Scientists and farming leaders are urgently seeking ways of fighting a disease new to the UK threatening sheep flocks.
Weeks after government vets confirmed the arrival in Britain of the deadly Schmallenberg virus, which causes miscarriages and birth deformities in lambs, 74 farms in southern and eastern England have been found to have the disease and the number is expected to rise sharply as the lambing season peaks.
Restrictions on animal movements, imports and exports are unlikely because officials do not want to further jeopardise rural economies to combat a virus that has also affected cattle and goats across Europe but is not thought to be dangerous to people. Public health bodies are monitoring the health of farmers, farm workers and vets who have been in contact with infected animals.
The National Farmers Union has warned of a “ticking time bomb” over the disease, which has affected up to 20% of lambs on some farms. The virus, which is thought to have been carried by midges over the North Sea or English Channel, is named after a farm in Germany where it was first identified last year. It was initially seen in cattle and quickly spread through the Netherlands and Belgium to northern France. Continue reading
I’m sure I’ll get an earful from certain readers for this, but I can’t for the life of me see how any health-conscious person can think drinking raw — that is, unpasteurized — milk is a good idea.
That opinion’s bolstered by a CDC report issued Tuesday. A survey of dairy-related disease outbreaks from 1993 to 2006 found that 60 percent of reported illnesses related to dairy consumption involved unpasteurized milk. The numbers themselves aren’t huge — 1,571 cases of illness and 202 hospitalizations — but there were two deaths.
Illnesses related to consumption of pasteurized dairy products almost all involved contamination caused by mishandling after pasteurization. That’s something we consumers have little control over.
But we do have control over what kind of milk we put in our — and our children’s — mouths. The study found that 60 percent of the illnesses related to raw milk occurred among people younger than 20. The authors note that public-health agencies have a duty to protect those who are too young to make their own food choices.
The study also found that 75 percent of the outbreaks related to raw milk consumption took place in the 21 states where it was legal to sell raw milk products at the time; the study notes that seven states changed their laws during the study period. Continue reading
Truckloads of cows and pigs rumble south every day on Highway 75 on their way to slaughterhouses in Omaha and Dakota City, Neb. Profit flows back into the towns of Rock Valley, Hull, Sioux Center and Orange City.
But something more than a livestock boom is going on. There’s an industrial revolution in one town here, where commuters travel from 66 ZIP codes to churn out hinges, valves, tractors parts and backhoe buckets. Scientists at local genetics firms sort eggs and sperm to improve herds and clone animals to find cures for human diseases.
In a part of the country where small towns are losing their factory jobs, their Main Streets and their people, this area, in the northwest corner of Iowa, is moving in the opposite direction. Dollars earned from cattle and hogs have fertilized a field of innovation and growth, and the recovery is blooming.
Unemployment here was 3.6% at the end of 2011, two points below the state average and less than half the national average. The population grew 6.7% in the 2010 Census, 63% faster than the rest of the state.
“They have embraced livestock production as a way of life, and it’s benefited them. They’ve also built up advanced manufacturing, and a commitment to entrepreneurship and re-investing in new biotech companies,” Continue reading
African gamba grass, introduced in the 1930s, wreaks havoc on the landscape and provides dangerous fuel for wildfires, experts say
Elephants and rhinoceros should be introduced to the Australian outback to control the impact of damaging wild grasses, according to an Australian professor of environmental change biology. But other Australian academics warned the proposal risked its own set of problems.
Prof David Bowman of the University of Tasmania says the giant African gamba grass, introduced as food for livestock in the 1930s, wreaks havoc on the landscape and provides dangerous fuel for wildfires across northern and central Australia.
“Australia has a deeply troubled ecology and current land management approaches are failing,” he said.
Because of its height, gamba grass almost completely replaces native vegetation. Its fuel load is up to eight times greater than that of native grasses meaning it burns with greater intensity and produces substantial greenhouse gases.
Bowman estimates that at least 5% of the Australian continent was burnt in massive fires last year, an area three times the size of England. He says, if unchecked, the gamba grass has the potential to grow to cover an equivalent area of the country.
In an article for Nature magazine, Bowman proposes introducing large herbivores like elephants and rhinoceroses as a way of containing Gamba grass which can grow to four meters in height.
“It is too big for marsupial grazers (kangaroos) and for cattle or buffalo, the largest feral mammals,” he said. Continue reading
You might have missed this while you were busy taking the kids to school and preparing for the holidays, but last fall, two U.S. food labeling programs suffered serious legal setbacks that threaten to confuse consumers and thwart the intentions of the “dolphin-safe” tuna and “country-of-origin” labels.
The details are complicated, but in September and November, two dispute panels for the World Trade Organization in Switzerland sided in part with Mexico and Canada on complaints against the voluntary dolphin-safe label and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL). Mexico argued that U.S. dolphin-safe standards are misleading and discriminate against the controversial fishing techniques that Mexico employs to catch tuna. Canada argued that the COOL program discriminates against imported cattle and hogs.
Reactions to the WTO rulings have ranged from tranquil to concerned to downright outraged. Major U.S. tuna producers say they won’t change their dolphin-safe sourcing standards even if they have to change their labels. Pork and beef producers worry that Mexico and Canada might apply tariffs to U.S. meat imports if the U.S. government doesn’t comply with the WTO rulings on COOL, a regulation the meat industry has had mixed feelings about since its implementation in early 2009.
And some nonprofit groups are frustrated that the United States finds itself in this position at all. They’ve long predicted that America’s binding membership in the WTO could lead to this: sacrificing important U.S. environmental and public-safety laws in the name of free international trade.
“There has been widespread concern,” wrote the nonpartisan advocacy group Public Citizen after the dolphin-safe ruling in September, that the WTO could “second guess the U.S. Congress, courts or public by elevating the goal of maximizing trade flows over consumer and environmental protection.” Continue reading
AUSTRALIAN cattle farmers fear a plan by Indonesia to drastically cut the amount of beef it imports next year will be a massive blow to the domestic industry.
Indonesia will only allow for 280,000 cows to be imported, down from 520,000 permits this year. Live exports to Indonesia are believed to be worth $300 million to Australian farmers.
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Indonesia will also limit the boxed beef it buys from overseas to 34,000 tonnes. Last year, Australia exported 48,500 tonnes of boxed beef to Indonesia.
Indonesia has indicated it wants to be self-sufficient in beef by 2014.
The Cattle Council of Australia president, Andrew Ogilvie, said Indonesia’s decision had dealt the industry a huge blow.
”Industry is pretty disappointed that there has been a reduction but we recognise Indonesia’s determination for self-sufficiency,” he said.
Mr Ogilvie said he did not believe the decision was in retaliation to Australia’s suspension of trade in June.
The live cattle trade was suspended by the Australian government for a month this year after the ABC’s Four Corners program sparked animal welfare concerns. The trade was later reinstated.
The Australian Live Exporters Council chief executive, Lach McKinnon, told the ABC any drop in exports would be massive blow to the cattle industry in the northern states.
”It’ll put us under a lot of pressure and we’ll have to work very hard to get through this,” he said.
”It’s like any of these particular trade issues – it’s about government to government and working through what it is both parties want to get.”
This month the Labor Party’s national conference rejected a push to phase out live cattle exports altogether. Continue reading
WAILUKU – The Maui Planning Commission unanimously approved permits Tuesday for Auwahi Wind Energy to build and operate eight 428-foot-tall wind turbines on Ulupalakua Ranch land.
Two dozen people testified on the proposed special use and special management area permits, and none were opposed to the project, according to planner Ann Cua. Some testifiers shared concerns about traffic, safety and visual impacts of the wind farm.
The project would have the capacity to generate 21 megawatts, which would be enough power to supply electricity to 10,000 homes. The $140 million project’s infrastructure includes an energy storage system; a 9-mile, 34.5-kilovolt power line; an interconnection substation; a microwave communication tower; and a construction access road. Each generator pad would require about 2.4 acres of cleared area, while the entire project would cover 1,466 acres, almost entirely on Ulupalakua Ranch land.
The project aims to provide power for Maui island only. It is not part of the “Big Wind” project, which calls for wind farms on Lanai and Molokai to provide power to Oahu via an underwater cable.
Commission members attached conditions to Auwahi’s permits, including one that requires Auwahi Wind, a division of Sempra, to work with the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and Ka Ohana O Kahikinui Inc. to develop a community benefits package. The groups would develop a plan and sign a memorandum of agreement addressing the roadway improvement and other needs of the Kahikinui homestead community.
The project area contains more than 1,100 archaeological features on 174 sites, and the developer has designed the turbines and power lines to avoid culturally sensitive burials and heiau. Continue reading
THE head of an independent review into live exports has backed the government’s decision not to make stunning mandatory in the slaughter of Australia animals overseas, saying the practice is not universal and can still be inhumane.
Former departmental secretary Bill Farmer released the report of his investigation into the industry today as Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig confirmed a series of reforms to the $1 billion a year trade, reported by The Australian today.
The new arrangements will see extra transparency measures in place for live cattle exports to Indonesia – introduced in the wake of graphic ABC Four Corners footage – extended to all markets, including Asia and the Middle East, and will also cover the live-sheep and goat export industries.
The changes, which represent an unprecedented shake-up of the industry, will be staggered over the next 14 months to avoid mass disruptions.
Mr Farmer said the review examined animal killing practices overseas – with and without stunning – that met animal welfare guidelines.
“We also saw practices, both stunning and non-stunning, that fell far short of the OIE guidelines. Stunning applied incorrectly is not a humane practice,” he said.
“There is not universal acceptance of stunning, including under our own guidelines in Australia.”
Mr Farmer said he did see a “very significant move in Indonesia” to introduce stunning and by August, 30 abattoirs there had introduced the practice.
Senator Ludwig said the government had accepted all 14 recommendations made by Mr Farmer. Continue reading
US scientists say a human antibody has been shown to protect lab monkeys from the deadly Hendra virus, which has killed 20 horses in NSW and Queensland since June.
Scientists said there were promising signs for the treatment of the bat-borne virus after research was carried out at a highly protected lab in Montana.
The Hendra virus, which was discovered in Australia in 1994, was last week declared endemic in NSW and Queensland after a recent surge in outbreaks.
There have been 18 outbreaks across both states this year, including eight in NSW.
Although no humans have been affected, four of the seven people ever to have contracted the disease have died.
Before this year’s extraordinary cluster, 14 horses had died since 1994.
The research, described in the journal Science Translational Medicine, was done at a high-security lab in Montana, where 14 African green monkeys were injected with Hendra virus.
Twelve of the monkeys were then treated with a human antibody called m102.4, and they all survived while the untreated pair died.
Earlier experiments on smaller animals have also shown efficacy from the antibody against Hendra virus.
After the US study on monkeys concluded in 2010, the antibody was injected in a woman and her 12-year-old daughter in Australia last year as an emergency protection for exposure to Hendra.
While the two survived with no side effects from the treatment, scientists say more study needs to be done before the antibody can be used as a widespread remedy.
“I think this is a very promising therapy, especially when you consider that it was still strong three days later,” said lead author Thomas Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Continue reading
Two U.S. children were infected with a previously unknown flu virus that apparently formed when a pig influenza virus picked up a gene from the strain that caused the swine flu pandemic in 2009, federal health officials reported Friday.
Both of the children recovered, however, and there is no evidence that the virus is spreading easily among people, meaning that it does not appear to pose a threat of becoming a significant public health concern, officials said.
“We want people to be aware of these things and we want physicians to be aware,” said Lyn Finelli, chief of surveillance and response at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Influenza Division. “But we don’t think that these cases in themselves are alarming.”
Both children are 2 years old, and both apparently were infected by exposure to pigs at county fairs. In one case, a boy in Indiana was apparently infected by a “caretaker” who had been showing pigs at a county fair a few days before the boy became ill, Finelli said. In the other, a girl in Pennsylvania appears to be have been infected when she went to a county fair and petting zoo, she said. No one else, including family members of the two children, appears to have become infected.
“We see four or five of these cases every year. They are commonly reported during times of state fairs and county fairs when there is more contact between people and pigs,” Finelli said. “These infections are similar to those that have been reported before.”
The Indiana boy developed a fever, cough, shortness of breath and diarrhea July 23. Because he had other chronic health problems, he was hospitalized the next day, but returned home three days later and completely recovered. Continue reading