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Agriculture Today

Stretching the dollar to meet needs of ag producers

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Wilson County News
March 1, 2012 | 4,341 views | Post a comment

FLORESVILLE -- Texas cattlemen continue to express concerns about national organizations, as well as beef promotion and animal health. These concerns were addressed by W.V. “Bill” Hyman, executive director of the Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas (ICA), in an update to members of the South Central Texas Independent Cattlemen’s Association during their Jan. 19 business meeting. He addressed these issues as well as others, including water rights. See related article, page 6A.

After much discussion and debate regarding separation of the policy and the federation divisions within the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) structure, the movement for the separation continues today. The association, the major contractor of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, currently controls 95 percent of the beef check-off contracts.

Groups seek separation and more independence from the major contractor of the check-off program. At the present time, the secretary of agriculture is conducting a study regarding more independence. More will be known in six months, Hyman said.

While promoting American beef is important, the issue of healthy animals is just as important for making a profit in today’s tough economy.

Hyman spoke briefly of two health-related issues --state animal disease traceability and the fever tick-eradication programs.

The ICA and a number of other ag organizations have expressed dissatisfaction with the state health identification system as proposed by the Texas Animal Health Commission.

The state plan includes:

•The placement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) metal tags (brite tags) on all breeding-age animals so the name of the owner can be recorded.

•If a brite tag is already placed in the animal’s ear, the number must be recorded as the beginning point of identification.

While the proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture traceability plan also asks that breeding animals be tagged, the state takes the rule one step further by including those going to the slaughterhouse also to be tagged with brite tags and recorded. The use of auction back tags is not allowed in the state program.

During the drought, although more cows were seen in the auction ring, Hyman said there were 75 percent fewer downer cows seen. As Texas had suspended brucellosis testing due to lack of funding, cattle weren’t being handled in the chutes, so weaker animals still were able to make it through the auctions.

“No ag group is for this [state health identification program],” Hyman said. The groups are asking for the state to follow the proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture plan. If the “cow goes down [in a chute], it costs you,” Hyman said. “If it is bruised and limping while it sells in the ring ... it costs you.”

A second health issue was addressed, prompted by a question from the audience. Fever ticks are a continuing concern. Hyman cited a case which involved a trophy deer hide found by customs officials near Laredo with 23 fever ticks embedded. The procedure of having the cape frozen or dipped prior to its import into the United States was not properly followed, Hyman said. The cape was surrendered and destroyed. Mexican cattle are immune to the bovine babesiosis virus carried by the cattle ticks, and if the disease should cross the border in, for example, a tick-infested hide or other carriers, U.S. cattle are not immune to babesiosis and will die.

“That is how close it [fever ticks] is to us,” Hyman said.

Feral hogs and deer can also serve as hosts to fever ticks, Hyman added. The Texas Animal Health Commission continues its eradication efforts, using a fever tick quarantine along the U.S. border and the USDA’s Tick Force patrolling on horseback, looking for strays and wildlife crossing the Rio Grande.

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