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Articles from 2003 In August

Northern Border Set To Reopen, But Tough Times Lay Ahead

The segregation issue is particularly important because of the way the Canadian packing industry is sorted and the fact that the majority of packing plants kill both slaughter cows and fed cattle, and the geographic location of their plants. Segregation could result in the restructuring of their packing industry as the plants are forced toward more specialization.

It's estimated that the single Alberta cow found with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) has cost the Canadian cattle industry around $1 billion. Since that May 20 announcement regarding BSE, Canada's total cattle and calf inventory has set an all-time record high, according to Statistics Canada, with the July 1 inventory level up 1.9% from a year ago.

That's an increase of less than 300,000 head from 15.4 million to 15.7 million head. That increase is largely due to calves and feeders that normally would have been in the feed yard but instead were kept on grass or in backgrounding programs. This is borne out by the fact that cattle-on-feed numbers in Canada as of July 1 were down 9%. Meanwhile, the number of beef cows in Canada came in at just slightly less than 5 million head.

Canada's total cattle inventory, as of July 1, was essentially the same as for Texas, which was 15.5 million head. But, the Texas beef cow inventory was 5.89 million head or roughly 20% larger than the number of cows in Canada. As of July 1, the total cattle inventory in the U.S. was 103.9 million head.

Canadian feeder cattle prices are expected to remain extremely tough until the backlog of feeder cattle is placed into the feed yards. Then, the fed industry will have to work through those cattle on the other end. This is the time that is most likely to affect U.S. fed cattle prices.

Canadian slaughter levels had fallen to 30,000 head/week but they've risen back to 60,000/week. That's still well below the 75,000/week they were processing prior to the BSE discovery.

Everyone will be watching the placement pattern in Canada carefully to see if the numbers are spread out to mitigate the effects. Cattle prices in Canada have fallen by as much as 70% since the discovery of BSE. That represents the biggest financial hit for ranchers since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

It's important to note that roughly half of Canada's exports to the U.S. were in live cattle, and reopening of the border to live cattle doesn't appear like it will happen any time soon. In part that's because of the time required to implement the new beef export program (BEV) announced by USDA this week, which is designed to meet Japan's new requirements on product to be exported to their country.

The BEV program sets up eligible suppliers and meets Japan's requirements that cattle be of U.S. origin. The system also dictates how the identified product will be segregated from that of non-identified cattle.

The industry would have been hard pressed to meet the deadline of September 1 that was established by Japan, but these steps won't have to be implemented until the border is reopened to Canadian live cattle. That means live cattle imports won't be restarted until at least this program is implemented.

The program has revived debate about country-of-origin labeling (COOL) once again, as producers wonder aloud if a similar type of a workable program couldn't be devised along similar lines. This would require new legislation that would allow the easier system while holding up to international trade agreement scrutiny.

Little Market Reaction To Canadian Border Reopening

Of course, any reaction in the short term would have been merely psychological. After all, the first shipped product isn't expected until early September. That means any Canadian product most likely won't appear until after the big demand of Labor Day.

Under the plan of the U.S. (followed three days later by Mexico), will still ban import of live cattle from Canada but will allow boneless meat cuts from cattle less than 30 months of age, as well as lambs and goats under 12 months.

Unquestionably, there remains significant concern about a glut of Canadian product. The pipeline for Canadian beef will clearly be full, but perhaps the situation won't be as bad as is being feared because the Canadians have moved a good portion of the glut through their own channels, albeit at disastrously low prices.

Other factors that might ease the border reopening are that the U.S. industry is extremely current and the number of cattle placed on feed the last several months has been understandably small. While nobody will argue that the border closing has been positive for U.S. producers, there's strong disagreement over the U.S. assuming the lead role in reopening the border to Canadian product.

That debate shapes up this way: Are the short-term price benefits of keeping the border closed longer than the science warrants worth the risk for long-term problems that might arise for U.S. producers by not making decisions based on the best science available?

July PETA Ad Was An Anti-PETA Ad

I've had three readers call this week to quiz me about an ad that appeared on page 25 of the July issue of BEEF. In the ad prepared by the Center For Consumer Freedom (CCF), an anti-activist organization that campaigns nationwide against extremist groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), CCF uses a photo of a young girl playing with puppies as a backdrop. The ad then highlights a statement by PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk at the time of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Europe. Her statement was: “I openly hope that it comes here.”

Below that quote, the ad concludes with: “PETA: As warm and cuddly as you thought?”

The ad's message is subtle but its aim is to alert consumers, using actual quotes by representatives of activist organizations, about the true aims of such groups. A few readers who missed the subtle message, however, called to inquire why BEEF would accept advertising from PETA. We didn't, we wouldn't and we apologize for any reader confusion.

The CCF ad is actually what is called in publishing “a house ad.” Such space is often donated to non-profit outfits when a paid ad drops out of the magazine at the last moment, or as a fill-in when a purchased ad is only to go to certain segments of the total circulation. You might recall having previously seen such ads in BEEF, its competitors and in consumer magazines publicizing causes like FFA, 4-H, the American Red Cross, the fight against cancer, etc.

Regarding the ad, James K. Bowers, CCF's managing director, wrote the following note to BEEF last month:

“A big thank you to BEEF magazine for featuring our ad campaign in recent issues. We're grateful for the opportunity to remind ranchers, packers, grocers and restauranteurs that animal rights activists (especially the lunatics at PETA) pose a very real threat to everyone who works hard to put burgers and steaks on Americans' dinner tables.

“By pointing out that PETA has publicly hoped that foot-and-mouth disease would ravage U.S. livestock herds and openly advocated violence against slaughterhouses and restaurants, it's our goal to give the public a much-needed wakeup call.

“We like to think that sunlight is the best disinfectant. The brighter we shine it on people like PETA, the better prepared beef producers will be to respond to their intimidation tactics and overt threats.”

By the way, be sure to check out the CCF's Web site at It's attractive, useful and is performing a great service for all true animal lovers, including beef producers.

Stress-relieving weaning strategies

Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) costs the beef industry more than $1 billion annually in reduced performance, death loss, medicine costs, labor and reduced carcass value. While eliminating all cases of BRD is unrealistic, the industry has made little progress over the years in reducing BRD incidence.

During my years in private practice, I asked numerous feedlot clients if they secretly desired to be feedlot veterinarians. Everyone gave me an emphatic “no!” No one wanted the headaches of dealing with sick cattle. So, why did these folks continue to buy unweaned, unvaccinated (commodity) calves from multiple sources?

There were two reasons — such calves were abundant and, most importantly, they were cheap. But the problem was that, after treating all the calves once and some calves multiple times, these “cheap” calves would ultimately end up costing more than the preconditioned calves that topped the sale. Clients that fed fully preconditioned calves after experiencing numerous wrecks with commodity calves rarely went back to buying commodity calves.

The weak link in the preconditioning system is that many producers lack the facilities and/or the feedstuffs. Many producers say they have no choice but to remove the calves from the dams and sell them without vaccinations, deworming or weaning.

This indeed may be true for some producers, but only for a very small percentage. While buying fully preconditioned calves is the goal of most feedlot owners, here are five options for ranchers between offering commodity and preconditioned calves:

  • Wean On Grass

    Work at the University of Missouri has shown that weaning calves onto grass with fence line contact to their dams can be an excellent option for farms or ranches that lack the facilities or the necessary feedstuffs. Over the past 20 years, this facility has had only four sick calves and zero cases of BRD among its 4,500 fully preconditioned calves, with the calves typically gaining at least 1.5 lbs./day for the first 60 days.

    Researchers in other areas of the U.S. have had similar results. We see this as a tremendously viable option for many herds across the country.

  • Early Vaccinations For BRD

    Conventional wisdom says vaccinating calves at a few months of age against BRD (IBR-BVD-PI3-BRSV) isn't effective due to maternal immunity blocking the vaccination. This conventional wisdom is wrong.

    Work by Vic Cortese, a Pfizer Animal Health DVM, proved that protective immunity to IBR is stimulated by use of an approved modified-live product as early as one week of age. Check with your herd health veterinarian about using a viral BRD vaccine as calves go to grass or in the summer when fly control is undertaken.

  • Pre-Weaning Vaccination

    We would like to see calves held at home after weaning for a period prior to shipment. But if this isn't possible, vaccinating 2-3 weeks pre-weaning still makes sense. This allows the buyer of the bawling calves to boost rather than expose the calves to the vaccines for the first time. This could help to bring a serious buyer back next year.

  • Anti-Nurse Devices

    After reading an article in BEEF (“The Weaning Two-Step,” November 2001) about the use of an anti-nurse device to reduce the stress of weaning, we tried this technique on a group of calves.

    The goal at weaning is to minimize stress on the calf as much as possible. All studies indicate that such stressors as feed changes, surgeries, commingling, etc., at the time of weaning increase the incidence of BRD.

    Even in complete preconditioning programs, calves still have two stressors at weaning time — separation from their dams and cessation of nursing. Using an anti-nurse device, stress is minimized because the calf is left on its dam during weaning.

    In our small study, calves fitted with anti-nurse devices either were eating or lying down chewing their cud 12 hours after weaning, and their dams were out grazing. Meanwhile, control cows bellowed at the fence line while their calves bellowed and walked the fence. The stress level difference was dramatic.

    Use of the anti-nurse device in a traditional preconditioning program could be as follows:

    If backgrounding isn't feasible, calves could move to grass (Option 1) or to market in a reduced stress/vaccinated program.

  • Limited Nursing Options

    More than 30 years ago, we reduced weaning stress by allowing calves to nurse once daily for about a week before weaning. This is nearly impossible for a large ranch in range conditions, but many smaller herds successfully use it. The calves are limit-fed a complete ration that allows their rumen to adjust to the diet they'll eat in the feedlot.

  • Earlier Weaning

    Calves weaned at about 150 days of age tend to have fewer BRD problems than those weaned at 205 days or later. The nutrition options for these calves include high-quality forage or forage-plus-grain.

Another advantage of earlier weaning in spring-calving herds is that the cows tend to go into winter in better condition.

As the marketplace continues to discount commodity cattle, producers need to look at various options to reduce weaning stress. While a complete preconditioning program is the “gold standard” for health, complementary or alternative programs may have a place in your herd.

Mike Apley, DVM, Ph.D., is an associate professor of beef production medicine at Iowa State University in Ames. W. Mark Hilton, DVM, is a clinical assistant professor of beef production medicine at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN.

2 weeks Prewean: BRD vaccine
1 week Prewean: Place anti-nurse device
Weaning Day: Repeat BRD vaccine
Remove anti-nurse device

Little Martha's Story

As her parents Mark and Donna watch proudly, Martha Moenning, 2, squeals with delight as her sister Mary, 6, gives her a shove on the swing. Nearby, her brother Samuel, 4, his feet jangling with silver spurs, chases Ruby, his Dalmatian dog, around the yard with a cap gun.

The rain is moving in on their southern Minnesota farm on this late June day, but the Moenning family rejoices in its togetherness — they have weathered worse storms.

Just a year ago in mid-August, Martha was fighting for her life against E. coli O157:H7. Her tiny body was being ravaged by this dangerous, often lethal, strain of bacteria that infects an estimated 73,000 people and kills an average of 61 of them each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The most vulnerable are children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

Initially, Mark and Donna thought Martha's onset of diarrhea was normal for a teething child. And at only 16 months of age, Martha was too young to tell her parents what was wrong.

The blond-haired, brown-eyed toddler with the sparkplug personality seemed so content during the day, Donna recalls, but she would scream all night from what the Moennings later learned were stomach cramps from the intensifying E. coli infection.

After 10 days of painful symptoms and several visits to the doctor, test results finally revealed Martha was suffering from E. coli O157:H7.

The Moennings rushed their daughter to the Mayo Children's Hospital in nearby Rochester, MN. Doctors immediately hooked Martha up to intravenous fluids to avoid dehydration and overworking her kidneys — and began running frequent blood tests.

“Everyone said, ‘Be prepared to stay for a long time,’” Donna recalls, the anguish being relived in her eyes. “But they never said how long.”

E. coli 0157:H7 can cause severe cramping, vomiting and bloody diarrhea in its most vulnerable victims. The infection can progress into the dangerous hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which destroys red blood cells and can lead to kidney failure. Some survivors of HUS may eventually develop long-term kidney disease or neurological or pancreatic problems.

“Martha just progressively got worse in the hospital,” Donna says. “They told us: ‘There's no medication we can give her. Her body is going to have to fight this off.’ That's really scary.”

Martha had lost 5 lbs., a significant drop for a 16-month-old who only weighed 24 lbs. to begin with. And her blood hemoglobin dropped to dangerous levels the second night as her body entered the dreaded state of HUS.

Doctors hurried to give her a blood transfusion to help her body fight the infection.

“It was the three hours during the transfusion when the weight of what we were living through really hit us,” recalls Mark, tears welling in his eyes. “That was the hardest part.”

Even with the best care, HUS patients have a 5% mortality rate, according to

“At that point, we asked everybody to pray for Martha and to ask God to give her the strength to fight through this,” Donna says. “We literally saw the answer to prayer when her numbers slowly started to climb.”

Unlike many E. coli patients, Martha did not need kidney dialysis or a second transfusion. She was released from the hospital after five days, returning frequently for followup blood tests.

She slowly recovered in the following months, but it was late September before the E. coli was completely out of her system, October before she slept through a night and December before her blood levels were back to normal. It wasn't until Martha celebrated her second birthday in April 2003 that she finally weighed 25 lbs. again.

Today, Martha is a healthy toddler and doctors say she won't experience any long-term effects from the infection. But last August's events are still fresh in the Moennings' minds.

“It's heart wrenching because it affects the little ones and, in our case, she couldn't tell us what was going on,” Donna says. “Many little children just don't make it. We could have so easily lost her.”

Unseen danger

E. coli O157:H7 often is associated with eating undercooked ground beef or ready-to-eat foods contaminated by raw beef. But last August, with only four front teeth coming in, Martha was just starting to eat solid food.

“E. coli was the last thing I would have thought of,” Donna says.

The bacterium has an incubation period of three to nine days, so the Moennings retraced their steps in the days and weeks preceding Martha's first symptoms.

  • The family visited a county fair, pushing Martha in a stroller through the cattle barns. Perhaps it was there that she touched an infected animal or dirty rail.

  • Or, she might have touched Mark's manure-soiled overshoes as they sat inside one rainy night.

  • Finally, like many small children, Martha also sucks her thumb, making it difficult to determine what might have been on her hand, Donna notes.

The Moennings still don't know the source of the infection, but they know their lives have been changed by Martha's illness.

Promoting An Industry Initiative

Now, Donna and Mark understand the dangers of E. coli from both a personal and professional level. Donna was the director of public relations for the Beef Industry Council of the National Livestock and Meat Board when the initial Jack in the Box outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 killed three children in 1993.

Meanwhile, Mark, as a longtime board member of the Minnesota Beef Council (MBC), has been active in that state's five-year push for the irradiation of all ground beef in the U.S. He's also is a National Cattlemen's Beef Association board member.

Their daughter's potentially fatal battle with E. coli 0157:H7 has reinforced the couple's advocacy of preventive measures in the beef industry.

“With both of us being involved in the industry, we've been talking about the issues. Then, all of a sudden, we had to live the issue,” Donna says. “You realize how critical everything you can do is.”

Mark agrees. “I feel very strongly that we have to use the measures that are most readily acceptable now or most effective now.”

The MBC has been in the national forefront in promoting irradiation as a tool to fight E. coli, Mark says. The technology uses electron-beam, radiant energy to eliminate potentially dangerous microorganisms on meat, and it's the only known method to eliminate E. coli bacteria in raw meat, USDA says.

Other measures also have been developed or are under development. These include technologies like steam pasteurization of carcasses and pre-harvest water treatments for animals at processing plants.

Current research includes development of vaccines to reduce cattle's shedding of E. coli, as well as feed probiotics for competitive exclusion. Other research shows that chlorinating water troughs reduces the transmission of the organism.

But there isn't time to wait for research when a patient is suffering from an E. coli infection, Mark says.

“When it happens, you literally have minutes to hours,” Mark says. “You don't have the luxury of hoping for this or that process or something new to happen.”

Some on-farm methods have been developed to prevent E. coli. For instance, changing the feeding practices for market-ready cattle on the farm and at the packer could reduce the bacteria, according to USDA's Agricultural Research Service.

But Mark isn't entirely sold on on-farm prevention.

“I think the industry is a little too hopeful of something that can happen on the farm to take this thing away,” he says. “It appears most on-farm interventions are at best only 50% effective.

“Overall, I'm not satisfied, especially after this experience, that we've come far enough after the Jack in the Box incident posed one of the first major implications to the beef industry,” Mark says.

“The bottom line is that we need to do the things that will do the most good for the most people immediately, while continuing to work on the rest,” Mark says. “Let's show the consumer what we can do right now.”

Practicing Farm Safety

After experiencing Martha's illness, the Moennings advise other families to exercise caution on the farm.

“Be aware of the risks,” Mark says.

Donna makes her children wash their hands frequently when they're playing or helping their dad on the farm.

“After you've been through it and see a child laying lifeless in the hospital, you don't take it lightly anymore,” she says. “You just don't underestimate the power of bad bacteria.”

She also stresses safe food handling to prevent cross-contamination that can occur during meal preparation.

“It's being smart,” Donna says. “You know the risk when you get into a car, so you put your seatbelt on. You know the risks (of E. coli), so you wash your hands. You cook food properly. It's being smart about what you know and not taking things for granted or too lightly that the risks are out there.”

Tips for preventing an E. coli O157:H7 infection

  • Cook all ground beef and hamburger thoroughly to 160∞ F. Don't eat ground beef patties that are still pink in the middle.

  • If you are served an undercooked ground beef product in a restaurant, send it back for further cooking. Ask for a new bun and a clean plate.

  • Keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods.

  • Wash hands, counters and utensils with hot soapy water after they touch raw meat.

  • Never place cooked hamburgers or ground beef on the unwashed plate that held raw patties.

  • Wash meat thermometers in between tests of patties that require further cooking.

  • Drink only pasteurized milk, juice or cider.

  • Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly.

  • Drink municipal water that has been treated with chlorine or other effective disinfectants.

  • Avoid swallowing lake or pool water while swimming.

  • Wash your hands with soap after changing soiled diapers or after bowel movements.

  • People with a diarrhea should avoid swimming in public pools or lakes, sharing baths with others and preparing food for others.

For more information, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) at or the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site at For more advice on cooking ground beef, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture Web site at For more on irradiation, visit information_2/index.htm.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control

Making The Case For Free Trade

The most contentious issue the cattle industry has faced over the past decade — international trade — keeps grabbing headlines. Whether it's clad in issues like disease prevention, food labeling or national security, trade policy continues to be a tug-of-war between free trade forces and protectionist ideology.

Despite some protectionist lapses, free trade has been a theme of both Democrat and Republican administrations since Harry Truman. It's the Americans who have led the charge in stripping away international trade barriers.

Americans have entered into economic alliances with Canada and Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Today, policymakers are hoping to forge a free trade zone stretching from the Bering Strait to Tierra del Fuego at the southern end of South America.

Michael Cox, senior vice president and chief economist of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, hits protectionist doctrine head-on.

“Trade leads to prosperity,” he says. “Protectionism leads to stagnation and decline.”

It's a lesson learned decades ago from the Great Depression and more recently from the economic development gap between open West Germany and closed East Germany, says Cox.

Our Penchant For Imports

Most Americans are well aware of our penchant for importing, but they may not realize the U.S. ranks as the world's greatest exporter, selling $1.3 trillion/year to the rest of the world.

Globalization's critics attack open markets as an insidious force that destroys local industries, breeds poverty and dilutes cultures, says Cox. Their favorite targets are often American multinationals, such as Cargill and McDonald's. As we snap up food, cars and electronics from overseas, we still hear trade makes us poorer.

“It's just not so,” says Cox. “By enhancing productivity, it keeps U.S. companies vibrant, leading to fatter paychecks and added benefits.” Workers protected by trade barriers might keep their jobs a while longer, he adds, but the costs in inefficiency and higher prices make it economic folly.

“Whenever we erect barriers to trade, we negate the gains from free exchange and competition,” Cox says. “Trade protection degenerates into a negative-sum game where special interests jostle for advantage at the expense of the common good.”

The often-heard characterization, Cox says, is that exports are good because they support U.S. industry, but imports are bad because they steal business from domestic producers.

“Actually, imports are the real fruits of trade because the end goal of economic activity is consumption. Exports represent resources we don't consume at home. They are how we pay for what we buy abroad, and we're better off when we pay as little as possible,” Cox says.

Cheap imports can hurt higher-cost U.S. suppliers, but consumers certainly will gain, Cox continues.

“Why penalize them with tit-for-tat retaliation that only raises prices in the U.S.? As a society, we often have to choose between protecting domestic industries and opening markets. In a weakened economy, steelmakers, farmers and other producers are lining up to declare war on imports, creating a potential hit on Americans' wallets,” he says.

The Secret To Wealth

If we were to ask the secret to wealth, what would it be? Work hard? Get an education? Probably not, Cox says. Diligence and intelligence are strategies for improving one's lot in life, but plenty of smart, hard-working people remain poor.

No, explains Cox, the advice would consist of just a few words: “Do what you do best. Trade for the rest.”

Cox says that “By exchanging the fruits of their labor in the marketplace, each producer can enjoy more food, clothing and shelter than they could if each tried to meet his needs in isolation.”

Specialization and trade arise out of the profit motive. Except when transaction costs are too high or governments impose barriers, buyers and sellers will find each other. Self-sufficiency may sound noble in the abstract, but it condemns people to meager living standards, he adds.

“The American pioneers, living on remote homesteads and ranches had no choice but to produce just about everything on their own,” Cox says. “They embodied the virtue of self-reliance. Yet, they worked from sunup to sundown, seven days a week to eke out a subsistence living.”

Foreign goods also help keep a lid on prices in two ways, Cox points out, by being cheaper and encouraging U.S. competitors to lower their prices.

Over the past five years, U.S. prices have actually fallen for a wide range of traded goods, such as computers, clothing and toys. At the same time, inflation hit hardest at goods and services that face little or no foreign competition, such as college tuition and medical services, he says.

A Pocketbook Issue

“Trade is a pocketbook issue,” explains Cox. “Consumers' well-being, not corporate profit, is the true measure of an economy's success.”

The poorest consumers live in countries ranked as the most closed to the outside world, including Cuba, Zimbabwe, Laos, Libya, North Korea and Belarus, he says.

“Although trade protection makes no economic sense, just about every nation on Earth indulges in it to some degree,” admits Cox. “Producers want scarcity — high prices and fat profits. Consumers want abundance — many goods and services at low prices.”

Although consumers outnumber producers, those who seek protection often gain an upper hand. That's because producers are willing to invest more resources in reducing competition than consumers are in fighting for open markets. Consumers buy in thousands of markets. No individual possesses the time, energy and financial incentive to fight for lower prices in each of them.

Producers on the other hand, continues Cox, sell in one market. It gives them a strong incentive to focus on their own industry or jobs. Producers, unlike consumers, are usually few in number. Even if curtailing foreign competition adds only a few pennies per sale, each producer stands to reap a nice profit.

“So producers are willing to organize and spend big money in the fight for government favor,” he explains. “Protectionism persists because it's never pitched as a conspiracy to raise consumer prices. Instead, it's presented as a worthy idea. Who could object to saving American jobs or ensuring survival of industries vital to the national interest?”

Protectionism And Politics

Cox says protectionism persists because it's so often presented as a worthy idea. But, trade barriers don't deliver on their promise to save beleaguered industries, he says.

“Even when shielded from foreign competition, most protected sectors have continued to shrink,” he points out.

Protectionism fails domestic industries because it delays and weakens their response to market forces. When industries pursue political favors instead of efficiency or innovation, they only delay the inevitable.

Whether aimed at foreigners or fellow Americans, trade restraints aren't just a matter of lost dollars and cents.

“Protectionist schemes violate basic economic freedoms,” Cox says. “They involve third parties using the power of government to thwart the right of others seeking an exchange that will make them better off. Each time it happens, Americans are less free — and poorer.”

This article excerpted from the 2002 annual report of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas “The Fruits of Free Trade” by W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm. The essay is based on research conducted by Cox, senior vice president and chief economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

New Products And Services

Cow fly collar

Cow Fly Collar is the latest addition to R&R Enterprises' “Defy the Fly” line of EPA-compliant, all-natural, insect-repelling products. The 2 3/8-in.-wide collar contains geraniol, citronella and cedar oil and offers two-month, head-and-neck area insect protection. It features a five-pair snap adjustment for a proper, secure fit, and flexible neck sizing of 32 to 40 in.
(Circle Reply Card No. 101)

Energy-Free Waterer

SPI Industries Inc. announces its 352NG Energy-Free Waterer. The polyethylene waterer has a larger drain plug, molded feet, quick-release D-clips, one-piece lid for air loss prevention, water seal and foam rubber gasket. The waterer requires no tools, has easy valve access and is corrosion free. The 23- × 20- × 40-in. waterer offers up to 50% more useable water capacity, while a peaked roof and raised door ribs prevent entry of contaminants and facilitates water run-off.
(Circle Reply Card No. 108)

Identification Tags

Volk Enterprises announces its easy visual identification (ID) system for dairy and beef cattle. Color-coded ID Links clip onto ear tags to identify cows by whatever distinction. Use the tags to separate herds, designate hospital cows or tag cows needing injections or other treatments. Several ID Links fit on ear tags. Offered in seven colors, the tags come in bags of 500 units/color.
(Circle Reply Card No. 111)

Extermination System

Humanely and cost-effectively eliminate burrowing rodents and mammals with the Safekrush concussion extermination system. The easy-to-use apparatus introduces mixed gases into runs, tunnels and dens under pressure. A safe remote control ignites the gases to create a massive concussion. At under 35¢ in material costs/treatment, it instantly exterminates all underground animals underground in that system.
(Circle Reply Card No. 117)

Livestock Ring Scale

The Survivor® LV series livestock ring scale from Rice Lake Weighing Systems delivers a total system for livestock barns and processing plants. The custom-built scales includes the G-Force mounting system to eliminate excess movement and scale wear. An extra-thick concrete deck guarantees superior accuracy and longevity. Backed by a 5-year guarantee, the scale is available in capacities up to 70,000 lbs. and platforms up to 34.2- × 22.8-ft. A digital weight indicator locks in stable readings. Remote displays, printers, additional racks and gates also are available.
(Circle Reply Card No. 109)

Hay-Feed Mixer

Roto-Mix offers a new line of Hay-Pro mixers. The aggressive, fast-processing mixer handles beef or dairy rations with high percentages of hay and other roughages. The mixer comes in truck or trailer models in 533, 653 and 1,023 cu. ft. sizes. Stationary models are coming.
(Circle Reply Card No. 112)

Cost Management Software

The Cattleman's Calculator livestock cost projection software from Cattleman's Calculator Inc. is now useable on Palm Pilot handheld computing devices. Make off-site cost calculations and integrate projections with computer and financial records with seven program modules applicable to feedlots, grazing, feed costs, cow-calf operations and purchase price. The software includes printing software and is compatible with any Palm, Handspring or Sony handheld device with the Palm Pilot Operating System Version 3.3 or higher.
(Circle Reply Card No. 110)

ProTwin® Slinger®

Kuhn Knight Inc. introduces its new 8100 series ProTwin® Slingers® with standard Bedder Spreader to control the spread pattern near fencelines, contour strips, roadways and on windy days. Through-hardened universal hammers improve the spread pattern and hammer wear characteristics by as much as 30%. Heavier flighting and hoppers on the two midsize units offer more durability and longer life. Choose from five models from 1,240-gal. to 4,000-gal. capacities.
(Circle Reply Card No. 107)

Controlled Release Implants

Ivy Animal Health and VetLife's Encore® Controlled Release Implants help increase the rate of weight gain in suckling and pastured growing steers. The implants also improve feed efficiency and rate of gain in confined steers and heifers. Each implant contains 43.9 mg of estradiol and delivers an effective daily dose for up to 400 days.
(Circle Reply Card No. 113)

Two-Punch Inoculant

Lower dry matter losses and enhanced animal performance are Pioneer Hi-Bred International's claims on its 11C33 inoculant. The unique blend of Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus buchneri strains provides higher quality forage with longer storage and bunk life by improving the lactic acid to acetic acid ratio. This reduces growth of harmful yeast and mold species to improve aerobic stability and keep silage fresher and cooler.
(Circle Reply Card No. 104)

A 500-HP Tractor

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(Circle Reply Card No. 118)

I don't buy Wal-Mart's line

I found Clint Peck's June issue interview with Wal-Mart's Bruce Peterson, “BEEF Chat: The Wal-Mart Way” (page 24), very interesting. It's very unusual for a Wal-Mart executive to say outright their objective is to take market share from their competition. That certainly isn't what they say when they want to move into a community.

I doubt you would have gotten a straight answer, but Peterson should have been asked if the real reason Wal-Mart is against country-of-origin labeling (COOL) is that it will be such a hassle for Wal-mart to triple its number of product codes and that there could be copyright issues with the labels. I think that is one of the real reasons packers hate COOL. Retailers probably also fear what will happen if they have U.S. and foreign product side by side.

Peterson seems very knowledgeable and I believe him when he says he's never had a call or letter asking where something is produced. The problem with his statement is that meat is sold with a USDA stamp. Thus, consumers assume that means the animal was born and raised in the U.S. People don't ask because they think they already know the origin.

Another funny thing about the interview was Peterson's comments on pumped product. I refuse to buy meat at Wal-Mart because I don't want to buy Thomas E. Wilson(Tyson) pumped product. People who want a good steak don't buy meat at Wal-Mart.
Bret Crotts
Garden City, KS

Outstanding Salt Article

In the June issue of BEEF, T. W. Swerczek (“Don't Short Salt,” page 14), emphasizes the positive effect of sodium supplementation for the prevention of grass tetany. His observation and conclusions about a possible role of sodium deficiency in the pathogenesis of grass tetany are very important from a practical standpoint and easily can be explained by the changes of saliva composition during sodium deficiency.

A deficiency in sodium causes an enhanced production and secretion of aldosterone. This leads to a decrease of sodium and an increase of potassium concentrations in saliva and subsequently in the ruminal fluid.

These alterations are identical with the consequences of a diet with a high potassium intake and the well-known depressive effect that high potassium concentrations in the ruminal fluid have on magnesium absorption from the fore-stomachs.

In some recent work, we fed growing lambs an artificially dried, young spring grass with a sodium content of 0.025% (low but not unusual) in the dry matter. The daily intake of 310 mg of sodium wasn't enough to cover the lambs' requirement, which induced the known alterations of sodium and potassium concentrations in the saliva and ruminal fluid.

We observed potassium concentrations up to 120 milli moles/liter (mmol/L) in the ruminal fluid and reduced absorption of magnesium from the rumen. As far as I know, such a high concentration of potassium never has been observed in studies with increasing potassium contents in the diet. In other words, the endogenous load of potassium via saliva during sodium deficiency is probably as high as at a high potassium intake or even higher.

We can learn the potential risk of sodium deficiency from a simple calculation of potassium inflow into the rumen via saliva. A 150-liter volume of saliva with a potassium concentration of 100 mmol/L amounts to some 600 g. This equals the potassium content of 20 kg dry matter intake with 3% potassium.

Sodium deficiency often has been observed in grazing cows. Sheep and field observations indicate a correlation between sodium deficiency and incidence of tetany.

In a field study, Butler observed an increased incidence of grass tetany at low sodium concentrations in the grass. The statistical significant correlation between sodium content of the grass and the incidence of grass tetany disappeared at sodium concentrations above 0.2%. (A 0.2% concentration of sodium in the grass covers the requirement and hence abolishes all the changes of sodium and potassium concentrations in the saliva and the ruminal fluid mentioned above.)

Furthermore, low concentrations of sodium were found in tetany-prone grass, and Paterson and Crichton prevented grass tetany by supplementing cows with sodium chloride.

Though the relationship has been long known, sodium deficiency is still often an overlooked factor in the pathogenesis of grass tetany, especially in grazing beef cattle. Sodium supplementation is easy, inexpensive and a simple prophylactic tool for the prevention of an important metabolic disease in cattle.
H. Martens, DVM
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Free University of Berlin
Berlin, Germany

[email protected]

Clouding The Issue

In regard to Steve Brake's comments on country-of-origin labeling (COOL) expressed in the July issue of BEEF (Reader's Viewpoint, page 11):

  • Brake's comment that USDA should have held hearings prior to COOL being passed in the farm bill shows either a lack of understanding of the process or an attempt to confuse the issue. The intent of the listening sessions is to gather public and industry input on how to implement COOL efficiently and cost effectively. To have rulemaking hearings prior to passage of the legislation would have been premature.

    The hope was that the industry would pull together in a responsible manner to provide input to USDA as to how to draft the rules. Instead, the hearings are being used by groups opposed to COOL to create fear and confusion.

  • Brake asks why foodservice and restaurants aren't included in COOL. One step at a time, one step at a time.

  • He's also concerned that poultry isn't included in the bill, but what this has to do with implementing COOL for the cattle and beef industry is beyond me. Mildred Haley, who works with the poultry department at USDA, says the U.S. imports very little poultry because of strong barriers in place to protect U.S. poultry producers.

  • Finally, Brake states that having a national animal identification program in place would make COOL much easier to implement. But a country-of-origin mark has little to do with a national traceback system. These are two different things.

The fact is USDA already has in place the simplest, least cost and minimum regulatory program in place. It's called Presumption of Origin and is used by USDA in its Domestic Purchase Program. It allows USDA to only purchase U.S. product (excluding imported feeder cattle).

This isn't a complicated process as beef imported into the U.S. is already labeled as to country of origin. Cattle for immediate processing are shipped in sealed containers and USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service requires that U.S. purchasers be notified of such shipments and their country of origin prior to shipment. Feeder cattle and such imported into the U.S. for the most part carry the mark.

Ideally though, for COOL what may be needed is to have the departments of Treasury through Customs require that cattle “not for immediate processing” carry a tag or mark stating country of origin. This shouldn't be a difficult exercise as it's already required on more than 90% of products coming into the U.S.

These cattle can be identified at the packer level and properly marked. Packers already do this for branded programs such as Certified Angus Beef and have been able to maintain their identities.
Leo McDonnell
Columbus, MT

Send reader letters, with name and address, to BEEF, 7900 International Dr., Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55425; or e-mail to [email protected]. BEEF reserves the right to edit for length.

Castration Vaccination

What if an injectible vaccine were available to sterilize bull calves or suppress estrus in heifers? Researchers in the U.S. are developing such a non-invasive tool to block the hormone production sequences that cause the growth of gonadal tissue (testes or ovaries) in cattle. Thus, there's no sperm production in males or ovulation in females.

Similar “castration vaccination” work is underway in Canada where a vaccine has been tested at the Lethbridge Research Centre in Alberta.

The concept of using antibodies to neutralize hormones has been around since the late 1950s when antibody production was used to control insulin in humans. But, thus far, vaccines that inhibit reproduction in animals have been more effective in pigs and sheep than in cattle.

“That's primarily because cattle's immune systems seem more resistant to the vaccine,” says Tom Adams, a University of California-Davis (UC-Davis) animal science professor who's developing a vaccine to inhibit gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) production in cattle. “It's difficult to get an antibody level high enough to completely shut down bovine reproductive function,” he says.

GnRH normally triggers other hormones to produce testosterone in males and estrogen in females.

“In our studies, we had the greatest success when we administered the primary immunization at about three months of age, followed by a booster at feedlot entry at about one year of age,” Adams says.

With a primary vaccination and a booster several months later, testosterone levels stay low from feedlot entry until harvest, assuming the cattle are harvested at 18 months of age or earlier, he reports.

Adams led a study in which the objective was to delay puberty in heifers so they wouldn't become pregnant before they were mature enough to carry a pregnancy.

“In that study, we gave only a primary immunization. It delayed puberty, but the animals eventually began to cycle, ovulate and became pregnant,” he says. “So, it was effective in blocking reproductive function but not eliminating it.”

One disadvantage to the UC-Davis vaccine is that it's not a patentable process. And, without an exclusive right to the process, Adams says vaccine companies generally aren't interested in marketing such products.

Different Vaccine Products

Washington State University (WSU) has two U.S. patents on a luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone sterilization vaccine. A small Washington biotech company, Amplicon Express, and a sister company in France, have the licensing rights from WSU.

Evaluations of the WSU vaccine on two cattle ranches in Brazil have found more than 95% effectiveness while carcass value increased in the Nelore-based test herds.

“It's our opinion this can be a very important approach to control growth, nutrient utilization and reproductive efficiency in the future,” says Jerry Reeves, WSU professor and animal scientist. “However, these vaccines need to be more than 95% effective if they're to be accepted as sterilization vaccines.”

USDA awarded Reeves' lab a $250,000 grant to study the potential of WSU's sterilization vaccine in heifers. The LHRH vaccine could be a possible replacement for melengestrol acetate (MGA) in the feedlot to suppress estrus.

Recombinant Protein

Adams says a major difference of the Canadian vaccination product being tested in Lethbridge is that it uses a protein synthesized in bacteria recombinant (new combination) protein. The UC-Davis product utilizes a naturally occurring protein.

“Our work clearly demonstrates that vaccination against GnRH has considerable potential as an alternative to traditional methods,” says John Kastelic, a veterinarian and reproductive physiologist at the Lethbridge Research Centre.

“The vaccine itself is superb,” Kastelic says. “We got great results in testing, and its design is really unique and so effective.” He says the commercial version of the vaccine has thus far been kept on the laboratory shelf by expense and regulatory hurdles.

There have also been problems with the adjuvant needed to deliver the genetically modified vaccine. But, Kastelic predicts the product could become available to Canadian producers within a few years.

Overall, there's growing interest in immunization castration. The interest comes not only from cattlemen but folks who want to control reproduction in wild animals and companion animals, Adams says.

More Effective, Less Risky

The UC-Davis vaccine has proven to be more effective in suppressing estrus in heifers than MGA, Adams says, adding, “It's less risky than spaying.”

The drawback to the Canadian vaccine and other recombinant proteins is that they're not as immunogenic as the naturally occurring proteins like those UC-Davis uses in its vaccine. The immunization process involves injecting an antigen — such as a foreign protein — into the body.

“But, we also face a problem with GnRH because it's not foreign. It's a naturally occurring hormone,” Adams adds. Thus, the body has difficulty developing immunity to its own protein, he says.

One way to get around this, Adams says, is to link GnRH to a larger carrier protein that has known immunogenicity through conjugation. The body can recognize the conjugated product as foreign and will develop antibodies against it.

“That's one of the advantages of the UC-Davis process,” Adams says.

But, the Canadian system generates proteins using molecular biological techniques — “a twist that makes their system possibly patentable, whereas ours is not,” says Adams.

A More Humane Alternative?

Adams says the primary impetus for his team's work is the animal rights/animal welfare issue.

“With animal rights and welfare groups demanding more humane management techniques, cattlemen may eventually be forced to forego traditional methods of castration,” Adams says. “We want to give cattlemen an alternative that wouldn't affect production, growth or carcass quality.”

Although the UC-Davis work isn't eligible for patent, it demonstrates that vaccination is an effective procedure, Adams says.

“We're waiting for a company to come along that can generate a patentable vaccine that's as effective as the chemically synthesized vaccine,” he says.

These products may take time to reach the U.S. market due to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements. Because immunization products differ in function from traditional disease vaccines, they are regulated by FDA rather than USDA.

FDA has two primary criteria for these types of products:

  • The drug (vaccine) does what it is supposed to do; and

  • The resulting animal is safe for human consumption.

In judging whether a vaccine is safe, FDA requires that the exact molecular structure of the product be known and that it stays the same batch to batch, Reeves says.

“With our present knowledge of chemical conjugation procedures, which are quite sophisticated, it's still virtually impossible to ensure that the exact structure is the same from batch to batch,” he says.

Reeves believes consumer pressure will force changes in some industry production practices and that these types of vaccines will help. “But, today, it is still the most practical to castrate bull calves with a sharp knife as practiced by most commercial cattlemen,” he says.

Heather Smith Thomas is a freelance writer based in Salmon, ID. Clint Peck is BEEF senior editor.

Trials With Bulls, Steers and Heifers

University of California-Davis (UC-Davis) trials of a vaccine to immunize against gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) in feedlot cattle shows the best results come with a primary vaccination at 3-7 months of age and a booster at feedlot entry.

Feeding performance of young bulls was significantly lowered by castration but not by immunization against GnRH. Using vaccination instead of castration reduced the need for implants, researchers found. Residual levels of testosterone secretion in immunized bulls may have anabolic effects.

Bull calves vaccinated at 3-4 months of age all developed significant titer against GnRH by weaning time, and titer remained high until slaughter. In calves given a booster vaccination at feedlot entry, titer was greatly increased 4 weeks later, but returned to pre-booster levels within 12 weeks. If calves are to receive only one vaccination, it works best if given at about 7 months of age.

Feedlot performance (final live weight and rate of gain) of immunized bulls was comparable to intact bulls. But, the immunized bulls had improved carcass quality and less aggressive behavior.

Carcass quality from steers and immunized bulls was significantly better than that of carcasses from control bulls.

Muscle mass was similar in implanted steers and immunized bulls. In contrast, muscle mass and dressing percentage were significantly less in non-implanted steers.

Marbling was comparable in steers and immunized bulls. Animals with the least marbling were the intact control bulls.

Researchers found that vaccination of heifers against GnRH effectively suppressed their reproductive activity. In addition, they found the lower weight gain that accompanies such suppression can be reversed by use of implants containing anabolic steroids.

Feed efficiency and weight gain during the final weeks were slightly improved in vaccinated heifers and MGA-fed heifers, compared to heifers in the control groups.

Among 48 heifers exposed to bulls but not vaccinated against GnRH, 40 were pregnant (83.3%). In contrast, only four of 48 heifers in the vaccinated group were pregnant at harvest.

Feedlot gain did not differ much between test groups, but dressing percentage and muscle mass were reduced (and marbling and quality grade increased) in the pregnant heifers. Heifers immunized against GnRH had carcass characteristics intermediate between those of the pregnant and non-pregnant controls.