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Don’t Take Health for Granted

07 January 2014

Disease has many ways of impacting the livestock sector. Movement restrictions are hugely problematic and previously poorly calves can carry disease into other herds.

This stark warning appears in a beeftalk article which, along with the grim message that death is never far away, outlines the threat to food safety disease can pose to livestock farming.

Producers have become keenly aware that traceback, the article continues, which primarily is a function of health, sanitation and food safety, is critical to understanding the need to maintain fully effective health regulations versus introducing new animal health risks, even when such restrictions may limit marketing options.

Finishing a Thanksgiving Day meal is a treat and enjoyed by many but, unfortunately, not by all. The goal remains to somehow assure that everyone has access to safe and affordable food. The world would be a happier place if that were the case. While we reach out to better feed our neighbors, we also need assurance that the progress we have made in feeding our neighbors remains intact.

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Like it or not, the world of living things always is precariously close to death. The relationship between predator and prey is never very far away. Although we generally prefer the movies with lions and wolves chasing wildebeests and deer, the tiny predators also always are at work.

Viruses, bacteria and numerous other microorganisms or subparticles also are part of the predator and prey relationship. Unlike the larger predators that can be somewhat easily seen and managed, the smaller predators can avoid detection by the naked eye. Their arrival often is a surprise and may come when least expected, especially because the movement of cattle and beef is complex.


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"Like it or not, the world of living things always is precariously close to death."
Beeftalk

As producers seek an unencumbered market environment, that very environment also can function as a very efficient conduit for the many diseases that may affect cattle because buyers from around the world have the opportunity to bid on calves. We have the struggle between a totally free an unencumbered market versus a market that has biological barriers in place that potentially inhibit the free movement of cattle.

Producers want to maximize business options and maintain the flexibility to market their stock by utilizing methods that effectively capture value for the producer and enhance that value to all links
within the beef industry.

The challenge is that, as the calf goes, so goes all that the calf as been exposed to. In other words, cattle have the potential to carry diseases they have been exposed to and could spread these diseases to susceptible herds. That may not be a big deal if the disease is a strain of the common cold, but that is certainly not true for all diseases.

Producers have become keenly aware that traceback, which primarily is a function of health, sanitation and food safety, is critical to understanding the need to maintain fully effective health regulations versus introducing new animal health risks, even when such restrictions may limit marketing options.

The tracking of animals that cross borders is considered essential for the preservation and well?being of the industry. The introduction of a highly pathogenic disease, such as foot and mouth disease, would affect millions of animals and have a devastating impact on markets and producers.

In addition to potential national disasters, other significant disease challenges exist. Examples include tuberculosis (Mycobacterium bovis) and Johne’s disease (Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis), which are chronic untreatable diseases affecting cattle, or anthrax (Bacillus anthracis), a disease that produces  spores that may infect a premises and threaten cattle for years, if not decades.

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