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12 October, 2008 - Lets Stop Over-reacting to Issues

I considered it to be a significant event at the 42nd Annual Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin earlier this month; the return of Canadian cattle to the show ring and the judging arena. The Canadians were happy to be back as well, as they certainly should be, in light of the fact that the highest priced animal in the World Classic 2008 Holstein sale was a Canadian Holstein that brought $97,000.00 and the Supreme Champion of World Dairy Expo over all breeds was a Holstein from Canada. Yes, they did very well.

But, lets think about history here for a moment because this was the first time Canadian cattle were allowed to cross our border and compete at World Dairy Expo since the 2002 Expo. It was May 20th of 2003 that North America discovered its first case of Mad Cow Disease in Alberta, Canada. Later that year, December 23rd, we found our first case in Washington state. The result: borders closed around the world to the movement of livestock, both dairy and beef.

Talking to the Canadian dairymen at the show, they said it had a tremendous negative impact on their business. Mark Comtrois from Quebec, Canada, is a major player in genetics and pedigree sales around the world and he said his business dropped 85% that first year. He had to totally realign his dairy business, relying less on sales of genetics, and buying additional Canadian milk quotas to maintain income and stay in business. He told me many of his fellow dairy producers in Canada did not survive.

Which brings me to a point that Ive made several times. The Mad Cow Disease story is the biggest non-news story I have covered in all my years of reporting agricultural news. Compare the dire predictions and the end results. Some experts predicted at the time that 50,000 people world-wide could die of the human variant, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease which is believed to be related to Mad Cow Disease. At last count, less than 200 people had died of Classic CJD which is not related to MCD. That doesnt look like much of a threat to me. Livestock authorities have taken the necessary steps to control the problem, so why should borders still be closed?

One more point....same subject, different species. What about the bird flu scare? Experts said 2,000,000 people could die, countries including the U.S. have set aside billions of dollars to fight the impending pandemic; the world-wide death toll over the past two years, again less that 200 people.

The stories have received far more attention in media than they deserve and unfortunately, have had a very negative impact on livestock and poultry producers around the world. We need to be better judges of the significance of stories of this type.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.