A gene that protects animals against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) has been found in a bovine breed native to Colombia.

Researchers with the state-run Colombian Corporation of Agricultural Investigation (Corpoica) say a gene in the cattle breed Blanco Orejinegro has proved resistant against three of the seven types of FMD virus. Researchers from the University of Texas also participated in the study, reports Reuters.

Only 10,000 head of the breed exist in Colombia, which has Latin America's fifth largest herd with 22 million head of cattle.

“We're not thinking about exporting to Europe,” says Dario Sanin, president of the Colombian Association of Native Cattle. “What we are considering now is producing more of them.”

The inclusion of beef in the diet can help prevent bone loss in the elderly.

That's according to an osteoporosis study of 615 men and women (70-90 years old) that examined the subjects' protein intakes in 1988-89 and changes in bone mineral density four years later. The study was conducted by USDA, Boston University and the Aged Research and Training Institute.

Accounting for all factors known to increase the risk of bone loss, the study found that those who reported the lowest daily protein intakes — roughly equivalent to half a chicken breast — had lost significantly more bone in the hip and spine four years later than those with the highest intakes — equivalent to about nine ounces of steak and a cup of tuna salad.

The group with the next lowest intake — equivalent to about two cups of cottage cheese — also lost significantly more bone than the highest-intake group, but only at the hip.

“Misleading information” is the reason Tyson, the world's largest poultry processor, gave for pulling the plug on its $3.2 billion offer to buy IBP. The stock price for IBP, the world's largest beef processor, immediately fell more than $7.50 to $15.10/share following the March 29 announcement.

In pulling its offer, Tyson was referring to an investigation by the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) into an IBP subsidiary that forced IBP to take a $60.4 million charge on its fourth-quarter earnings. Tyson says IBP got word of the SEC's concerns three days before the merger agreement was signed but didn't inform Tyson until a week later.

Some analysts, however, speculate that lower earnings and the threat of FMD may have played a role in Tyson's flip flop.

Tyson says it has initiated legal action to obtain compensation from IBP, while IBP has filed suit seeking to force Tyson to stick to its offer.

An irradiation facility capable of handling 250 million lbs. of food each year will open later this year near Chicago. The SureBeam Corp. says the facility will electronically pasteurize meat and other fresh and frozen food products and spices.

A key innovation in the Chicago facility will be capability to use high-volume electron beam and x-ray scanning systems simultaneously. This will accommodate differences in product size and shape.

SureBeam says Chicago is a strategic, national hub in domestic food production and processing, and Illinois is the nation's second largest exporter of agricultural products. Currently, the SureBeam facility is in operation in Sioux City, IA.

Meanwhile, the list of countries approving the use of irradiation as a food safety measure continues to build. In late March, France approved the use of irradiation on human and animal food products.

U.S. producers forced to destroy livestock should FMD be found in this country will receive fair market value for the animal.

USDA's contingency plan to eradicate FMD allows the U.S. Agriculture Secretary to seize, quarantine and dispose of any livestock found to have been exposed. There is concern, however, that some producers might not report incidents or try to move or hide animals.

To promote producer cooperation, the federal government says it will pay the difference that a producer receives from the state or the fair market value of the animal, assuring that producers will be compensated 100%. Producers who purposely violate the regulations, however, will not be compensated.

USDA is bulking up its efforts to keep FMD out of the U.S. Ag Secretary Ann Veneman announced April 9 that USDA is hiring 350 new personnel, including scores of inspectors, veterinarians and canine officers, for the inspection and surveillance efforts at the nation's international airports. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) additions will cost $32 million and will be financed by $3 user fees. These will be added to airline tickets and charged to each person entering the U.S.

The same day, President Bush proposed a $41 million fiscal year 2002 increase for APHIS, which would provide the USDA agency with $393 million for pest and disease exclusion in 2002.

George Swan of Rogerson, ID, 1999 president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), passed away from cancer March 22. He was 50.

We offer our condolences to his wife Becky and their four children — Hutch, 23; Jenny, 21; Allyson, 18; and Caitie, 16. Memorials may be sent to the Idaho Home Health and Hospice, 200 Second Avenue North, Twin Falls, ID 83301.

This monthly column is compiled by Joe Roybal, 952/851-4669 or e-mail jroybal@intertec.com.

Ports Of U.S. Entry

In 1999, USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine Service considered:

  • 584,000 commercial aircraft

  • 141,000 private aircraft

  • 200,000 ships

  • 125,000,000 private vehicles

  • 463,000 buses

  • 39,000 trains

  • 400,000,000 international visitors

  • 15,000,000 cattle, pigs, chickens, eggs, etc.

  • 2,200,000 pieces of international air mail

  • 1,900,000 pieces of international surface mail

Source: “Emerging Diseases of Animals,” C. Brown & C. Bolin