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From: TSS ()
Subject: Industry Awaits Test Results Several publications, including Cattle Buyers Weekly, suggested that the cow came from Texas
Date: June 20, 2005 at 6:47 pm PST

##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################


Industry Awaits Test Results

The Dallas Morning News, June 14, 2005


by Karen Robinson-Jacobs


Jun. 14--The U.S. cattle industry will play a waiting game for about two weeks while animal scientists in the U.S. and England determine if a cow -- suspected of being from Texas -- had contracted mad cow disease.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said late last week that a retest of sample material, declared in November to be free of the brain-wasting Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE, now shows a "weak positive" result.

The USDA announcement, like past reports of possible mad cow findings, sent scientists scurrying to conduct more tests and pushed the futures markets lower. If confirmed, it would be the second established case of mad cow in the U.S. and potentially the first in a home-grown animal.

The announcement did not pinpoint Texas as the home state, and the agency Monday declined to confirm published reports speculating that the cow was once part of a Lone Star heard. Several publications, including Cattle Buyers Weekly, suggested that the cow came from Texas.

The cow involved in the nation's only confirmed case -- in Washington State -- originated in Canada.

Cattle futures for August delivery dropped 1.775 cents Monday, or 2.2 percent, to 80.35 cents a pound on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Futures prices are off 12 percent since the end of last year.

Even so, cash prices are up more than 25 percent compared with their 2002 levels, said Matt Brockman, executive vice president of the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.

He also noted that Monday's drop, which came in the first trading session after the USDA announcement, did not approach the limit imposed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which puts brakes in place to avoid a free-fall.

"We didn't get close to being 'limit down' on any of those [futures] contracts," said Mr. Brockman. "It's not rosy news, but that shows me it could have been a lot worse."

Looking back on the experience in Washington, where BSE was found in December 2003, Mr. Brockman said he didn't think the cattle industry would be hurt more in Texas than in any other state if the final test comes back positive and the cow is determined to have Texas ties.

"There won't be any difference for a cow sold on the Texas side of the border or the Oklahoma side of the border," he said. "The presence or lack thereof of BSE will have an impact. But the animal's point of origin will have no impact … positively or negatively on the market."

He argued that even if it were from Texas, that would not portend greater problems for cattle here because, unlike other ailments, BSE is not passed from cow to cow. It's contracted through contaminated animal feed.

And he pointed to the "extensive" testing done by the USDA -- more than 375,000 animals since June 2004 -- which has not turned up widespread problems.

While Mr. Brockman expressed confidence in the cattle market's strength, others weren't so sure.

"We're certainly concerned about the effect that this will have in the marketplace," said Burt Rutherford, a spokesman for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. "Certainly for the next two weeks, this creates a great deal of uncertainty in the marketplace. The market is always going to react to situations of uncertainty."

Jim Rogers, a spokesman for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said Monday that it could take two weeks before work is complete on a test now being done now in the U.S. and a test to be done later at a specialized lab in Weybridge, England.

After a determination is made, the agency will likely reveal the state of origin, but it may never reveal the exact ranch that housed the cow, he said.

He said the agency was still in the process of tracing the animal's herd of origin and trying to locate information on any siblings.

The agency said Monday that the cow was born before the government enacted a ban in August 1997 on using some animal parts in animal feed.

"It could have eaten contaminated material early in its life," said Mr. Rodgers, adding that BSE "has a very long incubation period."

-----

To see more of The Dallas Morning News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.dallasnews.com.

Copyright (c) 2005, The Dallas Morning News

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.

For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail reprints@krtinfo.com.

http://www.mycattle.com/news/dsp_topstories_article.cfm?storyid=17354

TSS

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