The Aftermath of BSE

Beth Ellen Doran, beef field specialist

On December 23, 2003, USDA officials announced that the first case of BSE in the United States had been diagnosed in a dairy cow in the state of Washington. In the following two weeks, the markets reacted with limit down moves and closure of exports. Beef producers and allied industry staff were anxious and seeking advice from the cattlemen's associations, universities, and USDA.


To help producers understand the disease and immediately cope with the circumstances, the Iowa Beef Center launched a national satellite program on January 7, 2004. This satellite focused on the biology of the disease, cow culling strategies, dead animal disposal, feed regulations, and marketing strategies. It was received in 16 states and 84 Iowa counties. All 10 of my county directors hosted the program, reaching 52 clients.

In Sibley, clients expressed anxiety over the impact of BSE on the rendering industry, indicating that "pick-up charges" had increased and pondered the future for the rendering industry. In Sioux City, one client questioned the ban on downer animals, especially animals with a broken leg. The Iowa Beef Center posted a Web page with questions and answers (from 28 states), which they were unable to address during the satellite. Nine questions were submitted from clients in five of my counties. Their questions ranged from safety of the human blood supply to composting to food safety criteria that local lockers must implement.

A week later, I co-sponsored a Feedlot Meeting in Sioux Center with the Sioux County Cattlemen's Association. I encouraged the presenters to incorporate some aspect of BSE into their presentation—whether it be the National Identification Plan, composting dead cattle, how Checkoff dollars were used to respond to BSE, or market outlook. We reached 83 producers and agri-business staff. But the news spread as KCAU-TV aired a segment on the evening news with two of the cattlemen at the meeting discussing BSE.

In a short-term evaluation, over 90 percent of the respondents indicated they better understood changes in the market place and industry due to BSE. When asked about changes they planned to implement, the common response was "get started on tagging." One producer even stated that animal identification should be mandatory. Eight-six percent of the respondents indicated the meeting helped them understand the industry's use of Checkoff money and how it helped combat the BSE crisis. Comments included "full support for the Checkoff!" This was a very positive response, given that the beef Checkoff was being challenged in the courts.

In the latter part of January, USDA terminated their BSE investigation, but the aftermath continued. In two cow-calf meetings (Mapleton and Marcus), I had engaged a local veterinarian to speak on herd health. I asked them to include BSE in their presentations. We reached 72 cow-calf producers, addressing questions about herd security and the prevalence of BSE.

The Lyon County Cattlemen's Association had asked me to be a part of their program on Feb. 11 in Rock Rapids, but the topic was changed to "the aftermath of BSE." I spoke to 28 producers about the firewalls that were being put in place and how these would impact them. I also engaged Evan Vermeer, member services director for the Iowa Cattlemen's Association, to follow me with a discussion on the National Animal Identification Plan and electronic identification that the Iowa Cattlemen's Association is supporting. There was a lively discussion concerning the cost of BSE relative to downer animals, feed industry regulations, and animal identification.

On March 1, Agriliance, L.L.C. asked me to discuss the effect of BSE and its impact with their cow-calf producers. Using an updated version of the Lyon County program, I shared BSE and National Animal Identification information with 73 clients. Again, there was much debate about animal identification, especially on who would assume the cost. Rick Kreykes, technical specialist with InterVet, indicated to the crowd that while he had heard quite a few presentations about BSE, this presentation was the most comprehensive one, with new and important information.

Kenton Witt, technical specialist with Midwest Farmer's Cooperative, invited Evan Vermeer and me to give a presentation similar to the one in Lyon County. On March 26, I discussed the current status of the BSE aftermath with 12 cow-calf producers. Questions included what Creekstone was implementing and how this might impact the beef industry. Several commented that the program was very relevant to their cow-calf operation.

Page last updated: July 8, 2006
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