Locals dispute mad-cow threat

GARDNERVILLE - The president of the Carson Valley Farm Bureau says the danger from mad-cow disease could be blown out of proportion, following an announcement earlier this week that a Holstein cow in Washington was infected.

"There are a lot of safeguards," said farm bureau president Fred Stodieck.

"They have only identified those in dairy animals, although they compete with the beef market. They wear them out in dairy, and they come into the beef industry and compete there. I don't understand why Britain didn't separate the dairy and beef markets."

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the first confirmed case of mad-cow disease in the country on a Washington state dairy farm. Final testing on the case will be released in a few days.

Local cattleman Clarence Burr said discovery of mad-cow disease in America is a "major disaster for us." He said there are about 20 farms in Douglas County for which beef is the major product.

"They may want to inspect all cattle for it," Burr said. "They better. I am all for it. We can't have something like this happen. We've had nine years of poverty, and now we have a good year for people who sold (recently). We have to make sure it is not in our cattle."

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman tried to convince the public Wednesday that the chances of becoming sick from U.S. meat possibly tainted with the disease is "extremely low." She said that product from what appears to be a sick cow "has gone into further processing plants from the initial slaughter plant, and we are now tracing that product." She said a recall for about 10,000 pounds of meat had been issued.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also know as mad-cow disease, is found in the central nervous system, not in muscle tissue. The entire herd exposed to the BSE cow in Washington will be destroyed after it is tested for BSE. Results could take one to two weeks.

The BSE epidemic is thought to have spread through the United Kingdom through distribution of cattle feed made with rendered ruminant protein from infected cows. Another infected cow was found on May 20 in a downed cow in Alberta, Canada. Industry officials are certain the Canadian cow with BSE did not enter the food supply chain.

Stodieck said he had sold some beef cattle a few days before the infected animal was found in Washington.

He joked, "I got some pretty high dollar - not sure what they would get today."

"This is no different than the Alar scare about apples in Washington," he said. "Everything gets blow out of proportion, and then (officials) come back and say they didn't find that."

According to the U.S. Meat Export in Denver, the United States is the leading exporter of beef in the world, with sales totaling about $3.5 billion for 2003, said Philip Seng, president and CEO of the federation.

Contact Regina Purcell at rpurcell@recordcourier.com or 782-5121.


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