Livestock News for week of September 9

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Cattle, beef sector recovery continues after Tyson fire

Recovery in the cattle and beef sector continues following the Tyson Foods beef plant fire in early August, said Derrell Peel, Oklahoma State University Extension livestock marketing specialist. “Lots of scrutiny and suspicions are being directed at cattle and beef markets,” he told Feedstuffs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that it’s launching an investigation to ensure cattle markets have remained fair after the fire. According to Peel, USDA data became available recently allowing comparison between pre- and post-fire impact on cattle slaughter. The data showed that Monday through Friday slaughter following the fire was down 22,158 head, or 4.6% lower than the week before the fire. That reduction was close to the estimated capacity of the closed Kansas plant, Peel noted, but more recently that gap has narrowed significantly. “Numerous early media reports indicated that estimated slaughter the week after the fire was up by 9,000,” Peel said. “This was incorrect, largely because it included a large estimated increase in cow and bull slaughter and also because it was based on daily slaughter estimates.”

China pig losses ‘critical,’ disruption to intensify due to ASF

In its latest update on the global African swine fever crisis, Rabobank said hog losses in China have reached critical levels, the rest of the world’s producers cannot make up the difference, and disruption will intensify as the disease continues spreading, WattAgNet reports. According to the bank, China’s pig herd loss is expected to reach 50% this year, leading to even lower pork production. Rabobank’s report predicts a 25% decrease in pork production this year, with a further 10-15% drop in 2020. While the supply gap created by lower pork production in China can’t be completely filled by other proteins, all other animal proteins, especially poultry, have become pork substitutes. The virus is affecting other countries too, with Vietnam’s pork production expected to fall as much as 20% this year. The supply gap is expected to be filled by imports, but per capita consumption in the country this year is expected to fall 12%.

ASF likely in United States, but not in pigs: veterinarian

While African swine fever hasn’t been found in the U.S. pig herd, it may already be present in the country’s feed supply, according to research from Pipestone Veterinary Services. Because the virus has been proven to survive in animal feed, as well as to survive a trip across an ocean, the animal feed and pig industries need to be careful, Scott Dee, Pipestone’s director of research, said in a recent webinar. “I think African swine fever virus entering the United States through contaminated feed is a daily risk,” Dee said. China has been hit hardest by the ASF outbreak, and it’s also the only place some feed ingredients are available, according to WattAgNet. “It hasn’t happened yet, as far as jumping into pigs, but based on the survival data in feed, and the amount of materials that we import from China of this high-risk nature, I’m quite certain that the virus has entered into the country,” Dee said. “It just has not yet jumped into pigs.”

The return of vesicular stomatitis in horses

As vesicular stomatitis cases increase in the southwestern and western United States, topping 500 premises affected as of early August, officials warn veterinarians and handlers of potential risks. Beyond the risk of spreading from horses and cattle to other livestock like swine and sheep, and even people, the disease can also affect interstate and international movement of horses. For example, horses may be restricted from entering certain countries if they come from a VS-infected state. “Although there are many unanswered questions about how VS outbreaks occur, we know the virus circulates annually in southern Mexico and Central America. We believe certain climatic factors, such as rainfall and temperature, favor VSV vectors, and when these insects move north along waterways they bring the virus into the U.S.,” Dr. Angela Pelzel-McCluskey writes in The Horse.

Gene-edited cattle have major DNA issue

U.S. Food and Drug Administration scientists found that a bull treated with a new gene-editing technology to keep it from growing horns also developed antibiotic resistance. According to the FDA, an “unintended” addition of DNA from a different species occurred during the gene-editing process. It went undetected by the company that developed the technology, Recombinetics, “even as it touted the animals as 100% bovine and assailed the FDA for saying the animals needed to be regulated at all,” the MIT Technology Review reports. While this incident is a setback for Recombinetics, it also calls into question broader efforts to make this sort of gene editing a routine practice in animal production. Gene editing isn’t as predictable or reliable yet as many strong supporters say: The FDA said that gene editing errors “are under reported” and a “blind spot” for scientists.