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June 26, 2014

The current edition of News and Information for Animal Agriculture, the official newsletter of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture.

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Take Aim at the Precautionary Principle

You have to give the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) some credit for the nerve to tackle one of the big dogs that has taken a huge bite out of the livestock industry for several decades now.

In a white paper released in May, The Precautionary Principle and Animal Agriculture, this non–profit association takes direct aim at one of the biggest drags on modern day agriculture.

I can't say for sure why this topic caught my interest. Perhaps it was McDonald's decision to turn to Canada as the testing ground for their certified sustainable beef program, or maybe I was looking for something to take my mind off the continuing war of words in a Washington court over the legal legitimacy of the U.S. country–of–origin labelling. Whatever it was I'm glad I picked up their report. This is one of those topics we can't help returning to over and over again.

It seems like the precautionary principle has been the rallying cry for environmental and other activist groups since the early '80s when it was used to stir up public opinion in Europe against the use of hormones in beef. Even when it is not officially adopted as policy by governments it still worms its way into political debates and regulations much as it did in the 1980s in Europe.

Better safe than sorry sounds a sane enough idea, but not without a clear definition of what is safe. Without that it is just a coward’s means to do nothing. At its worst the precautionary principle stifles innovation. And that could be a costly mistake today when the world desperately needs new technology to grow enough food for an expanding global population.By Gren Winslow, Canadian Cattlemen, 06/24/14

Crop and Animal Ag Profit Pictures Doing a Flip Flop

The coming years should solidify a flipping from great row crop profitability to great animal agriculture profitability, according to Dr. Chris Hurt, Purdue Extension ag economist. Hurt provided an updated outlook at the conclusion of this week's Purdue Farm Management Tour in Spencer County. He said the last 6 to 8 years have been great for crop farmers while livestock profits have been depressed.

"Now what we're seeing is a transition moving from those high grain prices, high feed prices, back to more moderate prices," he told HAT. "What that means is feed prices come down at a time when we have liquidated a lot of our animals, we have low inventories on cattle, our pork we're seeing PEDv problems there to reduce the population of hogs, and relatively small broiler supplies."

Hurt projects big profits in animal ag not just this year, but for multiple years, effectively ushering in a new era. This new era could include below $4 corn in Purdue models based on the most recent USDA crop ratings. By Andy Eubank, Hossier Ag Today, 06/18/14

VMRD's PEDV FA Substrate Slide Now Available

VMRD announced today the availability of a substrate slide that can be used for the detection of antibody to porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV). The slides are of twelve-well, Teflon-masked format with a substrate of fixed (killed), PEDV-infected Vero cells interspersed with non-infected Vero cells. "This substrate slide is the first quality-controlled FA diagnostic tool for PEDV on the market," said Dr. Chungwon Chung, Vice President of Research and Development at VMRD. "It is a hassle-free, ready-to-use product."

VMRD's FA substrate slide is designed for use as an antibody detection tool and can be used both qualitatively (positive or negative result) and semi-quantitatively (antibody titration). This tool has potential value for screening and surveillance and can also be used to evaluate the antibody levels of infected populations of swine. For full news release, click HERE. VMRD News Release, 6/25/14

New Veterinary Product Gains Ground in Sustainable Pork Production

Recently unveiled new research shows how a technology to control unpleasant odors in pork from some male pigs could help reduce the environmental impact of pork production all while boosting a producer's bottom line.

The research, provided by Zoetis, is based on a life cycle assessment conducted in the U.S. for IMPROVEST, an FDA–approved veterinary prescription product that successfully maintains pork quality and offers farmers an alternative way to manage the production issue of odor. A demonstration farm was launched for the product in Greensburg at the beginning of the year. Owner of the farm and swine veterinarian Larry Rueff says so far, the research has been good. By Cayla McLeland, Hoosier Ag Today, 06/22/14

Report: Climate Change Creates Challenges

A new report on the risks of climate change to the U.S. economy contains some fairly dire predictions for agricultural production. The report, entitled Risky Business, says production of corn, soy, wheat and cotton could decline by 14 percent by mid–century and up to 42 percent by late in this century as extreme heat spreads across the middle of the country.

But according to Greg Page, executive chairman of Cargill, who served on the Risky Business advisory committee, those predictions do not take into account agriculture's ability to adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change.  Page believes that will happen, just as it has in the past. "The adaptive responses we expect that will occur include changes in the number of crops per year, the amount of double cropping that may take place as a result of modestly warming temperatures and changes in crop phenotypes," Page says, "and the list goes on of the ways in which agriculture and its supply chain partners will come together to adapt and mitigate some of the potential climate scenarios that have been projected." By Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News, 06/24/14

QCS Aquaponics Food Safety Certification Program Will Launch in August (PDF)

Quality Certification Services (QCS) will be launching its Aquaponics Certification program this August to address food safety requirements applicable to aquaponic operations.

Produce and fish/shellfish will be covered under this new program being developed by a team of produce and aquaculture experts. Aquaponic farmers of any size will be able to apply for QCS Aquaponics Certification. The growing number of aquaponic producers worldwide will also have the option to request organic certification of their produce and fish/shellfish with QCS, therefore streamlining their certification needs and demonstrating responsible production practices to their customers. QCS, 06/12/14

Dairy Breeding Programs May Help Keep Beef Affordable

With beef in short supply and prices rising drastically, the beef industry is starting to get a little help … from the dairy industry, according to Richard Williams, ABS Global general manager for North America.

"Quality beef crossbreds from dairy cows offer benefits throughout the supply chain, from dairy farmers, to beef cattle feeders, meat processors, retailers and consumers," said Williams, while speaking at the 67th Reciprocal Meat Conference. "Demand for beef is outpacing supply, and all indications point to beef prices remaining high," said Williams. "Because of drastic reductions in the beef cow herd, dairy cattle bred to beef bulls may help offset shortages in the beef supply chain. Dairy cull cows and bull calves have long found their way into the beef supply chain. Now, quality beef crosses from dairy cows are hitting the market and proving they can compete for growth, efficiency and quality with conventional beef product," he added. Bovine Veterinarian, 06/19/14

'Super Foods' Fed to Livestock Lead to Health Benefits for Consumers, Researchers Find

The craze for "super foods", said to provide a natural boost for health–conscious consumers, has spread to livestock.

Naturally rich in nutrients, super foods including spirulina and canola oil have been found to improve meat and milk quality in lambs and cows. Tasmanian researchers are discovering that can, in turn, improve people's diets.

Aduli Malau–Aduli's team found lambs which ate spirulina every day for for nine weeks gained weight but their meat was leaner. "It was absolutely spot on as far as the health benefits are concerned," he said. He is confident it could open doors for producers and consumers. "There is that prospect to have a real good niche market if we could actually market it well and say 'look, these are the benefits accruable from consuming products from lamb or cows that have been fed spirulina." By Claire Todd, ABC Australia, 06/22/14

AMS Tightens Animal Stunning Rules

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) sent notice to beef, pork and lamb slaughter facilities that it is updating its animal handling and welfare (AHW) purchase specifications in a move that allows zero tolerance for missed stuns or animals regaining sensibility following stunning. AMS purchases meat products for federal food programs, including the school lunch program. This notice applies to facilities that sell products to the agency. Updated AHW purchase specifications are available HERE. American Sheep Industry Association Weekly Newsletter, 06/20/14

Stampede Horse Safety Program Making a Difference, Says Auditor

Fewer horses have died in recent years during the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races thanks to an overhaul in animal welfare, but there is still much work to be done, according to a third–party auditor.

One horse died in 2013, and the death was not related to "a structural breakdown" (broken bones) or heart failure, according to an audit report on chuckwagon racing released Monday afternoon; three horses died the previous year. The report also said horse deaths related to those two causes were down from 75 per cent in 2010 to 0 per cent in 2012 and 2013.

The improvements are being attributed to the Stampede's Fitness to Compete program. Launched in 2011, it ensures horses are examined thoroughly for pre–existing conditions prior to and during competition. "It's been successful on many levels, from injuries to mortalities to a reduction in (driver) penalties and a change in the cultural attitudes," said auditor Jennifer Woods, who has a background in veterinary preventive medicine. "When we started out, not everyone was overly receptive to this program and didn't think it would work." By Manisha Krishnan, Calgary Herald, 06/24/14

Are Wild Horses a Native Species? Question Is at Heart of Debate

Advocates are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list wild horses as threatened or endangered, which would trigger protections for herds in 10 Western states. Setting aside the question of whether there are too many or too few horses – a debate raging throughout the West – the wildlife agency will have to consider a perennial question: Are wild horses native to this country? To gain endangered or threatened status, a species must be in danger of going extinct and generally, it must be native.

The prevailing wisdom – and the position of the Bureau of Land Management, which manages wild horses –is that wild horses are not native because humans brought them to the continent. Two nonprofits contend wild horses on the public range face extinction because of loss of habitat to cattle grazing, mining, energy exploration and urban expansion, as well as the BLM's controls, which limit the horses to small herds on isolated ranges, require frequent roundups and are headed toward sterilization of horses. And they point to prominent researchers who, contrary to long–standing assumptions, consider wild horses a native species. By Kristen Moulton, The Salt Lake Tribune, 06/22/14

ISU Researchers Use Forensics to Track Down Drug Residues in Milk

Veterinarians at Iowa State University are using advanced forensic techniques and the same technology used by crime scene investigators to monitor drug residues in milk and meat. The ISU researchers work with other veterinarians and producers to strengthen food safety and make sure animals are medicated properly. "It's the same instrumentation used for forensics testing in humans," said Hans Coetzee, a professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine. "But we use it to test for drugs in animals."

The team's mission is to help local veterinarians and farmers make sure the meat and milk they produce satisfy FDA regulations governing the use of antibiotics and are safe for human consumption. Bovine Veterinarian, 06/19/14

Cow Maternity Pens Under Development

Researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark, in collaboration with the company Jyden Bur, recently announced that they will develop a self–operated maternity pen for dairy cows.

"The idea is to develop a housing design where the cow is able to withdraw from the herd during the early stage of calving in order to calve alone in an undisturbed and clean maternity pen, where she can stay with her newborn during the first hours after calving," explained project leader Margit Bak Jensen with the animal science department. "The project investigates what a cow perceives as an optimal calving site with a sufficient level of isolation. Further, the project investigates the prerequisites for the cow to be able to operate the maternity pen's gate, which ensures that she remains alone within the pen." Some of the expected benefits of the project are fewer cows suffering from production diseases and lower veterinary costs. Feedstuffs, 06/23/14

The above news articles are provided by the individual sources identified in each article and are not a product of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture. Intended for personal, noncommercial use only.

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The National Institute for Animal Agriculture provides a forum for building consensus and advancing proactive solutions for animal agriculture-the beef, dairy, swine, sheep, goats, equine and poultry industries-and provides continuing education and communication linkages for animal agriculture professionals. NIAA is dedicated to programs that work towards the eradication of disease that pose risk to the health of animals, wildlife and humans; promote a safe and wholesome food supply for our nation and abroad; and promote best practices in environmental stewardship, animal health and well-being. NIAA members represent all facets of animal agriculture.