Optimism reigns among U.S. beef producers in the face of the lone U.S. case of BSE. A total of 62% of the respondents to an electronic survey of BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly readers indicated they were still optimistic in the short-term about beef industry prospects. Meanwhile, a whopping 93% indicate they are optimistic in the long-term about the industry's prospects.

The survey was conducted after the Dec. 23 announcement by USDA that a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) had been discovered in a Washington state Holstein cow, but before USDA's announcement confirming the infected cow had originated in Canada.

What's more, a total of 46% of respondents say they planned to increase their herd size in 2004, while 5% said they plan to decrease herd size. Another 47% weren't yet sure about their plans.

A total of 722 of the newsletter's 35,000 readers responded to the survey carried in the Dec. 31 special issue of BSE coverage. The data was collected from Jan. 2-5.

  • Of respondents, 60% rated media coverage of the BSE issue as “unfair,” while 40% rated it as “fair.”

  • Readers were highly supportive of recent USDA actions taken in the aftermath of the BSE announcement. Of respondents, 80% agree with USDA's ban on downer cow slaughter, while 8% disagreed and 12% weren't sure. And, 72% of respondents agreed with the stepped-up implementation of a national identification (ID) system for livestock, while 9% disagreed and 18% weren't sure.

  • 82% of respondents said the industry has done a good job of managing the BSE issue to consumers and the media, while 17% disagree.

  • 94% of respondents rated USDA's job of handling the BSE issue in terms of openness and fairness to consumers and the beef industry as “good” or “fair,” while 5% rate it as “poor.”

  • Of respondents, 58% said they plan no changes to their operations as a result of the BSE discovery, but 22% said they do plan changes, while 19% aren't sure at this point.

Among the changes planned in light of the BSE discovery, most cited by a wide margin was a readiness to move into electronic ID for their cattle. “I want to be ready for the national ID system,” one respondent wrote.

“As a yearling operator, I will pursue documentation on the animals I purchase this year,” wrote another.

“As much work as it will take, I will start tracking purchased feedstuffs, as well as my own, and document all incoming and outgoing cattle,” another responded.

For the full package of survey results visit www.beef-mag.com.