation from the U.S. for its May 2003 border closure to Canadian beef and cattle trade, the Seattle Times reports. Alwyn Scott reports the individuals are suing under NAFTA's Chapter 11, which allows firms to claim damages from governments if their laws or actions damage trading partners.

The planned March 7 reopening of the U.S. border to imports of Canadian cattle less than 30 months of age would do nothing to diminish the losses cattlemen say they've suffered so far, the article says. Muscle cuts from cattle less than 30 months of age have been allowed since September 2003.

Todd Weiler, attorney representing the Canadians, says he expects to formally initiate arbitration next month. Arbitration begins the process of setting up a three-member panel of trade lawyers to

The effort is led by a Picture Butte, Alberta-based group called Canadian Cattlemen For Free Trade (CCFT). On its Web site,, CCFT maintains that by closing the border and keeping it closed, the U.S. government "arbitrarily created winners and losers in the North American cattle industry."

It goes on to say; "Canadian investors are no longer entitled to access all of the processing facilities they need to use to make their businesses viable. Their U.S. competitors are still able to access those same processing facilities, and the much broader U.S. market that they represent. They are also able to keep their Canadian-origin cattle and send them for processing without difficulty."

The CCFT is inviting other Canadian producers to join the effort, saying claimants need not have exported into the U.S. to qualify.

"You only need to have been hurt by the border closure. As a totally-integrated and highly fluid commodity market, members of the North American cattle industry will generally be affected by any artificial attempt to stop the flow of live cattle trade within the Free Trade Area. Any Canadian investor who has been hurt by the U.S. government's actions should therefore be eligible," the CCFT says.

Bull Selection Is Critical To Long-Term Success

That a bull contributes 50% of the genetics of every calf, and that virtually all genetic improvement comes via bull selection, are two well-known tenets of cattle breeding. Another is that one bull used for four years will sire 10 times the number of calves a typical cow will produce in her lifetime.

From this perspective, it's hard to argue that a producer can pay too much for a good bull. This year's record price levels, however, may challenge that notion.

Given the size of investment producers are making this year, it's doubly critical that producers buy bulls that fit their long-term market strategy and help produce a product that more consistently hits the ordained targets.

Admittedly, the next few years promise to be good ones for cow-calf producers. With relatively tight numbers, there won't be as much price differentiation as when we head into the down side of the cattle cycle. Yet, one also has to realize the unmistakable trend that genetics are becoming more valuable.

BSE, national ID and an explosion of branded programs, alliances and value-based marketing opportunities will combine not only to provide economic premiums or discounts (depending on your perspective) for cattle but also the missing infrastructure to do a better job of linking performance and genetics. Source-, genetic-, management- and age-verified cattle no longer will be simply buzzwords for progressive idealists.

The implications of these changes are dramatic. In a commodity-based system where identity is lost and everything is based on averages, it was easy to make money on inferior genetics. It can probably even be argued that the smartest economic decision was to shortchange your customer by focusing merely on your segment and profitability and relying on the fact the system would not punish you. Those days are over.

Value will increasingly be determined by the value your genetics provide, not only to you and your initial customer but the entire system. The key is determining which market segment and targets your genetic base and management system most closely aligns with, then figuring how to hit those targets as efficiently as impossible.

The calves out of the bulls you purchase this spring will make money. But the impact the bulls have on improving your herd's ability to consistently hit market targets and improve system efficiencies will likely be the No.-1 determinant of profitability in the future.

Trailblazer Honorees - 1994-2011

When BEEF editors launched their annual Trailblazer Award back in 1994, we wanted to honor, first and foremost, producers. Our aim was to detail the amazing men and women who go out every day to get the job done in providing America with the highest-quality protein, but also venture ahead of the pack to show their industry a potentially better way.

The most appropriate name we could devise for this new award was the BEEF Trailblazer. In doing so, we pictured those fearless souls of old who braved the unknown, hacking their marks on trees to pioneer a trail of promise for those to follow.

The Diablo Trust
Winslow, AZ
Read more about the Diablo Trust.

Troy & Stacy Hadrick
Faulkton, SD

Read more about the Hadricks here.

Doc and Connie Hatfield
Read more aboout Doc and Connie
OR learn about them in this special Trailblazer interview.

View a special poem by Doc and Becky Hatfield.

Mike Milicevic
Okeechobee, FL
Read more about Mike Milicevic
OR learn about the 2008 Trailblazer in this special video.

Carl Crabtree
Grangeville, ID
Read more about Carl Crabtree.

Bob and Nancy Montross
De Smet, SD
Read more about Bob and Nancy Montross.

Jackie Moore
Click here to read more about Jackie Moore.

Jan Lyons
Click here to read more about Jan Lyons.

Lucy Rechel
Click here to read more about Lucy Rechel.

Mike Byrne
Click here to read more about Mike Byrne.

Rob Brown
Click here to read more about Rob Brown.

Dennis Swan
Click here to read more about Dennis Swan.

Mary Burke
Click here to read more about Mary Burke.

John Harris
David Wood
Click here to read more about John Harris and David Wood.

Wythe Willey
Click here to read more about Wythe Willey.

Connie Greig
Estherville, IA

Read more about Connie Greig.

Roger Stuber
Bowman, ND

Read more about Roger Stuber

Burke Healy
Davis, OK

Read more about Burke Healy

Trailblazer Award

The Trailblazer award is bestowed annually by the editorial staff of BEEF magazine on a producer (or producers) of foresight whose efforts in the past year were instrumental in pushing forward significant research, programs or projects.

Jackie Moore, co-owner of Joplin Regional Stockyards (JRS) in Carthage, MO, is BEEF magazine’s Trailblazer Award honoree for 2005. Moore, who lives in Mt. Vernon, MO, was cited in the November issue of BEEF magazine for his years of progressive innovation and leadership in the auction facility he co-owns with his brother-in-law, Steve Owens.

“Moore’s tireless and progressive efforts on behalf of cattle producers in his trade area were instrumental in upgrading the quality and buyer perception of cattle in southwest Missouri and adjacent states,” says BEEF Editor Joe Roybal. “He also helped define for the nation the concept of “quality” and energized the national industry in its march to more value-added beef production.”

The 46-year-old Moore describes his philosophy this way: “The way I see it, the big guys are taken care of. We're working to keep the little guys in business.”

Moore has been among the nation’s most visible commercial champions of calf-management programs designed to improve animal health, thus raising their value and prices for sellers. Since initiating its value-added calf programs in 1997, more than 800,000 added-value program cattle have moved through JRS facilities. That quality focus has evolved into a host of current program options for sellers, including certified health, feeding and weaning programs, and individual animal identification, as well as video sales.

Click here to read more about Jackie Moore.

Click here for past Trailblazer honorees.

BEEF magazine welcomes New Holland as sponsor of the 2006 Trailblazer Award. The honoree will be revealed in the November 2006 issue of BEEF.

Biosecurity On The Farm

Farm biosecurity protects the health of your cattle herd by preventing the introduction and transmission of disease agents to your farm. Endemic diseases, those diseases native to U.S. cattle, can be an economic drain on cow herds if not managed properly. Taking common sense precautions to minimize the risk of diseases is the best investment you can make.

“Starting a biosecurity plan just takes some common sense,” says Tom Troxel, University of Arkansas Extension beef cattle specialist. “The first person to start with is your local veterinarian. Get him involved with your animal health program, make him familiar with how you manage cattle, move cattle in and out, and buy cattle so he can help set up a biosecurity plan for your farm.”

Ron Parker, head of Extension Animal Resources and a beef cattle specialist at New Mexico State University, says it's a mistake to utilize your veterinarian only in an emergency; a good working relationship is a necessity.

“I'd even suggest it would be well worth a producer's while to purchase a half hour of a vet's time and sit down and discuss what needs to be included in your biosecurity and herd health programs,” he adds.

A successful biosecurity plan should cover three main areas — isolation, traffic control and sanitation.


The most important step in disease control is minimizing commingling and movement of cattle. This is especially important for new animals arriving on the farm, such as replacement heifers, or animals returning from fairs and shows where they may have had contact with other cattle. Even commingling between established groups of cattle on the farm and in feedlots should be minimized.

“When you purchase new cattle and bring them to the farm, we recommend you leave them isolated for a period of time to monitor their health before turning them out with the rest of the herd,” Troxel says. “Your veterinarian can help you determine how long that time should be and the precautions you should take with the new animals.”

Isolating and treating sick cattle away from the rest of the herd can also minimize the spread of infectious disease.

Wildlife and pets can also be a cause for concern to animals' health. It's important to control on-farm rodent populations that can carry diseases like leptospirosis, which cause abortions. Keep wild animals, including rodents, birds, skunks and raccoons, away from food storage areas and feed bunks to prevent contamination of cattle feed sources.

“It's also critical for every operation to control pet movements,” Parker says. “There are certain diseases that can be carried by dogs; keeping them away from feed bunks can minimize disease risk.”

Traffic control

Consider points where diseases could enter a farm or ranch and the pathways by which disease is spread. This is especially important on smaller, more confined operations and feedlots where traffic is coming and going in different directions.

“Restrict people to only where they have to be and control their access to other areas,” Parker says.

If visitors are touring your operation, consider their previous stops. Be aware of foreign visitors and ban footwear, clothing and other products from foreign countries on the farm.

“It's wise to have a package of disposable boots there for visitors to wear,” Parker adds. “Disposable boots are a better choice than footbaths because they are much simpler to use and more sanitary. If shoes carry a lot of dirt and manure, the disinfectant in a footbath doesn't eliminate pathogens or other microbials.”

Troxel adds monitoring suspicious traffic around the farm. Unfamiliar vehicles that frequently drive down the road slowly, should be reported to the sheriff.

“Rural folks are good about watching out for their neighbors; they know who should and shouldn't be on the property. If you notice something unusual, report it,” he says.


The sanitation component of a biosecurity plan is aimed at preventing contamination of cattle and equipment. For example, Parker says a front-end loader shouldn't be used to haul manure or transport a dead animal and then used to mix feed without first being sanitized.

Troxel adds that loaning equipment to neighbors is neighborly, but have a plan to disinfect the equipment when it's returned.

“Be concerned about cleaning the stock trailer when you get it back, or any other equipment you might loan to your neighbor,” he says. “You may even clean it before letting it be borrowed.”

Weigh costs, risks

With today's freer movement of cattle around the U.S. and abroad, it pays to be aware of what's coming and going from your operation.

“These are just a few things producers can do very easily to start putting together a farm biosecurity plan,” Troxel says. “We can't let our guard down. It's a different day and time, and we've got to think about some of the things that we used to take for granted and think about those again.”

But, Parker also cautions producers to use logic in developing their biosecurity protocols.

“It is a balancing act with risk on one side and cost on the other. You'd like to be able to hold the cost down while also holding down the risk. That probably isn't going to happen,” he says. “We have to weigh the costs against the risks, and use common sense in developing our programs.”

Biosecurity guidelines

Keep the following items in mind in implementing a biosecurity program:


  • Watch for signs of disease like coughing, weight loss, runny nose and eyes, difficulty breathing, abortions, stillbirths and other reproductive abnormalities.

  • Watch for sores and blisters around mouth, nose, teats and hooves.

  • Report unexplained death loss or illness affecting a high percentage of your herd.

  • Don't transport animals with contagious illnesses.

  • Properly dispose of dead animals.

  • Keep new animals isolated from the herd and observe for disease.

  • Isolate animals that have been off the farm and in contact with other cattle.


  • Minimize access routes to your operation by locking gates or obstructing alternative entry sites.

  • Keep a visitor log.

  • Require visitors to use footbaths or disposable plastic boots on the farm.

  • Be aware of foreign visitors and ban footwear, clothing and other products from foreign countries on the farm.

Vehicles and equipment:

  • Minimize vehicular traffic through livestock and feeding areas.

  • Don't contaminate feedstuffs with manure.

  • Clean and disinfect equipment used for manure hauling or dead animal removal before using it to handle feed.

Environmental and pest control:

  • Keep ground and feedbunks dry.
  • Control insects and birds.
  • Control rodents around feed.

Sources: New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service and University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

How do you shape up?

Biosecurity management practices are designed to reduce or prevent the introduction and movement of infectious diseases on cattle operations. The following quiz can help you determine which areas of your operation may be vulnerable. Then ask your veterinarian for help in designing a program to protect your herd from diseases.

  1. Do you know which animal diseases should be in your biosecurity plan?
  2. Do you always isolate sick animals?
  3. Do you isolate new or returning animals for three weeks before exposing them to the herd?
  4. Do you separate livestock by age and/or production groups?
  5. Do you limit visitor access to barns and lots?
  6. Do you demand that visitors wear clean boots and coveralls?
  7. Do you provide disposable boots and coveralls for visitors?
  8. Do you disinfect your stock trailer?
  9. Do you loan your truck, stock trailer, etc., to other producers?
  10. Do you follow Beef Quality Assurance guidelines?
  11. Do you attempt to control rodents?
  12. Do you have deer-proof fences?
  13. Do you conduct a postmortem exam on every unexpected animal death?
  14. Do you watch for blistering around an animal's mouth, nose, teats and hooves?
  15. Do you prescreen newly purchased animals for diseases?
  16. Do you vaccinate livestock prior to additional stress (weaning, shipping, etc.)?
  17. Do you report to the county sheriff any suspicious visitors or vandalism detected on the farm?
  18. Do you monitor your tanks (fuel and bulk tanks) for siphoning or stealing?
  19. Do you have a farm biosecurity plan?
  20. Do you ask if visitors have been on another farm before they visit your facility?
  21. Do you allow anybody who has arrived in the U.S. within the last seven days on your farm?
  22. Do you allow off-farm vehicles (4-wheelers, etc.) to drive through your animal housing units or farm?
  23. Do you work with your veterinarian on a biosecurity plan for your farm?

For a complete list of questions, visit

Source: University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service

2005 Cow-Calf Issue

Mention the term, “biosecurity” and most folks' first thought is defending against the intentional release of a biological agent meant to harm people, animals or plants. While that's likely the most worrisome and sensational scenario, biosecurity encompasses much more.

A biosecurity program should effectively manage the risks posed by the introduction of infectious diseases, parasites and pests, and preventing the establishment and spread of those organisms that may adversely affect the economy, environment and human and animal health.

Good biosecurity will help protect a farm, an entire livestock industry, and the national economy from the intentional release of a virulently contagious disease like foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). But, it will also help protect and minimize the effects of the inadvertent introduction of that same disease, as well as the spread of diseases already common in the U.S.

This issue is devoted exclusively to the topic of biosecurity for the cow-calf operation, what it is and why it's important. On the following pages, you'll find a discussion of biosecurity and details on its various categories, including emerging disease, endemic disease and bioterrorism. The discussion is designed to provide readers with a better understanding of biosecurity, its importance and its implementation, all in the hopes of building a more secure U.S. beef industry and U.S. food supply.

Cattle Enemy #1

The impact of a terrorist attack on U.S. agriculture could be devastating — and not just to the producer. Businesses such as farm suppliers, transportation, grocery stores, restaurants, equipment distributors, and, in the end, consumers, all would pay.

“Agriculture is considered by many to be the perfect target for bioterrorism,” says Radford Davis, Ames, IA. He's assistant professor of public health, Iowa State University (ISU) Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Preventive Medicine. “The threat of agroterrorism is real and the U.S. is now beginning to address it.”

The consensus is that the No.-1 terrorism threat to the U.S. agricultural economy — not just the cattle industry — is foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). This highly contagious viral disease doesn't affect humans but can devastate all animals with cloven hooves.

“An outbreak of FMD, either by intentional or accidental introduction, would bring our nation's economy to a virtual standstill,” agrees Terry Knowles, deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

FMD's economic impact

Davis cringes at the poor levels of biosecurity on the majority of farms and ranches today and at the vulnerability of the livestock industry to an exotic disease.

“The level of biosecurity across most of the industry guarantees unchallenged and unhindered access to the determined, patient terrorist,” he says.

If the U.S. cattle industry was hit with an FMD outbreak today, exercises conducted by USDA have calculated potential spread to 39 states with the need to depopulate up to 48 million animals.

Daryll E. Ray, University of Tennessee professor of agricultural policy, estimates the immediate direct impact of an FMD outbreak in the U.S. could approach $10 billion — equivalent to losing one-fourth the annual value of all net farm income.

The total direct and indirect impacts easily could be several times that amount, Ray says. Not included in this estimate is the cost to other susceptible animals such as swine, sheep and goats. His analysis also doesn't consider the costs of physically depopulating infected herds, disinfecting premises, quarantines and future surveillance.

“Two years ago, we were looking at the total direct and indirect costs of an FMD outbreak in Kansas to be in the range of $25 billion,” Knowles replies. “All you have to do is look at what happened in Great Britain. You can throw just about any number out there, and it wouldn't surprise me.”

The 2001 FMD outbreak in the United Kingdom resulted in the destruction of four million cattle. It's important to note the outbreak was deemed accidental. Estimates of the overall cost to the economy — primarily to the agriculture and tourism industries — ran as high as £30 billion ($48 billion US).

Whole new ballgame

Biological threats to agriculture represent a new challenge for Kansas law enforcement, Knowles says. “It's important we understand the threats, vulnerabilities, available resources and likely scenarios.”

To help with this understanding, several training sessions have been initiated. The Ford County, KS, sheriff's office hosted a regional seminar in Dodge City involving law enforcement officers, producers and feedlot operators in the west region.

“Officers were able to learn firsthand about the potential threats and the impact of a bioterrorism attack on livestock,” Knowles says. “In turn, there was a mutual understanding by livestock producers of the capabilities and resource limitations of law enforcement agencies.”

One of the major problems identified in training exercises designed to predict an FMD outbreak is how to effectively deal with the movement of livestock not affected by the outbreak. After all, more than 500 truckloads of cattle move through western Kansas every day.

“We've found stopping the movement of livestock requires contingency plans to handle unloading, feeding and caring for these cattle,” Knowles adds. “It would be an enormous logistical task.”

Complicated, virulent disease

An FMD outbreak in beef cattle would be further complicated in that dairy cattle, sheep and goats, bison, swine, elk, deer, moose and pronghorn are susceptible.

Furthermore, FMD experts say the disease virus can be disseminated via aerosol, direct contact with any body fluid from an infected animal, or contaminated meat and excrement.

Garry Brower, a Fort Hays State University associate professor, says a documented case shows that the “plume” exhaled by an FMD-afflicted cow can carry infectious levels of aerosolized FMD virus for 30 miles when humidity is 60% or more and the wind is non-turbulent.

“The virus will live in the soil for up to 28 days in winter and three days in summer,” he adds. “It will survive in urine for 39 days, dry feces for 14 days in summer, and in slurry or manure in holding ponds for six months in winter.”

A successful FMD attack needn't infect thousands of animals. It can spread aggressively from site to site. Just a small-scale attack on a few facilities could balloon into an epidemic spread by wind or the movement of animals and equipment.

To infect the largest number of animals at once, a terrorist may try to contaminate products, such as feed, that are distributed widely to the whole herd. One publicly disseminated tactic suggested by domestic ecoterrorists is to coat feathers with FMD agent, fill small bomblets and explode them over the target so they drift on the wind and contaminate a vast area.

Knowles says a potential “threat element” could go to the Internet and find ways to disseminate a disease like FMD “in a heartbeat.”

In a U.S. Army exercise several years ago, agents acting as potential customers infiltrated auction barns and pretended to infect livestock by spraying animals with bottles that contained water to simulate a solution of virus. They also successfully dropped handkerchiefs (to simulate a pathogen-soaked rag) into a livestock pen.

“Any number of methods would be highly effective in spreading diseases such as FMD,” Knowles says.

Terrorism's psychology

“An attack against animals or crops is generally viewed as more benign and less offensive than if humans fell dead from a direct assault,” Davis says. He adds agricultural terrorism isn't about killing animals but crippling an economy.

“To that end, agents foreign to U.S. livestock/poultry industries and crops would be preferred by terrorists,” he explains. “For animals, there are many foreign agents readily available in nature, from low-security laboratories, even from commercial sources, that require little effort or risk to smuggle into the U.S.”

Most foreign animal agents — like FMD — pose little or no human health risk, so the terrorist may feel some sense of security in handling and dispersing such pathogens. Once unleashed, an agroterrorism event may go unnoticed for weeks, making it nearly impossible to determine if the event was manmade or occurred naturally, says Rocco Casagrande. He's a director in the homeland defense practice at Abt Associates in Cambridge, MA, and served as a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq.

“Groups with political, religious and criminal motivations, or devoted to a single issue, might turn to agroterrorism,” he says.

Casagrande also warns certain “ecoterrorist” groups might find the use of biological weapons like FMD particularly attractive.

“The most radical of these groups work toward the destruction of all agriculture because they believe it is a perversion of the natural order,” Casagrande says.

A biological attack targeting agriculture, Casagrande says, “…should be regarded as a high-consequence, high-probability event and receive the attention it deserves as a grave national security risk.”

Because a biological attack may be insidious at first, the need for effective infectious disease surveillance systems is obvious. Casagrande says terrorism involving a foreign animal disease (FAD) with zoonotic implications likely would be detected first by local or state health officials. But, veterinarians also have an important role in the surveillance for potential biological weapon agents by the prompt reporting of FADs, he says.

Concentration & contingencies

A major problem for the security of agricultural production is the geographical disbursement of unsecured environments. Another unique challenge is the concentration of livestock in confined locations and the high level of transportation and commingling that occurs.

“When you introduce a virus into an agricultural setting, since it is so concentrated, there would be a rapid spread,” says Peter Chalk, an agroterrorism expert from the Rand Corp.

Chalk calls agriculture the “glaring exception” in the U.S. terrorist contingency plan. He says, unlike the limited number of biological weapons against humans, there is a large menu of agroterrorism weapons.

Also, according to a new Congressional Research Service report, many veterinarians lack experience with FADs that are resilient and endemic in foreign countries. The report says the U.S. must develop a three-pronged strategy to preempt an attack or defend the nation against agroterrorism. This strategy should include deterrence and prevention, detection and response, and recovery and management of the crisis.

“FMD's threat to agriculture is real, and the U.S. is just now beginning to address it,” Davis says. “For example, how many livestock producers quarantine their new animals — the same animals that were just purchased at a crowded sale barn?”

He says it's time to begin taking this threat seriously.

“It's prudent for producers, veterinarians and other agricultural professionals to become familiar with the issues and details surrounding agroterrorism,” Davis says, “Then look at the contingencies and start making plans immediately.”

How does FMD spread?

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is one of nature's most virulently contagious pathogens. FMD viruses can be spread by animals, people, or materials that bring the virus into physical contact with susceptible animals. An outbreak can occur when:

  • People wearing contaminated clothes or footwear, or using contaminated equipment pass the virus to susceptible animals.

  • Animals carrying the virus are introduced into susceptible herds.

  • Contaminated facilities are used to hold susceptible animals.

  • Raw or improperly cooked garbage containing infected meat or animal products is fed to susceptible animals.

  • Contaminated vehicles are used to move susceptible animals. Vehicles should be thoroughly washed between shipments of animals to prevent transfer.

  • Susceptible animals are exposed to materials such as hay, feedstuffs, hides, or biologics contaminated with the virus.

  • Susceptible animals drink common source-contaminated water. Test water for bacterial, chemical or nutrient contamination. Prevent fecal and urine contamination.

  • A susceptible cow is inseminated by semen from an infected bull. Buy semen, embryos or bulls from suppliers with control programs for infectious diseases.

Source: American Feed Industry Association Web site.

Shaky Ground

On one hand, it's been decades since a widespread disease outbreak crippled the U.S. cattle economy and filled pits with euthanized carcasses.

In fact, in today's highly mobile world of global trade, it's almost miraculous that the U.S. has kept foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) at bay since 1929. After all, the disease existed in Mexico until 1953, when the border was even more porous than today.

On the other hand, the tick that harbors Heartwater — a disease some veterinarians view as more catastrophic than FMD — has made its way from Africa to Puerto Rico.

Moreover, Mel Pence, points out, “When you look at reproductive efficiency in the industry, when you look at disease in the nation's feedlots and the horrendous amount of money we pay for it, certainly diseases are severely impacting economic returns to the beef industry.” Pence is a veterinary field investigator and University of Georgia associate professor of large animal medicine who spent more than two decades in a private cow-calf practice in Iowa.

Global threats remain

From the standpoint of foreign animal disease (FAD), Pence explains, “FMD is the one we worry about the most. It's a devastating economic disease we can't afford to get.”

FMD is tough to detect at its early stages in sheep and goats because it doesn't affect them as severely as cattle, Pence says. As illustrated by the United Kingdom's outbreak in 2001, that means the disease can get a foothold across expansive geographic regions before folks even realize it's a problem.

Keep in mind that while morbidity runs high with this virulently contagious disease, FMD's mortality rate is actually quite low. It's the need to euthanize exposed animals for containment that's so catastrophic.

“The way FMD will be controlled is early detection,” Pence says. “I feel we've developed a solid infrastructure in this nation to handle it if, heaven-forbid, it ever turns up here again.” In other words, while devastating, FMD can be eradicated.

Unfortunately, that's not necessarily the case with Heartwater, which Pence believes also poses high FAD risk to U.S. producers. The morbidity and mortality rates of the most common acute form of this disease are staggering.

Since the disease organism is borne by tick, eradicating the disease would be next to impossible. That's because rather than eradicating exposed animals as with FMD, you'd have to eradicate all of the ticks.

If there's a silver lining, Pence notes, it's that these two diseases aren't zoonotic. In other words, unlike fears about a link between BSE in cattle and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) in humans, FMD and Heartwater pose negligible health risk to humans.

There are a host of other spooky FADs that impact cattle around the world, such as Rinderpest, Lumpy Skin Disease, Rift Valley Fever and Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia. And, there are FADs affecting other livestock species that have indirectly impacted U.S. cattle markets the past few years. Exotic Newcastle's Disease and avian influenza in the poultry industry come to mind.

But, Pence explains other than following regulations, awareness and observation, there's not much producers can do to prevent the diseases.

“It's pretty much out of a producer's control whether or not an FAD comes to the U.S.,” Pence explains. “It's controlled by regulations on importing cattle and cattle by-products.”

Domestic diseases of concern

Just the opposite is true of diseases the World Health Organization (WHO) traditionally classified as List A and List B diseases (Table 1, page 12). While eradication may not be possible, management and control rests in the hands of producers.

List A diseases are those WHO designates as having the potential for rapid spread, regardless of national borders, transmissible diseases that pose serious socio-economic or public health consequences, and are of major importance in the international trade of animals and animal by-products.

The List B designation is similar but denotes diseases posing significant socio-economic or public health consequences within a country, while also being of significant importance in the international trade arena.

You may be surprised to find some common cattle ailments on the list, such as leptospirosis, bovine fenital campylobacteriosis (vibriosis) and infectious bovine rhinotrachetis (IBR/red nose), which many U.S. producers manage for every day.

“Politico-economic considerations have something to do with the disease listing,” says John Maas. He explains some diseases endemic to the U.S. are ones other WHO members want to keep out of their countries. Maas is a Cooperative Extension veterinarian with the University of California-Davis.

Of course, you may also be amazed at some of the common diseases not on the list, such as persistently infected bovine viral diarrhea (BVD-PI), which U.S. producers are working harder to control.

Categorize and conquer

While it's impossible to make blanket recommendations for any disease, there are common approaches to assessing risk and management protocols that producers can use in disease management.

For instance, Pence suggests first deciding whether biosecurity or biocontainment is the goal. Biosecurity is either eliminating an existing disease in the herd or preventing the introduction of one. Brucellosis and tuberculosis (TB) are examples, while others might include BVD-PI and Johne's disease.

If it's impossible or impractical to remove something from the environment or herd, biocontainment aims at management that allows living with the disease economically.

Leptospirosis and IBR would be examples.

Whatever the disease challenge, Pence explains it will likely come under one of three categories: neonatal enteric disease, reproductive or respiratory.

Likewise, Maas points out disease transmission will either be classified as viral, rickettsial (borne by ticks, lice and mites), animal-to-animal or feed borne.

Once you know which category the disease fits and its mode of transmission, you're well on the road to understanding risk factors associated with the disease and ways to mitigate them.

As an example, with viral disease the mode of transmission means you have to be concerned about the pathogen's physical introduction, be it on vehicles, visitors' clothes and boots, etc., Maas explains. With FMD, it could even be a visitor from an FMD country who harbors the organism in their respiratory tract, spreading the organism simply by coughing or sneezing.

Conversely, in diseases requiring animal-to-animal contact like BVD and IBR, this means figuring out how to keep cattle isolated and ensuring new additions don't bring it with them.

Disease organisms harbored by the environment (like anthrax), or borne by insect (like anaplasmosis) and wildlife (like rabies) vectors, are a tougher nut to crack.

As complicated as this sounds, Maas says most producers practice biosecurity and biocontainment daily, though they may not think of it in those terms. For instance, when you buy a bull, chances are you make sure he's TB- and brucellosis-free and tested for trichomonosis. That's biosecurity.

“Some producers know intuitively about biosecurity. They only buy cattle from certain herds and only run specific types of cattle in certain parts of the country,” Maas says.

Carrying the bull example a step further, Pence applies the four basics of biosecurity — isolate, test, vaccinate and possibly medicate. Say you've decided to buy Old Grumpy 319, a known son of Grouchy's Lament. You'll make sure he's received basic vaccinations including lepto and IBR, and he's been tested for TB, brucellosis and trichomonosis. If your herd's BVD-PI free, you'll test for that, too. Once he's home, you'll isolate him for 30-60 days.

2003 U.S. cattle health status reported to World Health Organization (formerly classified as List A and List B diseases)
Disease (class) Outbreaks Cases Deaths Destroyed Slaughtered Control measures
Anaplasmosis*** (B) Vaccination where practical
Anthrax** (B) Vaccination where practical
Bluetongue* (A****) Border precautions/monitoring
Bovine babesiosis**
(tick fever) (B****)
Modified eradication, notification required
Control of anthropods, border precautions, zoning
Endemic in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands — last reported case on mainland in 1943.
Bovine brucellosis* (B) 38 704 Modified eradication, notification required, screening, surveillance, border precautions, management control, monitoring, zoning, vaccination (3.6 million vaccinated); depopulated all three infected herds
(Vibriosis)*** (B)
Bovine cysticerosis*1 (B)
Bovine leptospirosis** (B)
Vaccination where practical
Bovine paratuberculosis
(Johne's disease)**2 (B)
Notification required, screening, movement control, vaccination/developing national monitoring program
Bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (B****)3
1 1 Eradication, notification required, surveillance, border precautions, movement control/single case an import animal
Bovine tuberculosis* (B) 52 2,663 Eradication, notification required, surveillance, border precautions, movement control, monitoring, zoning/2 of 12 outbreaks carry-over from 2002; 6 of 12 affected herds depopulated.
Dermatophilosis* (B) Border precautions
Enzootic bovine leukosis (B) Screening/program for certification of exporters
Infectious bovine rhinotracheitis/Infectious pustular vulvovaginitis (B) Vaccination
Malignant catarrhal fever (B) Eradication, notification required, border precautions, movement control
Q fever (B) Notification required/management control
Rabies (B) Notification required, vaccination
Trichomonosis (B) Border precautions, movement control
Vesicular stomatitis (A****) Surveillance, border precautions, movement control
**Zone-specific/incidence in all species unknown
***Incidence unknown in all species
Source: Adapted from World Health Organization (OIE) Status Report
Exotic Newcastle Disease, formerly known as velogenic viscerotropic Newcastle Disease (A****)
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (A****)
Scrapie (B)
1Interrupt life cycle of parasite; prevent human-fecal feed contamination; meat cooking temperature
2Vaccination impractical in many instances
3Compliance with ban on feeding mammalian protein is critical

If he has an infectious disease, he'll get over it in time, develop immunity and won't be shedding the pathogen, Pence says. Plus, since you'll probably want to vaccinate him for the same diseases you guard your cow herd against, the isolation time gives the bull a chance to build immunity.

“There are areas of the U.S. where the bull may be exposed to lepto hardjobovis, so you may want to treat with tetracycline to reduce the potential of introducing a carrier for that disease into the herd. That treatment is also effective for anaplasmosis,” he says.

In every case, Pence explains, “The people who know best what to vaccinate for in your area are you and your veterinarian. The local practitioner should be able to help you build a biosecurity plan.”

Basic disease prevention

Of course, all this management is wasted without the essential foundation of a health program.

“Nutrition plays a major role,” Pence says. “The macronutrient needs of energy and protein must be met, but we also know micronutrients like copper and selenium impact an animal's ability to develop immunity. And, we know some areas of the country are deficient in these minerals.”

As far as Pence is concerned, control of internal parasites is part of nutrition since worm burdens suppress appetite and create nutritional deficits.

Next comes the basic vaccination protocol, relative to a producer's goals and the disease challenges in the area and on the farm. For most producers, Pence says that means calves should be vaccinated with Black Leg and a four-way viral (IBR, BVD, BRSV, PI3) by the time they're 4-6 months old.

Similarly, when it comes to cows and reproductive failure, Pence explains the most likely candidates are always IBR, BVD, lepto and vibriosis.

Pence says he's seeing more and more producers in Georgia isolate and test specifically for BVD-PI. “The technology and knowledge associated with this disease have expanded so rapidly in the past 10 years that we're at a point where we really can eradicate it from the farm,” he says.

Maas is seeing the same thing in California for both BVD-PI and Johne's disease. He equates increased testing to the early-innovator phase of new technology adoption. “We're seeing 5-10% of our producers now doing some kind of testing,” he says.

Hand in hand with this is the opportunity producers have to maintain and add value by documenting health management. At the very least, Pence suggests producers keep health records “to validate you're doing everything possible to reduce the spread of disease.”

Likewise, Maas says, “Producers should probably be keeping a record of health management that shows they're at least performing at the industry standard, particularly in the case of diseases like Johne's where negligence could be involved.”

Preparing But Never Ready

Biosecurity isn't a new concept in the cattle business. Producers practice its basic tenets each time they inquire about the health status of a prospective purchase or, after getting the animal home, isolate it for a period before running it with the herd.

A good, targeted vaccination program is another aspect of biosecurity, which basically means protecting against the introduction of endemic or foreign animal diseases (FADs), parasites or pests, and preventing their establishment and spread.

But the term biosecurity took on a whole new urgency in the aftermath of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks. Americans suddenly realized en masse that the U.S. could be vulnerable to terrorism in very tragic and exotic ways.

On the livestock side, the specter of FADs, such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), moved from the realm of accidental to the chilling possibility of intentional.

In February 2003, the Office of Homeland Security identified agriculture and food as one of 11 critical infrastructures in the U.S. No surprise when one considers agriculture is a $1.5-trillion annual contributor to the U.S. gross domestic product, with beef and dairy cattle constituting its largest sector.

In fact, a Congressional Research Service report prepared for Congress and presented in August 2004 listed the following consequences to an agro-terrorism event, though they'd also apply to an accidental FAD introduction:

  • The value of lost production, and the cost of destroying diseased or potentially diseased products, and containment costs.

  • Loss of export markets.

  • The multiplier effects on businesses dependent on the affected industry.

  • Mounting eradication and containment costs, and animal indemnities.

  • A loss of consumer confidence that could tank the entire market segment.

A real-life scenario

Such a scenario played out in the UK when a 2001 FMD outbreak resulted in the destruction of 4 million animals and total losses to UK agriculture and tourism of about $13 billion. It's thought the virus was imported from Asia in unprocessed animal products illegally fed to pigs.

A “Lessons Learned Inquiry” by the UK's Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs found that “no amount of effort can eliminate the risk of damage from FMD.” But, reducing the risk of economic damage as much as possible requires a range of coordinated actions by government, the farming industry and others in the rural economy working together.” To view the report, go to

Among the findings were:

  • Maintain vigilance via international, national and local surveillance.

  • Be prepared with comprehensive contingency plans, building mutual trust and confidence through training and practice.

  • React with speed and certainty to an emergency or escalating crisis by applying well-rehearsed crisis management procedures.

  • Explain policies, plans and practices by communicating with all interested parties comprehensively, clearly and consistently in a transparent and open way.

  • Respect local knowledge and delegate decisions whenever possible, without losing sight of the national strategy.

  • Have a legislative framework that gives government the powers needed to respond effectively to the emerging needs of a crisis.

  • Base policy decisions on best available science.

Those precepts have been confirmed in mock exercises across the U.S. In June 2003, the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center at Kansas State University conducted “High Stakes,” one of a series of simulations designed to exercise Kansas' preparedness for, response to and consequence mitigation of an agroterrorism attack. A total of 130 county, state, federal and industry participants representing 20 organizations responded to a scenario in which five terrorist teams armed with FMD contaminants attacked cattle and swine in shipment at transportation nodes in five states including Kansas.

“I don't think you can ever prepare enough for one of these events,” says the Kansas Livestock Association's Todd Domer. “But it showed there must be true partnerships between all of the agencies, government and industry to be effective in responding to an FAD.”

U.S. risks increasing?

That FAD risks might be increasing would seem to be borne out by a Jan. 24 article in the Wall Street Journal. Joel Millman writes: “economic and social trends in Latin America, including liberalized trade and travel among its nations, are creating new incentives and opportunities for would-be migrants to head for the U.S.”

One group in particular, he points out, is Brazilian nationals, of whom 8,600 were arrested crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in the fiscal year ending September 2004. That's up from 1,200 four years prior, which officials attribute to Mexico dropping its visa requirements for Brazilians in 2002. U.S. law-enforcement agents say they're on track to apprehend almost 20,000 Brazilian illegals in 2005.

That's disconcerting, says Samuel Fassig, DVM, because, while FMD hasn't been found in the U.S. since 1929 and in Mexico since 1953, there are areas in four northern Brazilian states with active FMD cases (as well as concerns in Paraguay and Argentina). Fassig is director, Veterinary Business Resources for General Fire & Casualty Co.

“An FMD introduction could become a North American natural occurrence with any illegal bringing in sausage or beef products from one of these known contaminated areas,” Fassig says.

Just how devastating an FMD outbreak in a concentrated livestock area could be was illustrated in a 1999 University of California-Davis study. The study by Javier M. Ekboir looked at the potential impact of an FMD outbreak in Tulare County, an area dense with large-scale dairy and hog operations and feedlots. Get the report at

Ekboir's report emphasizes the crucial importance of quick detection and immediate control of an outbreak of the disease. The results indicate that just a few days' delay in action can mean billions of extra dollars in control costs, production losses and lost markets.

A recent RAND Study listed the following as factors that make California and other high-density livestock areas vulnerable to major damage due to FAD:

  • Concentrated, intensive farming practices that make a contagious disease outbreak difficult to contain.

  • Increased susceptibility of livestock.

  • Insufficient farm/food-related security and surveillance. Farms seldom incorporate vigorous means to prevent unauthorized access, and most animal auctions and barn sales are devoid of organized on-site surveillance.

  • An inefficient, passive disease-reporting system. Responsibility for reporting unusual occurrences of animal disease lies with livestock producers, who may have a disincentive to do so due to lack of a consistent agricultural indemnity program.

  • Inappropriate veterinarian and diagnostic training.

  • The trend toward larger herds and breeding operations, which precludes the option of attending to animals individually, makes it more likely that emerging diseases will be overlooked.

These points continue to be addressed, says Danelle Bickett-Weddle, DVM, associate director of the Center for Food Security and Public Health (CFSPH) in Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. CFSPH is among a number of projects and programs designed to spread biosecurity awareness. CFSPH prepares and distributes educational materials on bioterrorism and agroterrorism agents to veterinarians, public health officials and medical professionals.

“Our effort is to train veterinarians in each state who can then use our materials to train home-state colleagues and animal owners,” Bickett-Weddle says. “We now have a network of about 300 veterinarians who have been through one of our training programs. And, they have helped educate more than 31,000 people using our materials in the past two years.”

CFSPH maintains resources at ( to help educate the public. Other CFSPH materials include free fact sheets, a Web-based course on Emerging and Exotic Diseases of Animals for veterinarians and veterinarian students (see offered through the Veterinarian Information Network, as well as a textbook.

“CFSPH has become a resource nationwide and internationally on preparedness efforts,” Bickett-Weddle says.

Protecting the economy

But Fassig says one glaring and significant shortcoming is the lack of catastrophic livestock risk insurance to cover losses suffered by individual producers. He says exposure of the national cattle herd to an FAD could potentially mean a $100-billion liability.

“Many livestock producers assume the government will bail them out in event of a catastrophic disease,” Fassig says. “The reality is payments by any agency — state or federal — to producers for depopulations may not be timely, at real-market value or even deliverable under current state and federal government programs.”

Fassig says USDA, via the Risk Management Agency and the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, currently provides reinsurance for some $45 billion in liabilities and $3.5 billon in subsidies for horticultural and whole-farm production and revenue loss. But, nothing comparable is available for livestock.

He says the majority of risks associated with livestock operations are uninsured. And, such coverage was excluded from the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002. That leaves smaller producers who can't self-insure especially vulnerable without any affordable risk-management tools.

“Financially, the private sector alone can't provide sufficient insurance coverage for the livestock industry to fully support and provide for all producers the safety net for catastrophic disease and weather exposures associated with cattle production,” Fassig says.

As an example, Fassig points to the devastation caused by last fall's hurricane season. Based on USDA's National Animal Health Emergency Plan, had the 1.2 million head of affected Florida cattle instead been exposed to FMD, Fassig says the scenario would likely have developed like this:

  • A 30-mile area of quarantine would be placed around every incident site for up to 180 days. No movement of animals would be allowed, and animals found moving to outside the zone would be destroyed.

  • Within a six-mile zone around each positive index case, all cloven-foot animals would be designated for depopulation and disposal, along with premises disinfection.

  • All animals within the 30-mile zone around the six-mile impact zone would be tested, and owners must continue feeding at USDA humane standard levels.

  • Within the 30-mile zone, it is possible that animals testing negative might be vaccinated. But, once vaccinated by officials, those animals could only move directly to slaughter.

  • USDA would not pay for rebuilding structures, fencing, feed equipment, ponds, etc., destroyed during disinfection and cleanup.

  • And, USDA would not pay normal operating expenses for a producer during the diagnostic, depopulation or disinfection process, or employee wages for the producer's operation.

Fassig points out that, in addition, banks holding notes on real property from operations with FMD-positive livestock would experience a devaluation of collateral due to perceived future liability for the farm, equipment and other tangibles. And should the farmer go bankrupt as a result of quarantine, depopulation or post-cleanup, the bank may not be able to salvage any collateral for fear of future lawsuits.

“There is no insurance program readily available for all livestock producers in the U.S. to help manage risk for catastrophic disease events or that helps producers stay in business should such an event occur,” Fassig says. “USDA has only limited ad hoc disaster payment plans for quarantine, destruction/depopulation and disinfection.”

The existence of such a catastrophic loss program on the crop side, Fassig says, is the reason the grain markets don't see the volatility that ensues in the livestock markets on the rumor of a BSE- or FMD-infected animal.

In a 2002 resolution regarding federal reinsurance for private-sector catastrophic livestock risk insurance, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) resolved: “that because adequate state and federal funding of existing indemnity programs, in the event of widespread catastrophic occurrences, is uncertain and unrealistic to depend on, and whereas there is no readily available or affordable private-sector or governmental financial capacity to fund catastrophic events; NCBA strongly supports the development of a reinsurance program to establish risk sharing with the private sector and ensure the availability of catastrophic risk insurance products.”

Fixing Catastrophic Coverage

Samuel Fassig, DVM, a past president of the American Association of Industrial Veterinarians, is endorsing the introduction, support and passage of the Stockgrowers Insurance Parity Act of 2005. The bill would authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to take action to implement federal catastrophic reinsurance in a cooperative effort with private-sector insurance companies to provide a minimum “safety net” for the livestock industry.

View the proposal by going to Select “Resource Library” on the opening page. After registering “yes” to the “confidentiality agreement, click on “Documents,” then select “Livestock Resource Library.” In the “Legislative Affairs” folder on the ensuing page, select “SIPA 2005 Draft Legislation.”