There are many who attend the annual Cattle Feeder Days at Lancaster’s Farm and Home Center to hear retired Penn State economist Lou Moore’s fairly close to unerring predictions about what to expect in the coming year. When Cheryl Fairbairn, Penn State Extension Livestock Team, stepped to the microphone this year to say that Lou would not be in attendance, an audible groan from the audience aptly reflected the collective mood at Moore’s absence. Only on the previous night did he communicate that his wife and sons persuaded him not to make the two hour car trip alone, that his 80-plus years could prove to be a liability. But Fairbairn read what Moore would have told his audience had he been there in person: It’s going to be a good year overall.
“Cheaper feed and a shortage of feeder cattle will keep prices in the $130-$145 range for choice. The shortage of beef will bring per capita consumption down to 53 pounds, about five pounds lower than 2010. I wish you the best and miss being there,” the statement concluded.
Penn State Extension Veterinarian Dave Wolfgang spoke at the event. The title of his talk was Using Antibiotics Wisely — Avoid Some of the Controversies and Diagnostic Strategies at the Farm Level. As he got underway, Wolfgang referenced ‘current controversies’ making the rounds. “In the current Washington environment,” Wolfgang explained, “once something is written on a piece of paper, it’s a guideline registry, and basically rolls into regulation almost as written.
“The biggest problem, I believe, is indiscriminate use of antibiotics. It costs billions of dollars in the United States to deal with antibiotic resistance issues in people. About 23,000 people a year die just from resistant bacteria. This costs our health industry probably upward of $10-$30 billion a year. Those people travel around the globe. They travel in planes and on ships, they wash their hands in strange bathrooms; it’s scary, and that’s how germs get transferred from place to place to place around the world.”
And as people around the world start to make more money, they want to spend money on protein products, on meat, butter, cheese; they want higher quality foods. “It’s an opportunity for us, and a challenge, to provide food for this bigger audience in the future,” said Wolfgang.
He also says the average consumer eats as much beef and pork combined as they do poultry. At the same time, people eat less beef than they did 50 years ago. “Beef was the reason everybody died from heart attacks back then. There should be fewer heart attacks today, but we eat a lot more fried chicken.” Wolfgang adds that if you eat beef properly, it should not present a problem.
“A major consideration in antibiotics today is extra label drug use (ELDU). “Prior to 1994 it was illegal to use extra label use of drugs, and this is a huge controversy right now,” Wolfgang stresses. “Most people perceive that you cowboys out there do whatever you want to do without regulation. That’s the perception in Washington. They believe that since it wasn’t written as regulation, people didn’t know what they were doing.”
ELUD is by or on the lawful written or oral order of a licensed veterinarian within the context of a VCPR (Veterinary Client Patient Relationship) as defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. It is in compliance with regulations promulgated by the Secretary that establish the conditions for such different or intended use.
Residues are minute quantities of a product found in food products after exposure or use in an animal. FDA controls these limits. They are normally set at zero for any non approved products, but FDA may allow a maximum residue level. Forty-four percent of residues found in all commercial meat is found in market dairy cattle; 48 percent of residues found in all commercial meat is found in bob veal calves. Steers have nearly zero residue issues.
It’s important to come up with safe antibiotics, antibiotics that do the job. And Wolfgang urges paying attention to protocols, which are simply guidelines, “especially for things that you do often,” he said. Such attention can result in early detection of disease conditions, as well as heightened awareness of therapeutics including chronic conditions, immunizations, biosecurity, growing stock health and hygiene, and related developments.
Ann Nogan with the Pennsylvania Center for Beef Excellence, and Bridget Bingham, executive director, Pennsylvania Beef Council, brought attendees up to speed on what’s happening in the world of beef. “It’s what you do every day that will allow us in our industry to be sustainable,” Nogan noted. “Where’s the beef? Here in Pennsylvania our cow numbers and red beef heifers have remained constant. Steer numbers are down a little bit. From 1983 to 2013 there has been a decline of what’s available. In 2014 we are going to be rebuilding. There are 12,250 beef producers in Pennsylvania, made up from small-sized herds ranging from one to 49. The last census that was taken in Pennsylvania showed two cattle-feeding operations that had over 500 head of calves in them.”
“We do face the challenge of diminishing resources,” Bingham added, speaking of the Beef Checkoff program. “The dollar we were working with in 1985 is now worth about 47 cents. To do now what we used to do back then takes about $2.11.”