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Articles from 2005 In September


Tour Brazil With BEEF Magazine: Deadline Is Nov. 4

BEEF magazine's fourth annual trip to Brazil is set for Jan. 12-25, 2006. Clint Peck, BEEF senior editor, and Greg Lamp, Corn and Soybean Digest editor, will lead the tour exploring Brazil's tropical ag system and assess its strengths and weaknesses as a major competitor for international markets.

"In today's global marketplace, ranchers and farmers need to know their competitors," Peck says. "As in the past, this information-packed tour will focus on cattle and soybean production systems in this growing ag powerhouse."

Following a briefing by diplomats from the U.S. Consulate in Sao Paulo, the group will visit a variety of cattle and crop production operations and Brazilian agribusinesses. Highlights include tours of a beef packing plant, an ag research center and a major international export facility. In-country flights will take the group to the states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul and Parana in west-central and southern Brazil.

Among the traditional tourist site stops is a visit to Foz do Iguassu and its Cataratas do Iguassu -- the tropical waterfalls listed among the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The tour winds up in Rio de Janeiro where the tour's beachfront hotel offers easy access to this beautiful city's world-class tourist sites.

The tour package price of $4,500 (double occupancy and based on a minimum of 30 participants) includes travel visa, airfare to and from Brazil; in-country travel by air, bus and train; business-class lodging and most meals, along with local guides and translators. Registration deadline is Nov. 4. Credit card payments require a 3% surcharge.

For more info, contact Peck at [email protected] or 406-896-9068; or Renata Stephens, Capital Travel Solutions, at [email protected], 651-287-4900 or 800/635-5488. View a complete itinerary at www.ctsinc.com.

USDA Opts For Privately Held ID Database

USDA unveiled this week its guiding principles for the development of a public/private partnership that "enables the private sector to maintain animal movement data as part of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS)." The four guiding principles are:

  • The system must be able to track animals from point of origin to processing within 48 hours without unnecessary burden to producers and other stakeholders.

  • The system's architecture must be developed without unduly increasing the size and role of government.

  • The system must be flexible enough to utilize existing technologies and incorporate new ID technologies as they develop.

  • Animal movement data should be maintained in a private system that can be readily accessed when necessary by state and federal animal health authorities.
USDA plans a stakeholder meeting later this year to discuss expectations for the private tracking system, user requirements and system specifications. For more on NAIS, visit www.usda.gov/nais.

USDA's intention that animal ID data collected under a national animal ID system will be held or maintained in a private system assures the confidentiality of producer information. This had been a major area of concern because records in a publicly held database theoretically would be open to access under the Freedom Of Information Act.

As a result, it appears the industry will have many private entities providing the databases and systems. This presumably will not only provide 48-traceback capability in the event of an animal health emergency, but provide the infrastructure for information flow between segments, as well as the capability to look at beef production from a total systems approach and create more value.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which had lobbied hard for a private database system, lauded the USDA announcement. Meanwhile, the National Farmers Union and R-CALF criticized the move, saying a government-held database was preferable.

There's been a tremendous amount of work done on this project, and it appears USDA has now embraced these efforts and industry concerns and desires. The announcement will add a great deal of momentum to the formation of the systems and initial protocols for implementing the program.

August clarification

The article, “Another Synch Option,” in the August issue of BEEF reported on Louisiana State University research that investigated the use in beef heifers of altrenogest (Regumate®/Matrix®), an oral, ovulation-control product only approved for use in mares and swine. The project by C.E. Ferguson and R.A. Godke evaluated the use of short-term exposure to the product in an estrous cycle synchronization protocol for beef heifers. BEEF reiterates that altrenogest is neither approved nor legal for any application in cattle.

Circuit Court rules on Pickett v. IBP

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta affirmed a June 2004 ruling by U.S. District Judge Lyle Strom, who rejected a jury's finding that Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. (formerly IBP) used “sweet deals” with select producers to manipulate cattle prices. In the appeal, filed June 2004, attorneys for Pickett claimed the jury based its decision on a “reasonable review of the evidence.”

But, the Circuit Court judges unanimously rejected the appeal which asked to reinstate the jury's decision that IBP damaged prices in the cash market by $1.28 billion over an eight-year period — and order Tyson to pay that amount.

In the 33-page ruling, the Circuit Court said a jury couldn't reasonably find that Tyson had no competitive justification for using marketing agreements.

Our divisions make us vulnerable

The notion that we can sometimes be our own worst enemies is certainly true for those employed in modern agriculture. The divisions we're creating with our different attitudes and philosophies — and broadcasting publicly — are making us all vulnerable to attack.

In the bovine-related industry alone, these divisions pit beef producer against dairy producer, dairy producer against veal producer and veal producer against beef producer. They pit those who feed the animal against those who process it, against those who raise it from a calf. The divisions pit producers in one state against those in another, neighbor against neighbor, customer against supplier.

Our common enemies probably can't begin to contain their glee.

Our “comrades” at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are among those who have made the most of this public display of disunity. While you'd be wrong to call this group “mainstream,” they're chipping away at the edges of our society, creating converts on one issue or another and raising money by the bucketful.

While they certainly have it in for all of animal agriculture, they are most fiercely going after the smallest group — the veal industry — in order to chip away at the whole. There is no doubt they are having an impact.

The industry has been fighting back. For example, the Cattlemen's Beef Board, through the $1-per-head checkoff, has continually funded factual responses to attacks. The checkoff-funded Veal Issues Management Team aggressively responds when rumors or mistruths are spread.

Should beef producers — the largest segment of animal agriculture — be concerned about what PETA accomplishes against the veal industry? Yes. Because every victory against the veal industry that PETA and its ilk enjoys will make them stronger in their attacks against their true targets — the people who raise any kind of animals in the 21st century.

It's not about animal welfare

Make no mistake: The disagreement with PETA isn't about compassion or animal welfare. People in agriculture have more compassion for animals in their little fingers than all the PETA activists combined have in their hearts. And they have more knowledge about and concern for animal welfare than all PETA members put together. We live it every day.

PETA wants to end animal agriculture, period. And they have the funds to carry out their fight.

If our industry has an advantage it's that truth is on our side. Even so, the number of troops we have to carry the message is dwindling every year. Today, just 2% of Americans are employed raising the crops and animals that feed the rest of the population.

The longer we remain committed to waging internal fights and pointing fingers, the longer our true adversaries will have to chip away at what we do and how we do it.

Walt Kelly, the writer of the comic strip “Pogo,” is famous for his line, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” He also wrote the less-recognized proclamation, “We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.”

Our opportunities to hold on to consumer support and demand will certainly be insurmountable as long as we continue to focus inward on disagreements, rather than outward on our customers and their agricultural knowledge.

I'm proud of my business, as I'm sure you're proud of yours. Let's share that pride with consumers so we in agriculture can continue to provide safe, wholesome, nutritious and delicious animal-based products.

Frank Trapp is a Watertown, WI, veal producer and president of the American Veal Association. For more on veal industry issues management efforts, contact Veal Issues Management, 1500 Fulling Mill Road, Middletown, PA 17057.

Hormone ban marks 20 years

In late July, the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine marked a first when it pulled from the market an antibiotic previously approved for use in food animal production.

Lester Crawford, FDA Commissioner, said approval on the use of enrofloxacin (Baytril) for treatment of bacterial infections in poultry was pulled due to concerns about the development of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella being passed to humans through poultry products. The ruling, effective Sept. 12, didn't apply to other approved uses of this drug from the fluoroquinolone class, which includes Cipro, an antibiotic used in human medicine.

Industry sources say use of the antimicrobial is declining in U.S. poultry production these days anyway, due to restrictions on its use by fast-food chains. Nonetheless, it's another popped block in the wall the U.S. livestock industry has long fought to secure against those looking to ban the use of antibiotics in food animal production.

EU's antibiotic ban

On Jan. 6, 2006, a European Union (EU) ban on the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock will take effect. The regulation (1831/2003), which prohibits the use of Monensin sodium, Salinomycin sodium, Avilamycin and Flavophospholipol, “completes the EU's determined drive to phase out antibiotics as growth promoters,” says David Byrne, the EU Commissioner For Health and Consumer Protection from 1999-2004.

Byrne said banning the use of such products is vital to combating anti-microbial resistance, and added there is strong consumer support for the ban in the EU.

If the latter statement sounds familiar, you might recall it's the same argument invoked by the EU when it unilaterally banned the use of growth implants in beef cattle, despite a worldwide scientific consensus on their safety. That was 20 years ago this year.

That 1985 ban essentially shut U.S. beef out of the EU. It represented the loss of a $100-million market to U.S. exporters, mostly in organ meats and offals, which EU consumers relish but which hold little appeal to U.S. consumers.

The U.S. took the case to the World Trade Organization, which finally ruled against the EU in 1998. But the EU ban is still in place, and U.S. beef products are only accepted if they're certified as not being of implanted animal origin.

A few months back, I chatted with Byrne. I asked him if the new policy should worry U.S. producers who might see a touch of déjà vu heading their way.

He said the question hadn't been raised but he sees implants and antibiotics as different because, as he surprisingly put it, “The active ingredient in implants is a carcinogen.” But, he added, “We would hope that there will be a global move to do away with the use of antibiotics in raising livestock.”

More recently, BEEF contributor Meghan Sapp, in Brussels, Belgium, posed the sames question to Philip Tod, EU spokesman for Health and Consumer Protection.

He said that, under the new rules effective in January, “Meat and milk imports will be checked to ensure they respect the EU minimum residue levels for veterinary product residues, and if antibiotic molecules in the products are found to be within these limits, the imports will be accepted.”

Tod said it would be “impossible for the EU to verify whether the traces of antibiotic in the imported meat were due to medicinal or sub-therapeutic use.”

The same could be said about detecting the naturally occurring compounds in implanted cattle. That didn't prevent the EU's so-called hormone ban.

Revaccination Pays

Virtually all calves arriving at a U.S. feedlot are subjected to at least a single vaccination protocol, usually within a few days of crossing the feedlot's unloading ramp. A significant number of those are revaccinated later, most likely at reimplant time.

Revaccination protocols are widely considered to be worthwhile — cheap insurance, they say — but there's never been a definitive word on the matter. After all, a trial with a few head here and there might provide some strong inklings, but it can't flesh out a trend like a much larger study.

Now, AgriLabs appears to have an answer to the question. Working in collaboration with AgSpan, a recently completed population analysis of almost 8 million head of feeder cattle taken from the AgSpan database indicates some impressive overall economic benefits to planned revaccination at 28 or more days after initial vaccination in the feedlot. In fact, the overall benefit was shown to range from more than $21 for five-weight calves to more than $6 for eight weights (Table 1).

“One of our goals at AgriLabs is to be a purveyor of information of value to our customers. We feel this analysis does that,” says Charlie Higdon, director of the Cattle Biologicals Business Unit for AgriLabs.

The analysis involved the performance and animal health program records of 7,692,482 head of feeder cattle vaccinated on feedlot arrival (within three days), with roughly half of those calves (3,777,880) revaccinated around 28 days later.

The revaccinates analyzed in this study were all part of a planned health protocol; they were not “wreck” cattle, Higdon says. Cattle revaccinated in the first couple of weeks because of health problems did not show the same benefits.

The analysis included cattle placed on feed from 2002 to 2004 at in-weights ranging from 500 lbs. to 899 lbs. The cattle represented a total of 52,292 pens of cattle in more than 200 feedlots all over the U.S., with data collected in all four seasons of the year (see Table 2 and Table 3).

The study defined an “initial vaccination” as having occurred within the first three days after arrival in the feedyard. And while different time frames of revaccination were considered, only cattle revaccinated at around 28 days after initial vaccination were included in the comparative analysis, Higdon explains.

The data doesn't identify the specific revaccination timeframe, but more than likely revaccination was accomplished when the cattle were reimplanted, typically 90-100 days before slaughter.

“Many feedyards choose to revaccinate at reimplant time to save time and labor,” Higdon says. “Since they're already running cattle through the chute for reimplants — depending on the implant protocol — many feedyard operators feel it's just cheap insurance to revaccinate with something like a three-way at that time.”

The analysis found all weights of cattle exhibited improved performance under a revaccination protocol, Higdon reports.

“Revaccination at around 28 days delivered better average daily gain (Table 4), improved feed efficiency (Table 5) and lowered death loss (Table 6) across all weights of cattle than cattle receiving only an initial vaccination,” he says. “That improvement in average daily gain (ADG) means fewer days to reach market weight, lower yardage costs and better overall performance. And, while the highest returns were seen in lighter weight cattle, there was an economic benefit at all in-weights.”

The results of an analysis of veterinary medical costs between single vaccinates and their revaccinated counterparts weren't as as positive overall as in ADG, feed efficiency and death loss, Higdon says. But there was an indicated benefit to the lighter weight calves (500 lbs.) of $3.32/head (see Table 7).

Higdon says the economic impact of the revaccination benefits indicated by the analysis was computed using a VetLife® feedyard profit calculator. Inserted were the indicated improvements in ADG, feed efficiency, death loss and medicine costs on cattle at various in-weights. Other variables in the feedlot calculator — such as purchase price, days on feed, sale price, equity and other factors that can impact profitability — were left unchanged.

Higdon says other revaccination time frames were also investigated. For instance, Daryl Meyer, a Fremont, NE-based feedyard consulting veterinarian, says he's seeing more feedyards moving to revaccination at 10-14 days after initial vaccination.

“A lot of the respiratory breaks seem to occur around Weeks 3 or 4 on good-conditioned cattle,” Meyer says. “Some veterinarians move up second vaccinations to that 10- to 14-day period to allow the animal to build its immunity and be ready to respond by that 21- to 28-day period challenge.”

Higdon says that time frame was among those investigated as part of the population analysis, but the numbers of such cattle in the database were too few to indicate a trend. As a result, only cattle revaccinated at around 28 days following initial vaccination were included in the AgriLabs study, he says.

“Our assumption was that revaccinates at 10-14 days were probably problem cattle — either high risk or they had already broken with sickness,” Higdon says.

Kynan Sturgess, DVM, of Canyon Veterinary Consultants, Canyon, TX, is among an eight-practitioner research group in the Texas Panhandle that altogether handles a population base of 5 million head of cattle/year. He says revaccination at around 28 days is rare in his area, too.

“We revaccinate some cattle at 14-21 days — cattle we consider to be higher risk for developing BRD — about 15% of our population over the year,” he says. “I'm not aware of many cattle in our area being revaccinated at 28 days unless they have a problem.”

Sturgess says revaccination is normally accomplished at reimplant time — generally anywhere from 50-100 days after arrival.

“We do have some 230-day cattle we might reimplant at 45-50 days and again at 80 days prior to slaughter,” Sturgess says.

He says the AgriLabs/AgSpan population study is “valuable,” but he would like to see a study under controlled conditions to verify it.

Higdon, however, counters that the sheer numbers of an 8-million-head population study is more “control” than one could ever create in a small pen study.

Table 1. Overall economic benefit
In-weight of cattle, lbs. Overall economic benefit of revaccinating
500 $21.39
600 $13.78
700 $9.14
800 $6.32
Table 2. Number of cattle in each treatment group by in-weight
In-weight, lbs. Initial vac within 3 days of arrival only Initial vac plus revac at 28+ days Total cattle by in-weight
500 311,818 638,920 950,738
600 705,057 1,385,494 2,090,551
700 1,580,209 1,313,094 2,893,303
800 1,317,518 440,372 1,757,890
Total # cattle 3,914,602 3,777,880 7,692,482
Table 3. Number of pens of cattle included in the study by in-weight
In-weight, lbs. Initial vac within 3 days of arrival only Initial vac plus revac at 28+ days Total pens by in-weight
500 2,436 4,897 7,333
600 4,961 10,166 15,127
700 10,306 8,697 19,003
800 8,369 2,460 10,829
Total pens 26,072 26,220 52,292
Table 4. ADG by treatment groups
In-weight, lbs. ADG initial vac Only, lbs. ADG revac, lbs. Economic benefit from revaccinating
500 2.67 2.77 $4.98
600 2.89 2.99 $4.98
700 3.11 3.20 $4.49
800 3.32 3.35 $1.65
Table 5. Feed efficiency by treatment groups
In-weight, lbs. F/E initial vac only F/E revac Economic benefit of revaccinating
500 6.31 6.13 $5.11
600 6.39 6.20 $5.40
700 6.43 6.23 $5.68
800 6.52 6.32 $5.68
Table 6. Death loss by treatment groups
In-weight, lbs. % death loss, initial vac only % death loss, revac cattle Economic difference of revaccinating
500 3.37 2.04 $7.96
600 1.88 1.40 $2.88
700 1.02 0.88 $0.98
800 0.75 0.67 $0.54
Table 7. Vet med costs by treatment groups
In-weight, lbs. Vet med costs/head, one vac only Vet med costs/head, revac group Economic impact of revaccinating
500 $20.97 $17.66 $3.32
600 $13.60 $14.13 -$0.52
700 $9.46 $11.47 -$2.01
800 $8.68 $10.32 -$1.65

Baytril use in poultry banned

In an agency first, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled approval in late July of an antimicrobial in animal production citing a potential to lead to antibiotic-resistant pathogens in humans. Commissioner Lester Crawford said FDA's prohibition on the use of enrofloxacin (Baytril) for use to treat bacterial infections in poultry doesn't affect other approved uses of the drug marketed by Bayer Corp. One of a class known as fluoroquinolones, the class also includes Cipro, an antibiotic used in human medicine.

Bayer had 60 days to appeal the decision to a U.S. Court of Appeals. The final rule was to go into effect Sept. 12. Go to www.fda.gov/oc/antimicrobial/baytril.pdf to read the decision. See the Federal Register documents at www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets.

In a release, FDA says proceedings to withdraw use of enrofloxacin in poultry were initiated because data showed its use in poultry caused resistance to emerge in Campylobacter. That bacterium causes foodborne illness and is normally harbored in the digestive tracts of chickens and turkeys.

The Wall Street Journal reported the use of Baytril in U.S. poultry production had already been significantly curtailed, helped along by fast-food chains' mandates to their suppliers not to use any fluoroquinolones.

Victimized By Meth

In a sad but true experience, Richland, MI, farmer-feeder Walt Stafford lost 30 head of feeder cattle the night of May 30 after thieves left a fertilizer tank valve open and ammonia gas leaked into his finishing barn. By the time the gas dissipated, another 22 head had died and 40-50 more were permanently blinded by the fumes. There were 260 cattle in the barn, all just a month away from harvest.

Stafford's anhydrous ammonia tanks had been a frequent target of thieves looking for ingredients to cook methamphetamine (meth). The thieves dodged surveillance cameras and tapped into the tank, which was treated with GloTell, an additive that turns anything it touches bright pink. Meth cooks who use ammonia treated with GloTell are left with a gummy pink substance that renders the end-product unusable.

The GloTell helps, Stafford says, but the problem was the thwarted when thieves walked (or ran) from the opened tank.

“If there had been people in or around the barn, or had it happened near a house, the fumes could have killed or maimed everyone around,” he says.

Stafford says it's nearly impossible in the spring to secure the dozens of anhydrous nurse tanks scattered around the farm. Anhydrous thieves know every trick in the book in compromising locks, gates, shields and other security devices.

Adding insult to injury, Stafford had to have 200 yards of soil hauled off and disposed of as hazardous waste. The cattle had to be buried in an approved hazardous waste disposal site.

Stafford urges every cattlemen's group to review local, state and federal legislation designed to deter meth manufacture — and support stronger penalties associated with meth use. He says the first step is nationwide legislation restricting sales of pseudoephedrine (known generally by the brand name, Sudafed), an over-the-counter cold and allergy medicine — the key component in making the drug.

Stafford has law enforcement on his side, but he says too many rural people are apathetic to the problem. The Michigan State Police estimates 80% of its caseload is meth-related — with most production occurring in rural areas.

“Meth is the No. 1 drug in rural America — absolutely, positively,” says U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne (see “Got Meth” BEEF, August 2004).

New laws can help

This spring, U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced H.R. 314, the Combat Methamphetamine Act (CMA); as well as H.R. 13, the Clean, Learn, Educate, Abolish, Neutralize and Under-mine Production (CLEAN-UP) of Meth-amphetamine Act. He wants to establish a pilot program to provide targeted assistance to high-risk states with more than 200 meth lab seizures/year.

The CMA provides funding for law enforcement and prosecutorial training, and reclassifies pseudoephedrine as a Schedule V drug. This would require it be stored behind pharmacists' counters, making it more difficult to buy or steal for use in illegal meth manufacturing. The legislation also provides enhanced treatment options and services for children affected by meth.

Meanwhile, the CLEAN-UP Act includes provisions to clean farms and parks damaged by meth labs. It also provides assistance to rural schools and health care clinics to promote effective programs to keep children off meth.

“What happened on my farm is nothing compared to how this drug affects millions of people,” Stafford proclaims. “If we don't get a handle on it, meth will in some way come back to haunt virtually every farmer and rancher in America.”