NCBA: Committee Tackles Critical Cattle Health, Care Issues

US - Members of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s (NCBA) Cattle Health and Well-Being Policy Committee met on Friday, during the Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show.
calendar icon 7 February 2011
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Tom Talbot, committee chairman, said the committee’s objective is to provide guidance and develop policy to ensure cattle health and well-being issues are addressed in an efficient and effective manner to maintain the health and quality care of cattle; and to provide consumers consistent, high quality, safe and wholesome beef.

Herd health management was a topic that received a great deal of attention during the meeting. Dr. Dan Thomson from Kansas State University discussed future pharmacological tools, as well as pain assessment and mitigation related to cattle health and welfare. He discussed production management practices to improve cattle performance; cattle health; and cattle welfare. Dr. Thomson also discussed the effects labor has on cattle wellbeing and highlighted the importance of on-the-job training to ensure employees know the proper care techniques and practices.

On a related topic, Devin Koontz, a regulatory affairs representative from the Food and Drug Administration’s district office in Denver, updated the committee on the FDA’s draft guidance on antimicrobial resistance. He said FDA received 1,200 comments on the draft guidance and that FDA’s next step will be to publish additional guidance on the principles outlined in the draft guidance.

Animal disease traceability was also discussed during the meeting. Dr. Keith Roehr, Colorado State Veterinarian and member of the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) State/Tribal Working Group, updated the committee about APHIS’ disease traceability program. He said the program will apply only to livestock that move between states. He said APHIS’ goals are to minimize initial cost to industry and to implement a system will allow livestock to move at the speed of commerce. Finally he said he expects the proposed rule to be published in April 2011 with the final rule coming in July 2012.

Brian McCluskey, western region director of APHIS’ Veterinary Services, was on hand to provide an update from APHIS. The first issue he discussed was the interim rule for Brucellosis, which was published on Dec. 27, 2010. He said the interim rule removes the automatic loss of class free status; modifies surveillance programs to only support first-point testing in states that have not been Brucellosis free for five years or less, targeting surveillance to states that receive cattle from the Greater Yellowstone Area and additional testing to obtain a statistically sound geographical distribution; and creates designated management areas for brucellosis. Dr. McCluskey also said a working group is currently working to develop a single rule for both Tuberculosis and Brucellosis that will ensure consistency, increase flexibility and reduce administrative burden.

With the ongoing outbreak of food and mouth disease (FMD) in South Korea, Dr. McCluskey updated the committee about safeguards in the United States to prevent the disease from entering the country. He said in the event of an FMD outbreak, the United States prohibits the importation of live ruminants and swine from the infected country and prohibits the importation of fresh or frozen ruminant and swine meat and other animal products from the infected country. Additionally, APHIS utilizes veterinarians to provide targeted surveillance in the United States, and APHIS provides updates to the Department of Homeland Security’s US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) so that CBP agents at airports and ports of entry into the United States can increase inspection and vigilance at our borders.

Dr. Guy Longeragan from Texas Tech University gave an update on the current state of the science regarding pre-harvest tools. These potential tools include vaccines, products that can be fed and products that can be applied to the cattle. He discussed the pros and cons of all three categories of pre-harvest tools, including the promising results from E. Coli vaccines currently marketed in North America. However, Longeragan noted not only these vaccines but also any of the other pre-harvest interventions should not to be viewed as the silver bullet. He said we need to know much more about all of these potential food safety tools and their efficacy.

“All US cattlemen are committed to providing consumers safe, consistent, wholesome, high-quality beef,” Talbot said. “We have also have a long-term commitment to constantly improve our excellent herd health management and cattle welfare. As we continue working to improve production efficiency, prevent the introduction of foreign animal diseases into the United States and protect access to international markets, we must always ensure our policies are up-to-date and that NCBA members have the latest information. The committee reinforced our belief that science must drive these policy decisions. The science and policy discussions we had today will be critical in our efforts to improve cattle production and herd management practices now and in the future.”

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