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A Publication of WTVP

Livestock is a major component of Illinois agriculture. A priority of the Illinois Farm Bureau in 2005 is to grow the livestock industry in our state. The priority boils down to efficiency. In central Illinois, we're home to some of the best soil in the world. Couple that with 40 inches of annual rainfall and temperatures favorable to growing bin-busting crops, and Illinois is capable of an extremely efficient livestock system.

Western and Great Plains states, where thousands of head of livestock are raised, have to have Midwestern corn and soybeans shipped to them. Why not keep corn and soybeans in Illinois and feed it to our own livestock? This adds value to our state's agriculture industry and boosts the Illinois economy through vertical integration.

The livestock industry has had some bumps in the road during the past few years. The issue that brought cattle to the forefront of the industry occurred just before Christmas 2003. BSE, or spongiform encephalopathy, was discovered in a cow in the State of Washington. The cow was born in Canada and imported into the U.S. As a result of this BSE case, exports of American beef declined. Japan and South Korea were two major importers of U.S. beef, and they banned the importation of our beef shortly after BSE was discovered.

It's taken a long time and strenuous efforts to try and restore our beef exports to these two countries. Japanese technical experts met February 8 and accepted the U.S. meat grading system as a way to verify the age of cattle. The move is an important step toward the resumption of U.S. beef exports to Japan because older cattle can be potential carriers of BSE.

Japanese officials said last fall they would accept beef from cattle under 20 months old. The primary issue that remained was finding a means of age verification that was acceptable to the Japanese. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) assured Japanese officials that beef graded as A40 comes from animals aged 12 months to 17 months.

A40 carcasses account for 9 percent of U.S. beef production, and cattle that have age-verified records make up about another 10 to 15 percent. U.S. exports before the December 2003 case of BSE accounted for 10 percent of production. Therefore, the agreement, while not a full lifting of the ban, could return beef exports to Japan to their pre-2004 level.

On the other end of the BSE spectrum, the U.S. closed its borders to Canadian cattle because of BSE concerns in May 2003, when BSE was first discovered in an Alberta cow. As a result, prices plummeted, and the Canadian cattle market collapsed. Prior to the border closing, most cattle imported from Canada arrived as feeder cattle to be fed out and slaughtered in the U.S. Feeder cattle typically weigh 500 to 600 pounds. Cattle are at market weight when they weigh 1,100 to 1,200 pounds.

The U.S. border closing of Canadian cattle may result in Canada becoming self-sufficient in cattle slaughtering and packing, at the expense of U.S. processors. Canadians are determined not to be as dependent on the U.S. market in the future as they were prior to the discovery of BSE. Canadians significantly have increased their slaughter/packing capacity. Sources indicate slaughter capacity has increased 22 percent since 2004 and will increase another 30 percent by 2007.

As many as 25 livestock processing plants either are being expanded, built, or on the drawing board. Should all this building occur, the Canadian cattle processing industry would be self-sufficient by 2007.

Experts predict that in a decade, BSE as a disease in cattle w ill be non-existent because of steps taken to prevent it, including implementing a ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban. IBI

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