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RBC I Kersi Latham spent much of her youth, especially summer times, in western Rio Blanco County with her aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents on the Twin Buttes Ranch south of Rangely.
Latham is now a junior at Fruita-Monument High School. She lives with her parents, Karen (Robertson) and Troy Latham on a Mack ranching operation, and last week, travelled to Little America in Cheyenne to deliver her summer intern report to the 2016 Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF) convention.
Latham’s summer internship research looked at differences in cattle production practices in five major countries that import beef and/or cattle into the U.S. market. This question is important to R-CALF, and should be to U.S. consumers now that Congress in December repealed mandatory country of origin labeling (mCOOL) for beef and pork.
This means U.S. consumers can no longer tell where their beef (or pork) is from, and meatpackers can merge less expensive imported beef with U.S. product all under the same or no label.
Latham studied Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Australia and Brazil with regard to cattle production factors such as approved vaccinations and treatment protocols, prevalent diseases, use of growth hormones and promotants, parasite control, feedstuffs, testing prior to inter-regional movement or slaughter, and transportation.
She reported that the U.S. and Canada are generally very similar in their cattle and beef production.
One significant difference is the amount of time cattle are allowed to be confined in a transport vessel. U.S. prohibits cattle from being confined any longer than 28 hours without a five-hour release and break. The Canadian limit is 48 hours. The other countries have less determinate rules.
Mexico allows the use of some growth feed additives that have been withdrawn in the U.S. Use of hormones and growth promotants are a concern for the health of consumers due to residues and the ambulatory effect on cattle. Promotants are increasingly being used in the other countries, although Australian producers are at least sensitive to their not being suitable for all supply chains.
Information on many of the factors for Argentina and Brazil, Latham found, is scarce. Argentina producers experience three prevalent diseases that are relatively non-existent or are controlled in the U.S. These are actinosis, bovine respiratory disease and neo-natal calf diarrhea.
Brazil deals with two notable diseases that are of great concern to U.S. producers relative to their spreading here. These are Foot (Hoof) and Mouth Disease (FMD), which is highly contagious, and Johne’s disease.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recently lifted its ban on beef imports from northern Argentina and 14 of Brazil’s 27 states that are reportedly FMD-free.
The USDA says fresh chilled or frozen beef can be safely imported “provided certain conditions are met to make sure that beef exported to the U.S. will not harbor FMD virus.”
Mexico, Latham said, has little vaccination protocol and is plagued with diseases largely controlled in the U.S. Bovine tuberculosis, which is currently widespread in Mexican cattle, is frequently undetected and undiagnosed. It is a zoonotic disease that impacts humans via milk and beef products. The U.S. tests every animal entering the U.S. from Mexico.
Australia experiences a number of Clostridial diseases that are not prevented by vaccination to the degree they are in the U.S. Australian producers are responsible for ensuring unacceptable dewormer and other pesticide residues.
Ticks are a huge problem in Brazil, requiring the use of chemical araricides, which are known to contaminate the environment, milk and meat.
Some countries have stopped or say they may stop importing Brazilian beef because Brazil cannot guarantee the residue-free status of their meat.
According to R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard, Latham’s work begins the analysis of what the organization sees as a very important consideration so long as U.S. consumers cannot determine the country source of their beef. It’s also critical to the health of the U.S. cow herd, he said.
Participants at the convention expressed great appreciation for Latham’s study and confirmed that the organization will be working hard to restore mandatory COOL.
Canada and Mexico are the importers of live cattle into the U.S, and Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and Brazil are the largest importers of beef and veal into the country.