The sage grouse is being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to list the sage grouse in its entire range as a threatened or endangered species. The national Public Lands Council (PLC) is working with a number of industry partners including the National Farm Bureau Federation to produce a position supported by science on whether the sage grouse needs to be listed.

The sage grouse and its various subspecies breed from central Washington, southern Idaho, Montana and western North Dakota; south to eastern California, Nevada, southern Utah, Wyoming and western Colorado. Sage grouse have also been known to breed in New Mexico and South Dakota. In Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Canadian government has listed sage grouse as endangered.

The PLC is also working closely with state fish and wildlife agencies to coordinate the production of state plans for sage grouse habitat management. For more info, contact Jeff Eisenberg or Stacey Katseanes in the PLC office in Washington D.C. at 202/347-0228 or e-mail jeisenberg@beef.org or skatseanes@beef.org.


Four of the country's leading beef cattle research universities are hitting the road this month. They're hosting four conferences in two days in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas during the 20th annual 4-State Beef Conference Jan. 14-15.

Sessions are scheduled Jan. 14 in Tecumseh, NE, (morning) and Lewis, IA (afternoon); and on Jan. 15 in St. Joseph, MO, (morning) and Maple Hill, KS (afternoon). The morning sessions are from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m., and the afternoon sessions are from 3:30-7 p.m.

As each session is identical, producers need only choose the one location most convenient for them. Registration is $25. Contact your local Extension office by Jan. 9 to pre-register.


“Best Practices” become blueprint for beef safety. The Beef Industry Food Safety Council (BIFSCo) in December rolled out the first two of several proposed documents outlining food safety practices to help the beef industry reach its goal of reducing and eventually eliminating E. coli O157:H7 from beef.

Funded by beef producers with checkoff dollars, BIFSCo represents all sectors of the beef industry — including cow-calf producers, feedlot operators, packers, processors, retailers and foodservice operators — to battle the industry's most complex food safety issues, including E. coli O157:H7.

The Best Practices offer specific, concise guidelines for processing and handling of raw, ground-beef products, as well as slaughter and fabrication safety measures. In the next few months, additional Best Practices covering “pre-harvest” beef production, and retail and foodservice segments of the industry will be developed.

All of the Best Practices are available on the BIFSCo Web site (www.bifsco.org) as they are completed. The documents will be updated and reviewed as scientific and technological advances are made.


Limousin breed announces a new EPD base. One of the frustrations for commercial cattlemen using multiple breeds in their breeding programs is dealing with the wide range in expected progeny difference (EPD) bases between breeds. It's difficult to make the mental adjustments required when switching from breed to breed.

The North American Limousin Foundation (NALF) has simplified the process by giving its EPDs the equivalent look of Angus EPDs. Now, both breeds will have essentially the same averages for all EPD traits.

The two EPDs won't be equivalent. But, for example, a 70 yearling weight bull in the Limousin breed will have essentially the same ranking within the Limousin population for yearling growth as a 70 yearling weight Angus bull within the Angus breed.

The step goes a long way toward simplifying the selection process for commercial producers, and it means producers must only learn the feel of one set of EPDs.


Midwest conference will focus on “Producing High Quality Grading Beef.” Scheduled for Feb. 5 at the Extension Building (on the Illinois State Fairgrounds) in Springfield, the conference include a series of talks by specialists covering topics from conception to harvest, and how Midwest producers can capitalize on their advantages to compete in the high-quality beef market.

The conference begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes at 4 p.m. Registration is $13 before Jan. 30, which covers the meal along with handouts, and $18 after that date. For more info, call 309/694-7501 or e-mail Dave Seibert at dseibert@uiuc.edu.


Food safety bills introduced in Congress seek to give government more recall clout. The two bills, designed to enhance food safety in the aftermath of the massive ground beef recall by a Greeley, CO, ConAgra plant in summer 2002, were introduced by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO).

The Meat Traceability Act seeks to build a traceback system for meat products from the packing plant to the consumer. The second bill, called the Safer Food Act, looks to give USDA and the Food and Drug Administration the authority to recall product, as well as access to a company's distribution records.

In somewhat-related news, six federal agencies have banded together to launch Recalls.gov, a Web site for posting government recalls in the areas of food, medicine, cosmetics, consumer and environmental products, motor vehicles and boats. The site is intended as a “one-stop shop” where browsers can obtain the latest recall information, report a dangerous product or learn important safety tips.