U.S. Beef Stockmen Pay Little Attention To Mad Cow Rules
"The Whole Thing Seems A Little Ridiculous To Me."
FARGO, N.D. (AP) - New restrictions on livestock feed are meant to ensure America's herds are not devastated by the dreaded mad cow disease. But producers apparently have been among the last to learn about many of the rules.
Wade Moser, executive vice president of the North Dakota Stockmen's Association, said his 3,100-member group knew nothing about recordkeeping requirements that took effect in August.
``It's news to me,'' he said. ``I doubt any of our members knew a thing about it either. ... The whole thing seems a little ridiculous to me.''
The North Dakota Agriculture Department and federal officials have been trying to get the word out to producers about the new laws, but they admit it has been a tough go.
``Back in November, we had a special program in Bismarck to get some information out through the department,'' said Bob Vandal, who oversees feed regulations for the state Agriculture Department. ``We invited all the veterinarians, producers, the extension service, but our turnout was embarrassingly low.''
Mad cow disease is believed to have been spread by cattle feed containing ground-up sheep parts, and last year, British scientists announced that humans may have contracted the disease by eating diseased beef.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in August imposed rules banning producers from giving livestock any feed made from the body parts of similar animals. The law also requires producers to keep detailed records to ensure none of their livestock feed comes from banned sources.
Researchers believe mad cow disease is spread when livestock such as cattle and sheep - known as ruminant animals because of their unique digestive system - eat feed made from other ruminant livestock.
The fatal brain-destroying disease, known scientifically as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, has ravaged cattle herds in Britain for a decade. It is blamed for about 20 human deaths overseas.
Mad cow disease has never surfaced in the United States, either in livestock or humans. The FDA feed rules are meant to ensure it never does.
Feed made from ruminant livestock parts must be labeled as such and include a warning that it is illegal to give the feed to cattle, sheep, domestic deer or bison.
Livestock producers who give their animals feed made from other animal proteins such as fish or swine are required to keep their purchase invoices for one year. They also must keep the label from the feed bag for one year as proof it did not contain any banned substance.
Vandal, with the state Agriculture Department, said while the change might seem cumbersome, it should not create any headaches for producers.
``Most of them keep their invoices that long anyway for tax purposes,'' he said. ``And if I was a producer, I'd want all my ducks in a row in case this (virus) ever surfaced in the U.S. so I could show, `Hey, this did not come from my cows.'''
Don Aird, a spokesman for the FDA in Minneapolis, said the laws mandate spot checks of livestock herds and fines for violators.
``We're not trying to put anyone in jail or take their money,'' he said. ``We just want to protect the beef and this is the best way to do that.''

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