‘Mad cow’ is having a crippling impact

Canada’s beef industry has lost an estimated $3.3 billion since the first case of BSE (mad cow disease) six months ago, according to a recent study.
The impact “represents the greatest threat and shock the Canadian agricultural industry has ever experience,” said the report, written by Serecon Management Consultants Inc. of Edmonton for an industry coalition.
“Cattle need to be culled, farmers may need to be moved out of the sector, and rural communities may need to face increased downsizing,” the report warned.
Following the discovery of a single BSE-infected cow back in May, the United States and other export markets—which previously had bought more than 60 percent of Canadian cattle and beef—closed their borders to Canadian exports, throwing the industry into chaos.
In early September, after a massive investigation of the Canadian beef industry turned up no other case, U.S. officials opened the border to limited types of meat from young animals.
U.S. officials have since proposed rules to allow cattle and more cuts of beef into the country, pending a period of public comment.
The study, which assumes existing trade bans will continue until early 2004, said the beef industry has lost $1 billion in meat exports.
Meat processors have faced $500 million in higher costs because they have no markets for offal or bone meal, used in hog and poultry feed, the study said.
Those costs have meant lower prices for feedlots and farmers, as well as for pork producers.
Feedlots have lost $192 million, despite government aid programs. Farmers who normally export live cattle as breeding stock or to U.S. feedlots have lost an estimated $700 million, the report said.
Farmers are expected to take a loss of nearly $850 million over the winter on more than 1.1 million older beef and dairy cows and bulls.
While trade in beef from cattle considered too young to develop BSE is expected to resume, Canadian government officials have said they expect trade in meat from older cattle will be banned for the foreseeable future.
Prices for cull cattle have dropped 75 percent since May, the report noted.
Not included in the $3.3-billion total is an added $3 billion loss in equity for the country’s 46,000 cattle farmers, the report said. Nor does the total include estimated costs of $1.8 billion to secondary industries, including truckers, feed companies, veterinarians, and other suppliers.
Since the study was done and released, a second case of BSE was discovered—this time in the U.S., but the infected cow had been born in Alberta.
Dates to remember
•Jan. 30—4-H awards banquet; and
•Feb. 10—Pesticide safety course

Posted in Uncategorized