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Greetings readers

The startling realisation that all countries may be at risk from BSE and its related human form CJD should be of major concern to all livestock producers.

This is not a disease that can be offset by claims of being a clean green producer. Meat meal had been a component of compound animal feeds in New Zealand up until it was realised there were risks arising from its inclusion.

Strict quarantine controls may have saved NZ from direct importation of animal feeds however the route has been there through livestock importation for infected animals albeit unknown and undoubtedly untested. The well-recorded scrapie outbreak in imported sheep confirms the possibility of contamination of the national herd by similar means.

Putting aside the hopefully remote possibility of BSE infection already being present in the national herd and the devastation that would cause to the milk and beef industries there is a growing awareness that the threat of BSE in the mind of the consumer has the potential to be equally as devastating.

It is clear that public awareness of the problem is growing in European markets and that fear is now taking hold in the US. Events just seem to be rolling ahead of the authorities as they try to control and eliminate BSE's spread.

Too many countries were smug as Britain attempted to understand and then eliminate BSE from its national herd. There seemed to be a lack of comprehension by authorities of what they were up against and an even greater reluctance to allocate resources for its control.

The outcome has been that beef consumption in Europe is down and will probably decline further and stocks of beef are climbing. Consumers are switching to more chicken and pork and even a little more lamb. The potential for the collapse of world beef demand is starting to show, particularly following the identification of at risk cattle in Texas.

Once again the NZ beef producer's economic well-being is put at risk by matters beyond our control. What is your farming plan if the beef market collapses inspite of the best efforts of the European authorities?

Good farming

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