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Articles from 2014 In September

Ag coops set new sales record

Farmer cooperatives set a new sales record in 2013, with total business volume of more than $246 billion. That surpasses the previous record, set in 2012, by $8 billion, a 4% gain. U.S. co-ops also enjoyed robust job growth over the previous year.

This third consecutive year of record sales by ag cooperatives reflects increased sales in the overall farm economy in 2013. U.S. crop production and livestock sales both increased 6% in 2013, while production input (farm supply) sales increased 2%.

"These sales and net income records for ag cooperatives, combined with strong gains in employees for 2013, underscore the strength and productivity of the nation's farmer- and rancher-owned cooperatives. These co-ops play a vital and growing role in the nation's economy," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Ag co-ops also enjoyed record net income (before taxes) of $6.2 billion, besting the previous high of $6.1 billion, set in 2012. Co-op income is either reinvested in the co-op for needed improvements or returned to the member-owners. It then circulates in local communities.

The number of full-time employees working for ag co-ops climbed by almost 7,000 in 2013, to 136,000, up 5% from 2012. Counting seasonal employees, ag co-ops employ 191,000 people.

In addition to marketing and processing their members' crops and livestock, co-ops are also major players in the farm supply market. Co-op sales of petroleum, feed, seed and crop protectants were all up in 2013. Fertilizer sales declined, the only major farm supply to see sales drop in 2013.

With grain and oilseed prices generally lower in 2014, it appears unlikely that co-ops will set a fourth consecutive sales record when the results are tallied next year. However, livestock, poultry and dairy producers and their co-ops will benefit from lower feed costs, which should offset at least some of the decline in revenue from grain and oilseed sales.

While 33 ag cooperatives recorded more than $1 billion in sales in 2013, 33% (726 co-ops) had less than $5 million in sales.

The value of cooperative assets fell in 2013 by almost $1 billion, with liabilities decreasing by $5.3 billion and owner equity gaining $4.5 billion. Equity capital still remains low but is clearly showing an upward trend, with a 15% increase over the previous year.

Patronage income (refunds from other cooperatives due to sales between cooperatives) increased by almost 33%, to $1.2 billion, up from $900 million in 2012.

U.S. farm numbers remained about the same in 2013 as in 2012, with USDA counting 2.1 million in both years. There are now 2,186 farmer, rancher and fishery cooperatives, down from 2,236 in 2012. Mergers account for most of the drop, resulting in larger cooperatives.

Producers held 2 million memberships in cooperatives in 2013, down about 7% from 2012. The number of cooperative memberships is slightly less than the number of U.S. farms, but this does not mean that every producer is a member of an agricultural cooperative. Previous studies have found that many farmers and ranchers are members of up to three cooperatives, so farm numbers and cooperative memberships are not strictly comparable.

Review concludes GE feed has no adverse effects in livestock feed

The safety of genetically engineered (GE), also known as genetically modified (GM), crops remains a controversial social, political, and global topic. Seeking to provide some resolve to the debate, a newly published articlethe most comprehensive to date— in the peer-reviewed Journal of Animal Science has concluded feeding livestock diets that contain genetically engineered (GE) crops has no impact on the health or productivity of those animals.

Since their introduction in 1996, GE feed crops have become an increasing component of livestock diets. In fact, in the U.S. alone, more than 95% of food-producing animals consume feed containing GE crops. Additionally, the study noted, “Globally, countries that are cultivating GE corn and soy are the major livestock feed exporters.” But, countries are not on the same page in terms of GE approval, which has caused significant trade disruptions and according to the authors, “is likely to be increasingly problematic in the future as there are a large number of ‘second generation’ GE crops with altered output traits for improved livestock feed in the developmental and regulatory pipelines.”

“There is a pressing need for international harmonization of both regulatory frameworks for GE crops and governance of advanced breeding techniques to prevent widespread disruptions in international trade,” stressed the authors.

In November 2013, trade relations between China and the U.S. were disrupted after dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS), an increasingly popular livestock feedstuff, were discovered to contain traces of Syngenta North America Inc.’s Agrisure Viptera MIR 162 GE corn trait. Following the discovery, China enforced a zero-tolerance policy which, as of April 2014, National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) had estimated cost the U.S. grain industry an economic loss of $2.9 billion. NGFA also estimated that U.S. growers, grain handlers and exporters could sustain an even greater economic impact – up to $3.4 billion – during the 2014/15 marketing year if Chinese approval was not granted and Syngenta continued to market the product.

But, the topic goes far beyond global trade issues as many food companies, restaurants and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also used the controversy for marketing or social/political change.

The ongoing controversy surrounding the issue, prompted Dr. Greg Lewis, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Animal Science, to commission Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, cooperative extension specialist in animal biotechnology in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Davis to do a thorough review of scientific literature and field data sets, representing more than 100 billion animals.

Van Eenennam, along with research assistant Amy Young, examined feeding data from 1983 (13 years before GE crops were introduced) through 2011 (when GE feed use exceeded 90%) and documented evidence that the performance and health of food-producing animals fed GE crops were comparable with animals fed non-GE crops.

Additionally, the researchers also examined the composition of products derived from animals fed diets containing GE feeds. “No study has revealed any differences in the nutritional profile of animal products derived from GE-fed animals,” stated the authors.

“The scientific evidence indicates clearly that the health, wellbeing, and productivity of animals consuming GE feeds are at least comparable to those of animals consuming conventional feeds,” stated Lewis. “I believe that information in this peer-reviewed article is essential for open-minded discussions of GE feeds and foods, and we have made this information freely available to the public.”

The review, entitled "Prevalence and impacts of genetically engineered feedstuffs on livestock populations," will appear in print and open-access in the October 2014 Journal of Animal Science. Due to the high level of interest in the article, American Society of Animal Science decided to post the full article in open-access form at www.asas.org.

Legislators concerned about basis for Brazil beef import decision

In two separate letters sent by Congress, an audit conducted by the Government Accountability Office has been requested in response to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's proposed rule to allow the importation of fresh and frozen beef from regions in Brazil and Argentina, as well as live cattle from Argentina. The audits are to focus on the methodology and controls used in the site visit review process, which were the foundation for these decisions.

"Our concern stems from the risk of introduction of Foot and Mouth Disease, which is the most economically damaging livestock disease, and one of the most contagious diseases, in the world," according to National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. chief veterinarian Kathy Simmons. "The last case of FMD in the United States was in 1929 and was brought in from Argentina. That area of the world has been plagued with this disease and reintroduction could risk the health and well-being of our domestic livestock herds."

The letter signed by Reps. Ted Yoho (R., Fla.); Frank Lucas (R., Okla.), chair of the House Agriculture Committee; Pete Sessions (R., Texas), chair of the House Rules Committee; Rick Crawford (R., Ark.); Jim Costa (D., Calif.); and Kurt Schrader (D., Ore.) emphasized the importance of trade, but not at the risk of animal health or harming our domestic food supply.

 "While we are staunch advocates for open markets and free trade, we will not ignore the fact that unfettered access of these products has the potential to cause significant harm to our domestic food supply," the letter stated. "Until a timely and independent study can be conducted on the methodology and management controls of the APHIS site visits to the exporting country to verify the animal health data, we shall not abide risking our nation's food supply, health, and economy."

The last documented case of FMD in Argentina was in 2006. In April, the Food Safety Inspection Service released an audit that found substantial flaws related to Brazil's food safety regulation requirement. An independent third-party review also identified significant weaknesses in the methodology of the risk analysis for the Argentina proposals, specifically the APHIS hazard analysis and the exposure assessment, as well as an overly subjective qualitative format.

The second letter, which was sent this week by the Texas delegation echoed industry concerns, and stated that research indicates a 0.3 to 0.6% loss in gross domestic product for countries that suffer an FMD outbreak.

"It is imperative that the best interests of our nation's food supply, health and economy be properly considered," states the letter signed by 27 members of the Texas delegation. "Until a timely and independent study can be conducted concerning the overall process, documentation, and risk assessments utilized to formulate these rules, we cannot support their implementation."

Seaboard Corp. and Triumph Foods form partnership


Seaboard Corporation announced last week Triumph Foods purchased a 50% ownership in Daily’s Premium Meats, the processed meats division of Seaboard Foods, which produces and markets raw and precooked bacon, ham and sausage. Daily’s Premium Meats will be owned 50/50 by Seaboard Foods and Triumph Foods as of September 27, 2014. As a result of the transaction, Seaboard received cash proceeds of $72.5 million and will recognize an estimated pre-tax gain of approximately $55.0 million, subject to final working capital adjustments. 

In conjunction with the transaction, Kelly J. Hattan was appointed president of Daily’s Premium Meats.

Hattan said, “This partnership will enable Daily’s to further solidify a supply of high-quality raw materials while providing additional capital to expand production and the geographical footprint where Daily’s sells its products. I’m excited about the significant opportunities for growth as a result of this enhanced partnership.”

Daily’s Premium Meats offers a variety of processed pork items from signature honey cured bacon to applewood smoked bacon to naturally smoked hams to breakfast sausages. Operating since 1893, Daily’s has further processing plants located in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Missoula, Mont.

In addition to the Daily’s partnership, Seaboard Foods, pursuant to an agreement, markets and sells fresh products produced by Triumph’s St. Joseph, Mo., pork processing plant, as well as products produced by Seaboard Foods’ Guymon, Okla., pork processing plant. The plants are part of an integrated food system that’s known for unsurpassed quality and for being a top exporter of U.S. pork to more than 30 countries. Internationally, fresh pork products are marketed under the Seaboard Farms and St. Joe Pork brands. Domestically, fresh pork products bear the PrairieFresh Premium Pork brand. Processed meats, such as bacon, hams and breakfast sausage, will continue to be marketed under the Daily’s Premium Meats brand.

FSIS veteran Almanza named food safety undersecretary

Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service Alfred Almanza has been named deputy under secretary for food safety. 

Almanza will work alongside Brian Ronholm, who will also have the title of deputy under secretary. Ronholm has been serving as the acting under secretary since Elisabeth Hagen left the post in December 2013.

Almanza was appointed as administrator of FSIS in 2010. Prior to that appointment, he was the district manager for the Dallas District where he provided leadership and direction to more than 600 employees located in more than 350 federally inspected establishments.

His career with FSIS began in 1978 as a food inspector in a small slaughter plant in Dalhart, Texas. Subsequently, he served as deputy district manager, labor management relations specialist, and processing inspector.

University relations a must for ag

University relations a must for ag

THE teachings of the nation's university system are immensely important not only for the health of U.S. agriculture and agribusinesses but also for the health and well-being of the world.

Nonetheless, a first-of-its-kind study of university students found that the messages and viewpoints being conveyed on college campuses were often misleading and, in some cases, very anti-agriculture motivated.

In 2012, the group Truth in Food began a college outreach program targeting three universities: one large, one medium and one faith-based.

Shortly after the program's launch, it expanded from three schools to six, then to 12 and then to the point that all 62 four-year colleges and universities within Missouri were targeted. The program's reach has since widened to universities throughout the U.S.

According to Kevin Murphy, owner and founder of Food-Chain Communications and Truth in Food, 10 key lessons emerged from the initiative that deserve the attention of agriculture and agribusinesses.

"Our hope is that these conclusions change the way agriculture goes about 'university relations' since agriculture, agribusiness, the U.S. food system and farmers themselves are experiencing an unprecedented assault on their integrity, either originating from or compounded at the university level," Murphy said.


Lessons learned

* Lesson 1: It's not the message but the medium. The Truth in Food College Initiative discovered that agriculture is often presented as the culprit in today's social ills. What used to be unquestionably the solution is now the problem.

Furthermore, agricultural students today make up less than 10% of the total enrollment of land-grant institutions.

* Lesson 2: Academically segregated. Agricultural students are quick to defend and debate the industry's critics on grounds with which they are comfortable, but they were unwilling to be led into debate on philosophical and moral grounds by humanities students and others.

* Lesson 3: "Corncupiscence." The initiative found that today's college students tend to accept a negative narrative about agriculture, especially agribusiness. There appears to be a great unawareness on college campuses of the benefits of a sound agricultural system.

* Lesson 4: Void of passion and purpose. While the land-grant university system that grew out of the Morrill Act is supposed to remain non-political, it was found that this seems to be more the case for people in the agriculture department than those in other departments on campus, particularly the humanities.

Not only does this result in students feeling unengaged in their field of study, but it also results in a lack of passion on their part, which explains why farm families are seeing a drop-off in farming vocations.

* Lesson 5: The force in the course. The Truth in Food College Initiative found that professors tend to use pop culture, either as a foundation or reinforcement, for curriculum materials. Pop culture, in general, is not agriculture friendly.

* Lesson 6: Food information desert. Another problem uncovered by the initiative was a lack of accurate, balanced, easily accessible information about agriculture for college students who have a desire to know more. As a result, they tend to default to self-discovery and self-directed internet searches, where misinformation often outweighs facts.

* Lesson 7: The silencing of the lambs. The young person who wants to mount a defense, even when well versed on an agricultural topic, tends to become quickly overwhelmed with the sheer volume of accusations.

Responding intelligently requires in-depth research and a mature, multidiscipline approach that many have not yet mastered. Therefore, a professor is often able to continue to propound a position through a kind of academic bullying.

* Lesson 8: Peer reviewed, university approved. The Truth in Food College Initiative uncovered a common pattern in which politically motivated professors can critically deconstruct the food system to gain rapid peer acceptance and esteem while simultaneously using the university brand to substantiate and catapult their findings.

It appears that the university system, in some cases, no longer encourages open debate but, rather, begins with the end in mind, according to Truth in Food.

* Lesson 9: "Sunsteinability." Youth have seen more and more cases of society evaluating corporations based on the theory of the Triple Bottom Line, which holds a company accountable for its environmental, social and economic impact. The analysis, however, is highly subjective and tends to be preloaded with an indictment for modern agriculture to the point where it seems that an agribusiness couldn't possibly be sustainable, even if objective science declared it so.

* Lesson 10: Lost cause. The history of agriculture, its role in the development of the world, its service to mankind and its lasting impact for the greater good have gone missing in how agriculture is presented on U.S. college campuses.

When one does hear about the marvels of agriculture, it's often only as a reluctant acknowledgement from an activist professor before listing a litany of accusations or casting agriculture as "big business," "big food" or "powerful lobbyists." Agriculture as a noble cause gets lost in the harangue, Truth in Food found.

Likewise, because activists understand the young student's drive to make a difference, recruiters first present their cause and vision of the world, and only then do they recruit for a job. In contrast, agriculture and agribusinesses talk solely about employment, thus leaving out the cause students so desire.

"Agriculture needs a strategic, orchestrated and long-term commitment to deep 'university relations,'" Murphy said, noting that the focus needs be on the humanities departments because that is where much of the negative thinking seems to be generated.

Volume:86 Issue:40

Scientists respected but not trusted

Scientists respected but not trusted


Scientists respected but not trusted
IF scientists want the public to trust their research suggestions, they may want to appear a bit "warmer," according to a new review by Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs.

The review, published in a supplement to the Sept. 16 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that while Americans view scientists as competent, they are not entirely trusted. This may be because they are not perceived to be friendly or warm.

In particular, Americans seem wary of researchers seeking grant funding and do not trust scientists pushing persuasive agendas. Instead, the public leans toward impartiality.

"Scientists have earned the respect of Americans, but not necessarily their trust," said lead author Susan Fiske, the Eugene Higgins professor of psychology and professor of public affairs at Princeton. "This gap can be filled by showing concern for humanity and the environment. Rather than persuading, scientists may better serve citizens by discussing, teaching and sharing information to convey trustworthy intentions."

Fiske has long studied the psychology behind individual intent and motivation. Her research demonstrates that, while expertise is an essential ingredient for credibility, appearing trustworthy is equally as important.

Humans are hardwired to detect intent, quickly determining who is friend or foe, and they trust others who seem like themselves, deeming them as warm and trustworthy, she explained. Eventually, a person will decide whether the other individual is competent enough to act on their intentions.

To understand how the public responds to science communicators, Fiske and Cydney Dupree, a Princeton graduate student studying psychology and social policy, tested their ideas in two phases.

First, they asked an online sample of adult volunteers to list typical American jobs. From that, the researchers honed the list to the 42 most commonly mentioned jobs, which included scientists, researchers, professors and teachers.

Fiske and Dupree then polled a new group of adults about these jobs, asking them to rate the professions based on how American society views them regarding warmth and competence (Figure). This method was chosen deliberately as it allowed Fiske and Dupree to get a better sense of people's reports of public images of groups. This also reduced the many biases attached to reporting one's individual stereotypes.

Professionals who appear to be caring — such as teachers, nurses and doctors — are seen as both warm and competent. They evoke emotions like pride and admiration. On the opposite end of the spectrum are professions such as prostitutes, garbage collectors and dishwashers, who are seen as having low warmth and low competence.

The remaining two categories involved somewhat mixed emotions. For example, scientists, engineers and lawyers are seen as competent, but they are not seen as warm. This brings forth emotions like envy and distrust among Americans. Professions such as writers, police officers and bus drivers are relatively neutral in terms of both warmth and competence.

"Science communicators arguably need to know about this possible type of response to them," Fiske said. "From this view, scientists may seem not so warm. Their intent is not necessarily trusted and maybe even resented."


Climate scientists

Focusing on scientific communication, Fiske and Dupree administered another online survey asking adults to describe public attitudes specifically toward climate scientists to provide a clearer picture of the public's seemingly mixed feelings.

They used a seven-scale item of distrust that included motives derived from pilot work on scientists' alleged motives. These included such motives as lying about statistics, complicating a story, showing superiority, gaining research money and pursuing a liberal agenda, among others.

In the end, the results were mixed: Climate scientists earned a not-terrible mean of 2.16 on a five-point scale of distrust. Among the aforementioned motives, gaining research money seemed to be the Achilles' heel, scoring high above the midpoint as a risk factor for public distrust.

Overall, Fiske and Dupree found that climate scientists seem to be less suspect than pure scientists and researchers. In particular, scientists whose jobs involve teaching and communicating may seem warmer and more trustworthy, with worthy intentions.

"People are not idiots. The public's issue with science is not necessarily ignorance," Fiske said. "So, the road to communicating climate science starts with some advantages. The public has some knowledge. Climate science communicators have effectively conveyed much evidence, which should encourage their continuing to educate and communicate. Just like other communication, science communication needs to continue to convey warmth and trustworthiness, along with competence and expertise."

Volume:86 Issue:40

Relishing milk prices - for now

Relishing milk prices - for now

Relishing milk prices - for now
IN a nutshell, the dairy industry has been graciously appreciating record milk prices, shrinking feed costs and stabilized consumer demand. As a result, profit margins have climbed steadily all year (Figure).

In fact, University of Minnesota dairy economist Dr. Marin Bozic told Feedstuffs that some of the historically high margins can be found right now.

A sigh of relief was heard around the world as a record grain crop was harvested last year and an equally bountiful one is poised to be reaped this year, which will keep feed costs affordable. Frankly, dairy producers, unlike grain farmers, welcomed corn prices falling below $3/bu. last week and also appreciated the recent dip in soybean meal prices.

However, other management issues, like securing qualified employees, are posing challenges for dairy operations and adding extra labor costs, Bozic explained.

Carrying over from 2013, prices for dairy products have soared this year, with spot butter prices surpassing $3/lb. and cheese prices reaching fresh new highs.

Bozic said for the remainder of 2014, especially after holiday orders are fulfilled, milk and dairy product prices are expected to decline. A correction in the marketplace is likely as milk production has been on the rise in the U.S. and worldwide.

Currently, prices are higher for U.S. dairy products than the world market, in particular for cheese and butter, which limits growth globally.

Actually, Bozic said, U.S. imports of cheese and butter will increase. The combination of increased imports and milk production growth will pressure prices downward. Market analysts are expecting milk prices to drop below $20/cwt. by January 2015 and fall further to $17.50-18.00/cwt. by the middle of next year.

Meanwhile, producers' overall good profit margins are fueling herd expansion, but at a snail's pace. Over the past few months, dairy herds have been expanding an average of 4,000-5,000 head per month, just a marginal increase.

Even so, Bozic warned, "The demand for dairy products is very elastic. If you increase dairy production 2% more than what is needed, prices can go down hard."

On the demand side, fluid milk consumption has dropped 3% each year, but this decline has been offset somewhat by a rise in yogurt consumption. Demand, overall, is stable for all dairy products.

For export markets, strong competition worldwide makes it difficult for the U.S. to demand a premium for its dairy products.

The dairy market continued to advance last week despite the weakness in global markets. The Class III milk price inched upward last week to settle at $24.58/cwt. on Thursday. For the past two weeks, spot butter has finished at $3.06/lb., a new high. Block and barrel cheese held at $2.34/lb. and $2.49/lb., respectively.


Cold storage

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's August "Cold Storage" report released last Monday showed butter stocks at the smallest amount since 2010, at 165.132 million lb., down 37.4% from last year. Likewise, August cheese stocks fell 4.2% below year-ago levels.

The total amount of red meat in cold storage at the end of August was down 7% from last year, while total frozen poultry supplies were down 14% from a year ago.

August beef stocks clocked in at 343.664 million lb., down 20% from 2013. As Dr. Steve Meyer and Len Steiner noted in the "Daily Livestock Report," beef inventories declined 7% from the previous month, which is lower than the seasonal 2% drop.

Last month, the amount of frozen pork in cold storage was pegged at 546.305 million lb., only 0.5% lower than August 2013 and 2.4% higher than July 2014. Lower pork prices fueled packers and end users to replenish product in storage.

Total stocks of chicken in cold storage on Aug. 31 were 616.028 million lb., up slightly from the previous month but down 13% from last year, while total stocks of turkey were 492.769 million lb., down 15% from a year ago.


Hog expansion

Hog market participants were on pins and needles waiting for USDA to release the "Quarterly Hogs & Pigs" report late last Friday, after this issue went to press.

In pre-report estimates, market analysts largely were expecting the report to push the Sept. 1 breeding herd up 1.4-2.0%, reflecting an expansion trend.

On the other hand, the June-to-August pig crop was predicted to be down 1.3-2.4% as a result of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus losses. In addition, market observers expected hog farmers to report 1.5-3.0% higher farrowing intentions for September to November.


Fed cattle tightening

The five-year low for cattle on feed lingered this month, as illustrated in USDA's September "Cattle on Feed" report.

On Sept. 1, USDA reported that there were 9.8 million head in feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 head or more, down 1% from September 2013 (Table).

Placements in feedlots during last month were the lowest since 1996, at 1.72 million head, down 3% from last year. Specifically, placements were: 410,000 head of cattle weighing up to 600 lb., 280,000 head weighing 600-699 lb., 395,000 head weighing 700-799 lb. and 635,000 head weighing 800 lb. or more.

Total placements were higher than expected prior to the report, which will be viewed as slightly bearish among market traders.

Marketings of fed cattle during August totaled 1.69 million head, down 10% from 2013.


Feedlot inventory, million head




2014 as


-Million head-

% of 2013

Aug. 1 inventory




Aug. marketings




Aug . placements




Sept. 1 inventory




Sources: USDA and Livestock Marketing Information Center.


Market roundup

Elsewhere in the livestock markets, beef cutout values slipped, while cash hogs and pork cutout values gained ahead of the USDA report.

In the cattle market, USDA reported mostly inactive cash trading on light demand in all feeding regions. Live sales were slightly lower, at $159-161/cwt.

Retailers searching for beef at lower prices pressured wholesale beef cutout values downward last week, with the Choice cutout settling at $239.11/cwt. and the Select cutout at $225.34/cwt. last Thursday.

Cattle futures were mixed all of last week. At the close of markets last Thursday, October live cattle futures finished at $230.875/cwt. After closing at a new record of $231.07/cwt. last Wednesday, September feeder cattle closed lower at $230.875 the following day.

Cash hog prices rebounded last week, with hogs delivered to the eastern and western Corn Belt last Thursday at $101.12/cwt. and $107.32/cwt., respectively.

Wholesale pork cutout values also settled higher last Thursday, at $118.91/cwt. Loins, hams and bellies closed higher at $134.34, $125.72 and $115.05/cwt., respectively.

After advancing all of last week, lean hog futures finished lower at $106.325/cwt., a reflection of expectations for increasing supplies.

Volume:86 Issue:40

Meeting held on dietary guidelines

Meeting held on dietary guidelines

THE Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), a panel of nutritionists and health experts appointed by President Barack Obama, held its fifth public meeting — a webinar — on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommendations for which are due to the secretaries of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services later this year.

The dietary guidelines help inform Americans about healthy eating habits and are used by the government in crafting various feeding programs, such as menus for schools and the military.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) noted that despite input from livestock associations, the DGAC continues to focus on shifting to a plant-based diet, which the committee members consider more sustainable.

DGAC food sustainability and safety subcommittee chair Miriam Nelson said sustainable diets generally include less red meat and dairy products, but the evidence is not strong enough for the committee to make specific recommendations to reduce or limit individual foods. Instead, she said the recommendation is for a "shift to plant-based foods from an animal-based diet."

NPPC said the pork industry is concerned that the DGAC is straying into topics that are not pertinent to the scope of the diet and nutrition panel — issues such as environmental sustainability and agricultural production practices. The committee does not have an expert from the agricultural sustainability area.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Assn. (NCBA) also expressed concerns, saying the committee "should focus on topics that lie within USDA's and HHS's authority."

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, animal proteins are considered complete proteins that contain all of the essential amino acids. Also, a number of critical vitamins and minerals — including B12, heme iron and potassium — that are often lacking in many American diets are found primarily in meat, NPPC explained.

NCBA added that it has already submitted several comments highlighting the scientific evidence supporting the role of beef in a healthful, balanced diet.

"Research shows that eating lean beef as part of a well-balanced diet can improve health, and numerous clinical trials have consistently demonstrated that consuming 4.0-5.5 oz. of lean beef as part of a heart-healthy diet can contribute to overall healthful dietary patterns and improve markers for health," NCBA noted.

NCBA and NPPC said they each will be submitting formal comments on the DGAC recommendations, once issued.

The DGAC is scheduled to meet again in November for its sixth and final public meeting. The report containing the committee's recommendation is expected to be submitted to federal agencies in December.

A public meeting will likely take place in late winter or early next spring to provide oral testimony on the DGAC report. The final policy document (Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015) is expected to be released in the fall of 2015, NCBA said.

Volume:86 Issue:40

Lymphatic fluid used to detect Johne's

Lymphatic fluid used to detect Johne's

PARATUBERCULOSIS, also known as Johne's disease, is a bovine disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP).

Calves become infected via exposure to the bacterium through contaminated feces or milk and can develop heavy diarrhea years later.

In order to recognize the disease before it manifests, researchers from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna (Vetmeduni-Vienna), have employed, for the first time, a rapid test of the animals' lymphatic fluid.

In a recent publication, the researchers described a promising method that could serve as the basis for early diagnosis of Johne's disease.

Paratuberculosis mainly affects ruminants and causes treatment-resistant diarrhea and wasting among affected animals.

The disease can result in considerable economic losses for commercial farms because the animals produce less milk, exhibit fertility problems and are more susceptible to other conditions such as udder inflammation.

To date, there has been no treatment for paratuberculosis.

The disease usually manifests two to three years after the initial infection. In some cases, it can even take up to 10 years before the disease becomes apparent, Vetmeduni-Vienna noted. During this time, infected animals shed the bacteria, putting the health of the entire herd at risk.


Lymphatic fluid testing

The MAP bacterium enters the body via the intestines and is passed to the animal's macrophages. These immune cells then migrate through the lymphatic fluid into the lymph nodes, the blood and other organs.

Laboratory testing currently looks at the feces, milk and blood of animals suspected of being infected.

First study author Lorenz Khol with the Clinic for Ruminants at Vetmeduni-Vienna, in cooperation with the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, developed a possible alternative method for early diagnosis of the infection.

For the test, Khol took fluid from the lymph vessels at the animals' udders. Just a few millilitres are enough to detect MAP using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in the lymph.

"Taking lymphatic fluid from cattle is not easy, but it can be performed effortlessly with some practice," Khol said. "The longitudinal vessels lie next to the veins under the skin of the udder and can only be punctured during lactation. As the macrophages can be found in the lymphatic fluid first, we believe that an infection can be diagnosed here substantially earlier and more quickly than with today's usual methods."


More positive results

The scientists tested a total of 86 cows from different farms exhibiting symptoms of diarrhea and weight loss. They found that the lymph analysis yielded significantly more positive results than the analysis using feces, blood or milk.

"This is an indication of the higher sensitivity of our method," Khol explained. "After one year, about 70% of all animals which were tested positive via lymph PCR had been culled from their herds. These animals had developed various diseases or a reduced performance that made it necessary to remove the animals from the farm. In comparison, cows with a negative lymph result showed a 27% culling rate after one year only.

"The results show that the method is a promising one," he added. "We must still improve the technique, however, in order to increase the reliability of the results. The fact that there is no treatment for this disease makes comprehensive early diagnosis especially important."

The article, "Lymphatic Fluid for the Detection of Mycobacterium Avium Subsp. Paratuberculosis in Cows by PCR, Compared to Fecal Sampling & Detection of Antibodies in Blood & Milk," by Khol, Pablo J. Pinedo, Claus D. Buergelt, Laura M. Neumann and D. Owen Rae, was published in the journal Veterinary Microbiology.

Volume:86 Issue:40