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Beef markets will feel BSE impact

"The system is working," said Ernie Davis, Texas Cooperative Extension livestock marketing economist. "They (animal health officials) caught that cow immediately. The turnaround time compared to the case in Canada was two to three weeks faster."

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, widely known as "mad cow disease," is a chronic, degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system of cattle. Worldwide there have been more than 180,000 cases since the disease was first diagnosed in Great Britain in 1986.

Canada's case was reported on May 21 – the first such reported case in that country in more than a decade. A cow in Alberta tested positive for the disease after tests were taken after slaughter.

As the beef industry has enjoyed some of the best prices in history, Davis said, the markets will feel the impact of Tuesday's news, especially with many foreign countries halting U.S. beef imports.

"The United States exports 8 to 12 percent of its beef," he said, noting that may sound like a small percentage, but that includes high-end cuts of beef that yield substantial returns. "When you look at Canada, beef demand was not hurt that much in that country when their case was first reported. We hope we will have that same type of reaction here. So yes, it's going to affect the market, but a lot of it depends on the consumer."

Agriculture ranks second in the overall Texas economy with beef cattle more than 50 percent of its annual cash receipts. The energy sector ranks first, while tourism is third.

Updated information about BSE is available from USDA by calling 1-866-487-3226. Information is also available on the Web at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/issues/bse/bse.html.

Blair Fannin is a writer for Texas A&M University.

e-mail: b-fannin@tamu.edu

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