National Network to Help Prevent Animal Diseases, Protect Food Supply, Based at UMass Amherst
AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst will be the lead research center in a global effort to develop the tools needed to create vaccines and tests for infectious animal diseases that threaten agriculture and the food supply. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that the project, led by UMass Amherst veterinary immunologist Cynthia Baldwin, should accelerate the characterization and treatment of a range of ailments such as mad cow disease and avian influenza. “Many diseases, in addition to being a health threat, have the potential to endanger global food supplies and national economies,” said Joseph Jen, USDA undersecretary for research, education and economics. “UMass Amherst took the lead in recognizing the need to coordinate an international effort—it will provide critical tools that can be used immediately by scientists in their research areas.” The USDA is funding the initiative with a $2.1 million grant to develop these biological tools, known as reagents.
US beef cleared to return to Taiwan from tomorrow
DPA , TAIPEI Wednesday, Feb 08, 2006,
US beef will return to Taiwan tomorrow after the government “conditionally” lifted a seven-month ban imposed due to fears over mad cow disease, the Central News Agency (CNA) said.
The first shipment of US beef will arrive at the CKS International Airport tomorrow. On Friday, Department of Health Minister Hou Sheng-mao (侯勝茂) will go to the airport to inspect the import procedure of US beef, CNA said.
“If everything goes smoothly, Taipei residents will be able to eat US beef for lunch on Friday,” CNA said.
Taiwan banned US beef imports in December 2003 following reports of the first US bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) case, but lifted the ban on April 16 last year. BSE is commonly called mad cow disease.
Taiwan banned US beef imports again on June 25 last year after a second case of the disease was confirmed.
On Jan. 25, the government announced a “conditional” resumption of US beef imports despite public worries about the safety of the meat after Japan discovered banned cattle parts in a shipment of US beef, causing Japan to reimposed its ban on US beef, one month after it had lifted a two-year ban.
Health officials listed four conditions under which US beef may be imported: It must be from calves raised and slaughtered after April 16; must have the bones, nerves and spinal cord removed; must come from butcher houses and packing houses approved by the US Agriculture Department and Taiwan; and must carry safety certificates issued by the US Agriculture Department.
BSE, a brain-wasting disease, is believed to be caused by a protein in the central nervous system and intestines.
The Consumers’ Foundation blasted the resumption as a hasty move that puts lives at risk, but the health department claimed its panel of BSE experts had concluded that US beef was safe.
Koizumi pledges Japan will not accept older cattle
by Pete Hisey
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, speaking in front of a hostile Diet (senate) that has accused him of bowing to pressure from the United States in reopening the market to U.S. beef imports, said that despite evidence that meat from cattle under 30 months of age is safe, Japan will not lower its 20-month standard.
“[Americans should understand] that Japan’s stricter standard only allows cows younger than 20 months, even though 30 months is considered safe elsewhere,” he said Tuesday. That standard will not change, he pledged.
He threw a bone to the U.S. beef industry, saying, “It is our responsibility to promote their understanding and establish a mutually agreeable framework under which we can resume imports.”
Opposition politicians have had a field day, accusing Koizumi of ignoring the health and safety of the Japanese public in favor of appeasing the Bush administration, with whom Koizumi shares relatively warm relations.
Koizumi’s announcement deals a blow to U.S. trade authorities, which had hoped that Japan would eventually accept meat from cattle under 30 months.
USDA Tried to Derail BSE Tests of Infected Cow
February 7, 2006
Any illusion that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is putting public safety first – as opposed to preserving its own bureaucratic systems and procedures – was shattered last week by a Washington Post article saying that the USDA “overruled field scientists’ recommendation to retest an animal that was suspected of harboring mad cow disease last year because they feared a positive finding would undermine confidence in the agency’s testing procedures,” the department’s inspector general said yesterday.
Strong Profits Lead to Herd Expansion
Cow-calf producers responded to another year of record-high calf prices and continued to expand beef cow and replacement heifer numbers during 2005, Cattle-Fax reported last week. Despite the limited beef exports and one of the largest net beef supplies on record, prices for fed cattle, feeder cattle and calves were record-high during 2005.
The organization reports that, during 2005, the U.S. exported about 700 million pounds (lb.) of beef cuts compared to 415 million lb. in 2004 and 2.5 billion lb. in 2003. Mexico accounted for about two-thirds of 2005 beef exports.
Beef imports during 2005 were near-record and totaled about 3.6 billion lb. The largest increases in imports came from Canada and Uruguay.
According to Cattle-Fax, cattlemen should expect slightly lower prices for fed cattle during 2006, averaging $85 to $87. Fed cattle prices are expected to range from the mid-$90s at the spring highs and have risk back into the upper $70s at the summer lows. Feeder cattle prices are expected to average between $106 and $108 during 2006, which is $2 to $4 lower than 2005 levels. Prices are likely to trade in a fairly normal seasonal pattern and range from around $105 at the spring lows to near $115 or better at the highs. Calf prices are projected to trade in a range of $115 to $135 during the course of the year and average about $125 during 2006. Larger net beef supplies, increased cattle harvest and larger beef production will force prices lower during the year, compared to records set during 2005.
Cattle feeders, stocker operators, backgrounders and cow-calf producers should all experience slimmer operating margins during 2006 due to the larger available supplies. Market cow and breeding cattle prices are expected to be mostly steady during 2006. However, conditions could change if the drought persists in the Southern Plains.
Total cattle numbers increased nearly 2% during 2005 and totaled 97.1 million head on Jan. 1, 2006. Beef cow numbers increased for the second consecutive year and totaled 33.25 million head on Jan. 1, 2006 — up 330,000 head from a year earlier. Cattle harvest and beef production were about even with levels from a year ago. Steer and heifer harvest totaled 27.0 million head in 2005, while beef production totaled 24.6 billion lb. and was one of the smallest totals in the past 15 years. Fed cattle harvest during 2006 is expected to increase about 850,000 head due to larger on-feed totals and slightly larger inventory levels. Beef production for the year is expected to increase by about 1 billion lb. in 2006. Net beef supplies for the year are expected to increase during the year and be near record as increased market access and larger beef exports are expected to offset about half of the increase in domestic beef production.
— Release provided by Cattle-Fax.
USDA: Horse slaughter for meat can continue
03:10 PM CST on Tuesday, February 7, 2006
By TODD J. GILLMAN / The Dallas Morning News
WASHINGTON – Ignoring congressional disdain for the horsemeat industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it would allow slaughter of horses for human consumption to continue in Kaufman, Fort Worth and DeKalb, Ill.
Lawmakers cut off funding in November for inspection of such horses, whose meat ends up in the kitchens of France, Japan and a handful of other countries. But the three plants that process horse offered to pay for their own inspections, and the Agriculture Department has agreed.
Kevin B. Blackistone: First step finally taken toward abolishing horse slaughter in U.S. (11/12/2005)
“It’s absolutely outrageous,” said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society of the United States. “The agency is substituting the judgment of Belgian and French chefs for the judgment of Congress.”
Both houses of Congress voted overwhelmingly last year to cut funding for pre-slaughter horse inspections as part of an annual farm spending bill. The House vote was 269-158. The Senate vote was 69-28.
ISU veterinary medicine faculty study new BVDV diagnostic approach
Researchers at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine are conducting a study that could help determine the prevalence of BVDV and evaluate a new diagnostic screening approach. BVDV — bovine viral diarrhea virus — is a contagious viral disease that causes abortion, weak calves and respiratory disease. “We don’t know how common it is in Iowa, but we estimate that five to 10 percent of herds are infected,” says Dr. Annette O’Connor, assistant professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine. She and colleagues at the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory are assessing a diagnostic approach used in Colorado. Compared to current tests, the RT-PCR technology is a less expensive way to screen herds. “Now it costs $3 to $6 per cow to test. If this approach proves effective and accurate, it would cost less than $1 per animal,” O’Connor said. The RT-PCR tests for BVDV in pooled samples. If it detects the virus in a pooled sample, the individual animal tubes are then tested to identify the positive sample. Once identified, the animal is traced back to the farm and re-tested to ensure it is positive. The researchers are working with local veterinarians and have enrolled about 150 Iowa-based cow-calf herds. If interested in learning more about the project, contact O’ Connor at (515) 294-5012, or Dr. Steve Sorden at (515) 294-1128. The Voluntary Iowa BVDV Screening Project is funded by the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association and the College of Veterinary Medicine. Contact O’Connor, (515) 294-5012; or Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778.