In R.L. Preston's February reference piece, “2001 Feed Composition Guide,” page 10, I found several references to animal by-products such as blood meal, bone meal and several others. I understood such feeds were banned by the beef industry by reason of the “mad cow” disease.
Roy Anderson
Blair, NE

R.L. Preston responds: Your question is a good one. The most important point to be made during this uncertainty about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is that the disease is not present in U.S. cattle and therefore not a threat to consumers of U.S. beef.

The ingredients you mention are in the feed table because they are valuable by-product feeds of long standing. However, there is uncertainty about BSE and rendering processes that may or may not inactivate the BSE infective agent (prion). As a result, FDA in 1997 exercised the precautionary principle and issued an order banning the feeding of protein to ruminants (cattle and sheep) when derived from ruminants and protein from most mammals (swine and horses, unless these by-products originate from single-specie slaughter plants).

This includes meat meal, bone meal, meat-and-bone meal and blood meal. By-products from poultry (feather meal and poultry by-product meal) can still be fed.

Cattle producers and feed manufacturers must abide by this ban. Furthermore, when mixed feed (concentrate, supplements, etc.) is purchased, cattle producers should insist on invoices and labels showing that these banned ingredients have not been included in the mixture.

By complying with this ban, U.S. cattle producers will be able to assure consumers worldwide that U.S. beef is free of BSE to the best of our knowledge.

Research is ongoing to determine rendering procedures that will inactivate the BSE prion. This will require time since the incubation period for the BSE agent in test mice is one to three years. Additional research will then be required to assure that these procedures render by-products free of the BSE agent in cattle.

Producers Were Not Served

It's my strong belief that the pork checkoff was voted down because it did not support small, independent farmers (“Editor's Roundup,” February, page 4). The program is in the hands of the industry, and they sure are able to come up with their own advertising.

I was at that conference. Why? The confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) industry has for six years polluted my neighborhood. The air around my house is foul. Do you expect me to just sit here and take it?

Yes, we need to learn the lesson. Clean up our acts or not be in business.
Rolf Christen
chrifarm@nemr.net

Harlan And Heather

It's disappointing to hear that Heather Thomas will no longer be writing a regular column in BEEF and Harlan Hughes will be. Reading Harlan Hughes' column is like reading the wiring schematic to the space shuttle — you assume it must be right because of the number of figures and charts involved.

By contrast, Heather Thomas portrays a real ranch family dealing with real problems like predators, weather, markets and a family member who nearly died. Hers was the one article that didn't drill us monthly on how much the checkoff was doing, how our calves don't fit the market or how beef demand was dropping. She knows what it's like to have cold feet and wet gloves.
Brian Kolb
Prairie City, SD
brkolb@dakota-web.com

Editor's Note: Author Harlan Hughes and BEEF editorial staff strive each month to make “The Market Advisor” as readable and as easily graspable as possible. In order to fully appreciate Hughes' lessons in planning and maximizing beef cow profits, careful study is required to properly grasp the economic concepts. As Hughes often tells his audiences, “No one has ever promised that economics is simple.”

BEEF will introduce its new “ranch family” journalist in the June issue.

Who Are The Survivors?

In a recent Dave Nichols commentary, he stated that in a few years' time, there would only be four purebred seedstock producers left in the U.S. I assume he will be one and possibly Leachman Cattle Co. another. However, I can't come up with the other two from all the outstanding seedstocks.

A friend of mine purchased two purebred bulls, sight unseen, from a well-known breeder with outstanding EPDs and the best “papers” you could write. He returned both bulls because they didn't meet his evaluation for soundness.

At the Iowa State Fair, a noted judge stated that he believed it was time to get back to the basics in visual selection of bulls. I believe most of our commercial beef herds are doing an outstanding job of this with the help of EPDs, frame scores, carcass and other papers.
Jerry Hunziker
Hurdland, MO

The four “seedstock companies” that will dominate future beef genetics don't even exist today.
— Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols Responds: My assumption that only four seedstock companies would be left in the U.S. is based simply on what has happened to agriculture in my lifetime. When I started farming, my choices of tractors were John Deere, Oliver, I-H, Case, Silver King, Allis Chalmers, Ford, Ferguson or Massey Harris. I could even buy a tractor from the Montgomery Ward catalog. Hybrid seed corn was sold by more than 200 companies.

Mergers and acquisitions continue in everything from banking, farm equipment, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, fertilizer, feed manufacturing, packing, processing, swine and poultry genetic companies to the five or six giant supermarkets that sell the bulk of our beef.

History proves the folly of assuming that current large family operations such as ours or Leachman will be among the “survivors.” The four “seedstock companies” that will dominate future beef genetics don't even exist today.

While mergers, acquisitions and partnerships may evolve from existing operations, the seedstock breeders of the future are likely to resemble the companies that agriculture now depends on for both its inputs and markets.

Let Someone Else Pay It

I am responding to your November 2000 issue in which two editors defended the beef checkoff and questioned the motives of the Livestock Marketing Association.

Without choice, I am forced to contribute $1/head to the checkoff program, and I deeply resent it. I think the returns the average or large beef producer have gotten over the years from the hundreds of millions of dollars they have been forced to contribute are minimal, at best.

If it's such a wonderful program, let the people who are paying for it vote on continuing it. Or better yet, make the checkoff voluntary, and let the people who support it pay for it.
Charles A. Tuppen
SixTlghorn@aol.com

Pork Got What It Deserved

One of the worst mistakes you and your friends at BEEF can do is to continue your sarcastic and condescending attitudes concerning issues like the overthrow of the pork checkoff. With most independent pork producers run out of business in the past 20 years, many of those left apparently felt they couldn't stand much more help from the National Pork Producers Council.

With the demand for European-origin beef at all-time lows because of BSE, why haven't you and your influential friends seen to it that American beef filled the void?
Lloyd L. Wilson III, DVM
Centerville, KS

First-Class Journalism

Your story on John Rose of Three Forks, MT (“Balancing Act,” Spring 2001 Cow/Calf Issue, page 46), was first-class journalism — one of the best wrap-ups of where we are in the beef industry today. However, I think Clint Peck's analogy of the see-saw was wrong. It's not a balancing act, although I can see where the industry would think that it is.

What's happening is the industry is splitting into two parts. This leaves two industries that will have little, but less than we expect, to do with each other — the high-value, custom product grown to specification, and the commodity side producing cheap beef for processing.

Many of the people who raise cattle are attracted to the high-value side because they take pride in doing a good job. And, of course, high value does sound appealing. Sounds like high income.

I think it just might be that. But, who really knows? Perhaps with cattlemen making a little money now, they'll invest it in going after these high-value markets.

As for the commodity guys, I worry that someday you will not even have a market for your cattle. No one will want them. Sounds extreme, but it's happening in hogs.
Charles Batchelor
Midlothian, VA

We welcome reader letters. Include name and address and send to BEEF, 7900 International Dr., Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55425; or e-mail to beef@intertec.com. BEEF reserves the right to edit for length.