BJD infection bites

AUTHORITIES are playing down the risks posed to human and animal health and any potential commercial damage as a result of finding bovine Johne's disease (BJD) in a cattle herd at Bajool in Central Queensland near Rockhampton.

The source of the detection, a major Central Queensland Brahman stud, sends bulls all over Northern Australia each year, which means a nervous wait for commercial cattle producers who may be unwittingly swept up in the outbreak.

BJD is a serious disease of cattle and other ruminant species which causes chronic diarrhoea or ill-thrift in older stock, leading to emaciation and eventually death. While there is no effective treatment for the disease it has a very low prevalence in Queensland as a result of stringent control measures.

Incoming AgForce Cattle Board president, Howard Smith, said he while there is no scientific evidence the disease poses risk to human health it did create some management issues for the cattle industry.

There's been no word yet on whether the National Bovine Johne's Disease Plan needs to be overhauled in the wake of the detection.

Beef exports boxed in

RABOBANK says boxed beef exporters are facing several hurdles and opportunities in its traditional markets of Japan, the US and Korea in the near future. A strong Australian dollar, which combined with an aggressive US marketing campaign into Japan is continuing to see US product displace Australian beef in its key market. In addition, Korea's surplus of domestically produced Hanwoo beef has reduced imports from all countries.

In more positive news, though, the report's author Sarah Sivyer says the US is facing tighter supply and rising beef prices as a result of its worst drought in 50 years. Looking forward, Ms Sivyer says the issue of increased domestic inventory in Korea is cyclical and should begin to subside in 2013 while exports to Japan will remain strongly tied to currency movements.

Live ex woes

THE Australian live export business continues to suffer across the board with cattle shipments in September down 21 per cent year-on-year and sheep exports plummeting 53pc for the same period.

The woeful figures come as tension continues over animal welfare breaches in Pakistan and ongoing beef shortages in Indonesia, which is still refusing to issue any further import permits until next year.

Live cattle exports reached 66,531 head in September, to bring total exports since January to 506,305 head, with a corresponding export value of $474 million. Shipments to Indonesia totalled 27,135 head, while shipments to Turkey, Russia and China reached 16,255 head, 10,981 head and 9,200 head, respectively.

Live sheep exports during September fell to 130,660 head, taking exports for the first nine months of the year to 1.8 million head, with an associated export value of $229 million FOB. Qatar was the largest destination for the month. Live goat exports in September dropped to 891 head - the lowest export volume since March 2006.

Meat Free Mondays grilled

OVERSEAS craziness has come to our shores with the launch of Meat Free Mondays in Australia.

It's supporters say the aim is to get Australians to eat less meat, although lobby group Do Somethng! denies it's an anti-anti-farmer or anti-meat campaign.

Rather, they say, it's a campaign to encourage a more balanced diet and, you guessed it, save the planet. That's because livestock industries are responsible for about 10 per cent of Australia's total greenhouse emissions, and the world's beef producers are going to have to get a whole lot more energy efficient if they are going to increase production for a growing population in the future, so the argument of Do Something! goes.

How production gains can be improved by telling consumers not to eat meat is anyone's guess. For the record and something you can assure the Do Something! crowd won't be telling their hoodwinked supporters - since 1990 emissions from producing beef in Australia have decreased by 6.5 per cent a kilogram. They are also conveniently ignoring research released in 2011 by CSIRO which found that the amount of methane emitted from cattle fed on tropical grasses in northern Australia is up to 30 per cent less than the figures currently used to calculate the northern cattle industry's contribution to Australia's greenhouse gas accounts. If this methodology is endorsed by the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory than that 10pc quoted by Do Something! will be reduced.

The National Greenhouse Gas Inventory is based on the current international Kyoto Protocol carbon accounting system that doesn't fully account for the capacity of trees, grass and soil to store carbon as part of the carbon cycle.

Twitter has gone mad on the issue and I liked many of the tweets coming through, particularly the one which suggested Bottled Water Free Tuesday as a more genuine way to help the environment than attacking beef producers.

While we shouldn’t expect anything more, there have also been some unhelpful comments from WWF’s Ian McConnel, who gave the Meat Free Monday concept something of a backhanded compliment, telling ABC Radio that it helped to underscore the need for ‘good’ beef producers to promote their environmental credentials.

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Choice Cuts with Brad CooperGroup beef writer Brad Cooper presents a video round up of the big news in beef this week.

COMMENTS

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Still beef prices are highest ever in our supermarkets in South Florida
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I hope they used to reduced land from cotton for sybeans or corn that still have great prices
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Looking forward to release of Government's report on ESCAS. Let it be the basis for objective