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News Roundup – for Jun. 8, 2009

HEALTH

PFIZER GOLD GOES ON BIXS

Pfizer Animal Health has tied its national whole-herd vaccinated Pfizer Gold program to the soon-to-be-released Beef InfoXchange System (BIXS), developed by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association as part of their Canadian Beef Advantage strategy.

BIXS, which began as a pilot project early in 2009, is designed to explore voluntary methods of information-sharing among various stakeholders in the cattle industry. The comprehensive database program is being rolled out nationally to producers this summer.

The system tracks individual animals by their RFID tag numbers.

The program is voluntary but participants will be asked to upload some required information. Access to optional production data will be controlled by information sharing agreements. Cowcalf producers will be able to post birth date and breed information, colour and vaccination status, for example, while feedlots may upload vaccine histories and animal health scores. Participating packers would report on carcass quality data such as grades and yield percentages.

ANIMAL WELFARE

ON OUR FARMS… WE CARE

That’s the theme of the Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan’s (FACS) annual billboard campaign running through July 28 along busy traffic routes in Saskatoon, Regina and other urban areas in Saskatchewan.

The billboards feature photos of young producers “to emphasize that agriculture is a modern, progressive industry,” says FACS executive director Adele Buettner.

Kirsten Sparrow, 16, appears in a billboard, along with her older brother, Brandon, and cousin, Sierra. The family’s beef operation near Vanscoy, west of Saskatoon, “was started by my grandpa 50 years ago,” she says. “Now it’s run by my father and my two uncles. Altogether there are 12 cousins, and we all help out.”

In addition to 350 head of Charolais they operate a 6,000-acre grain farm. Sparrow’s parents lead the Saskatoon Beef 4H Club. She has raised and shown calves for the past eight years. She and Brandon serve on the national board of the Canadian Charolais Youth Association, helping organize annual conferences.

MARKETS

COW MARKETING PATTERNS UNCHANGED

By mid-May there was little noticeable market reaction to the April 24 announcement that XL Foods was temporarily closing the Moose Jaw, Sask., plant until September.

Slaughter cow exports to the U. S. continued to track last year’s pattern, although export data in Canada does take a while to catch up with reality.

In making the announcement XL, co-CEO Brian Nilsson cited the low level of cull and fed cattle supplies in Canada. The other factor is the cost of following Canada’s strict regulations for the removal and disposal of specified risk material, particularly for mature cattle, which puts Canadian packers at a disadvantage to U. S. packers.

The company kept all of its buyers and continues to source fed and cull cattle from Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the two provinces most affected by the closure, for the company’s Calgary plant and the XL Four Star Beef cow plants in Omaha, Nebraska and Nampa, Idaho.

“The bulk of the cows from eastern Saskatchewan and Manitoba were flowing into the States already,” notes Nilsson. “There were some from Alberta going to Saskatchewan and now those will be staying in Alberta, so the net effect is not a huge change in the shipment of cattle.”

After they purchased the Lakeside plant in mid March from Tyson Foods, Nilsson says operations were streamlined to increase production efficiencies. Lakeside now processes fed cattle while XL Calgary will handle all of the cows and fed cattle as needed on this side of the border.

Michael Fleury at Saskatoon Livestock Sales in Saskatoon says cull stock is still moving every which way. XL Calgary and Cargill at High River were buying all classes of cows; D3s were moving to Quebec and younger cows to the U. S.

Chad Parks of Pipestone Livestock Sales in Manitoba says the pattern remains basically the same. Buyers were still shipping cow south and west, only now they go a little farther west.

John Ross, director of the animal industry division with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Ottawa, finds nothing unusual about the seasonal slowdown in the cow shipping pattern. Marketings fall off as calving winds down, then pick up when pairs come off pasture in the fall.

“The difference this year is the seasonal drop may be steeper coming off a period of very high cow marketings. Producers have culled down their herds fairly substantially during the last couple of years,” he explains.

To May 8 federally inspected cow kill was down 20 per cent from last year. Bull slaughter was down 44 per cent in the West, and 35 per cent in the East.

The corresponding year-over year numbers in the U. S. show plants there processed five per cent more cows, but four per cent fewer bulls. Some 66,000 of those cows were from Canada up

to late April. That’s about 11 per cent more than the year before.

GENETICS

CANADIANS CONTRIBUTE TO GENETIC SBOVINEGE NOME SEQUENCING PROJECT

What seemed like science fiction five or 10 years ago has become reality within the realm of bovine genetics today, says Dr. Stephen Moore with the University of Alberta’s (U of A) bovine genomics program.

It took 13 years for a consortium of more than 100 research institutions worldwide to map the human genome. It was released in 2003 at which point the researchers turned their attention to unraveling the genome of a Hereford cow.

The results of the Bovine Genome Sequencing Project were recently published in the journal Science.

Moore and his team at the U of A contributed to the project by defining a number of genes and the subtle differences in proteins. The Genome Sciences Centre in Vancouver was also involved.

In all, Alberta researchers identified more than 125 genetic markers to pinpoint the groups of genes responsible for variation in traits, such as meat quality, fatness, marbling, tenderness, growth and feed efficiency. Many of these genes have since been commercialized and used by producers for DNA profiling.

Sequencing the chromosomes in the DNA goes beyond profiling, however.

“Knowing the genome sequence is a huge step,” says Moore. “There are three billion letters in the mammalian genome code, whether it’s a human or a cow. We now know the order of the three billion base pairs all along the chromosomes and the variation of the genes, plus we can relate this information back to the performance of the animal.” This knowledge will help breeders make even faster headway toward improving the efficiency of beef and dairy cattle and quality of beef and milk products.

Moore announced last month that the U of A bovine genomics team will continue its work in this area by sequencing a number of individual animals including a dairy bull, a beef bull, a Brazilian bull (representing the other major subspecies of cattle), an elk and a water buffalo. The goal is to improve the marker sets that have already been identified by making them more consistent across populations of cattle in Canada.

Back in 1990 it cost about $3 billion to sequence the genome of one human. Breakthroughs in equipment and technology reduced the cost of sequencing the bovine genome to $50 million. Now it costs about $50,000 to sequence an animal and the unprecedented interest in genetics will continue to drive down the cost.

Now the limitation is having enough animals for field-scale research to verify the affect of a gene (or multiple genes) that controls a trait within breeds and across breeds, Moore adds. This will require an international effort because there isn’t enough money in animal research for any one country to do this type of research on its own.

DISEASE

ANAPLASMOSIS FOUND IN MANITOBA

Eight cattle herds in eastern Manitoba were under federal quarantine last month in what may mean a temporary end to Canada’s status as free of anaplasmosis.

Dr. Lynn Bates, a veterinary program officer with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says 305 reactors were found in eight herds in the rural municipalities of Lac du Bonnet and Alexander during a periodic national bovine serological survey.

Anaplasmosis is a reportable livestock disease in Canada, caused by a parasite of red blood cells. It affects domestic and wild ruminants but only cattle show clinical signs. The disease can be transmitted in infected red blood cells by biting insects and through contaminated instruments such as hypodermic needles and dehorning equipment.

Since anaplasmosis is blood-borne and it’s not possible to avoid insects, changing needles frequently and disinfecting dehorning equipment in between use are the best ways to limit exposure

to the disease, said Dr. Wayne Lees, Manitoba’s chief veterinarian.

The outbreak was most likely brought into the area by infected livestock imported from the U. S. where it costs the cattle industry an estimated $300 million each year.

Canada is considered anaplasmosis-free, but the Manitoba cases may change that status. CFIA has reported the cases to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

New rules adopted in 2004 allow imports of U.S. feeder cattle from 39 states considered “low-risk” for the disease into Canada without testing at any time of year.

SEEDSTOCK

TRANSPLANT NEW ZEALAND ANGUS BULLS SOLD ON EBAY AUCTION

North America’s first fullblood PineBank New Zealand (NZ) embryo transplant Angus bull calves were sold online in an eBay type auction held from May 9 to 17.

The embryos were conceived at the farm of Willie and Angela Falloon of PineBank Angus in NZ and born at Christoph and Erika Weder’s Spirit View Ranch near Rycroft, Alta., in May of 2008.

The genetics are from the Waigroup herd, developed by PineBank and three other NZ Angus breeders to produce Angus sires and dams with superior performance under grassland production systems for their own herds.

Six of the 22 bulls went for the base price of (U.S. dollars) $2,750, seven sold for the next base price of $3,250 and three were bid up over the reserve. The high seller went to Montana for $4,100.

“For the first time doing this, we were pretty happy with it,” says Weder. “It gave us lots of exposure and tons of attention from Angus breeders.” There were about 2,000 hits on the auction site and 45 registered bidders.

The pick-of-five feature sold a half interest in semen sales revenue and full possession of one bull from the five sold for the asking price of $10,000. All of the bulls sold. Half went to the U.S. and half to Prairie buyers.

The late date for the sale coincided with the calves turning a year old in May. The bulls will undergo a complete semen evaluation in mid June before delivery. The majority of the buyers run grass-fed beef operations and don’t need the bulls until July through September.

Weder says they may arrange a fall online auction to sell more of the ET yearling fullbloods and some AIsired halfbloods for the 2010 breeding season.

to the disease, said Dr. Wayne Lees, Manitoba’s chief veterinarian.

The outbreak was most likely brought into the area by infected livestock imported from the U. S. where it costs the cattle industry an estimated $300 million each year.

Canada is considered anaplasmosis-free, but the Manitoba cases may change that status. CFIA has reported the cases to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

New rules adopted in 2004 allow imports of U.S. feeder cattle from 39 states considered “low-risk” for the disease into Canada without testing at any time of year.

SEEDSTOCK

TRANSPLANT NEW ZEALAND ANGUS BULLS SOLD ON EBAY AUCTION

North America’s first fullblood PineBank New Zealand (NZ) embryo transplant Angus bull calves were sold online in an eBay type auction held from May 9 to 17.

The embryos were conceived at the farm of Willie and Angela Falloon of PineBank Angus in NZ and born at Christoph and Erika Weder’s Spirit View Ranch near Rycroft, Alta., in May of 2008.

The genetics are from the Waigroup herd, developed by PineBank and three other NZ Angus breeders to produce Angus sires and dams with superior performance under grassland production systems for their own herds.

Six of the 22 bulls went for the base price of (U.S. dollars) $2,750, seven sold for the next base price of $3,250 and three were bid up over the reserve. The high seller went to Montana for $4,100.

“For the first time doing this, we were pretty happy with it,” says Weder. “It gave us lots of exposure and tons of attention from Angus breeders.” There were about 2,000 hits on the auction site and 45 registered bidders.

The pick-of-five feature sold a half interest in semen sales revenue and full possession of one bull from the five sold for the asking price of $10,000. All of the bulls sold. Half went to the U.S. and half to Prairie buyers.

The late date for the sale coincided with the calves turning a year old in May. The bulls will undergo a complete semen evaluation in mid June before delivery. The majority of the buyers run grass-fed beef operations and don’t need the bulls until July through September.

Weder says they may arrange a fall online auction to sell more of the ET yearling fullbloods and some AIsired halfbloods for the 2010 breeding season.

The Weders are Canadian distributors of Waigroup semen in partnership with Sustainable Genetics of Franklin, Georgia, which markets the NZ semen in the U. S.

Another 120 ET fullbloods were born on the Weder ranch this May with 300 more to come over the next three years, along with halfblood calves from their AI program.

The online auction format seemed nautral given the ranch location in Peace River country. The eBay format gave buyers plenty of time to study the information and place their bids from home. The only drawback, he adds, is that many potential buyers still have dial-up Internet connections and some were uncomfortable with online bidding .

Though it takes considerable time to prepare for an online auction, the cash outlay is much lower than with an on-farm auction. The Weders did all of their own photography and produced a YouTube video. The website was designed by an outside supplier.

PineBank NZ has maintained a closed Angus herd since 1965 selecting animals that produce the best returns on their low-input forage operation. The line-breeding program was designed by a geneticist to advance desired traits and eliminate recessive genes as they appear. The bulls are replaced every year, and females must calve every year.

Weder describes it as a rough and tough program and says the bulls with the New Zealand genetics had to have the hair coat and hardiness to weather some extremely cold nights last winter. Their feet and legs are backed by PineBank’s four-year guarantee.

The high-selling bull had a birth weight of 82 pounds, weaned off at 590 pounds, and weighed in at 720 pounds as a yearling, with a scrotal circumference of 32 centimetres and a frame score of three.

The Weders are Canadian distributors of Waigroup semen in partnership with Sustainable Genetics of Franklin, Georgia, which markets the NZ semen in the U. S.

Another 120 ET fullbloods were born on the Weder ranch this May with 300 more to come over the next three years, along with halfblood calves from their AI program.

The online auction format seemed nautral given the ranch location in Peace River country. The eBay format gave buyers plenty of time to study the information and place their bids from home. The only drawback, he adds, is that many potential buyers still have dial-up Internet connections and some were uncomfortable with online bidding .

Though it takes considerable time to prepare for an online auction, the cash outlay is much lower than with an on-farm auction. The Weders did all of their own photography and produced a YouTube video. The website was designed by an outside supplier.

PineBank NZ has maintained a closed Angus herd since 1965 selecting animals that produce the best returns on their low-input forage operation. The line-breeding program was designed by a geneticist to advance desired traits and eliminate recessive genes as they appear. The bulls are replaced every year, and females must calve every year.

Weder describes it as a rough and tough program and says the bulls with the New Zealand genetics had to have the hair coat and hardiness to weather some extremely cold nights last winter. Their feet and legs are backed by PineBank’s four-year guarantee.

The high-selling bull had a birth weight of 82 pounds, weaned off at 590 pounds, and weighed in at 720 pounds as a yearling, with a scrotal circumference of 32 centimetres and a frame score of three.

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