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January 16, 2004   Email to Friend 


Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
January 16, 2004

Predicting a drop in live cattle prices since the confirmed case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy BSE, most Alabama beef producers held cattle from the market in recent weeks.

The first week that markets reopened in Alabama following the holidays, cattle sale numbers at stockyards were down dramatically, according to news reports from around the state. However, the fact that most cattlemen chose to keep their cattle for a few additional weeks could have weakened supply and caused those cattle that did sell to fetch a higher price, said Alabama Farmers Federation Beef Director Perry Mobley.

"I expect that the cattle sale numbers will slowly begin to inch back up as American consumers continue to show their confidence in our food supply," Mobley said. "The system we have in place to inspect meat works, and consumers are more sure of that than ever."

Mobley said negotiations to reopen U.S. beef exports are continuing. However, he said the BSE case in Canada last spring probably hurt that country much more than the U.S. case because Canada exports about 50 percent of its beef while U.S. exports make up only 10 percent of sales by American producers.

"Prior to the BSE case in the United States, cattle prices were as high as they've ever been," Mobley said. "We knew it couldn't last, but this wasn't the market correction we were looking for."

Mobley said he believes the BSE case will increase acceptance of a new identification program for cattle proposed by USDA that will use an electronic ear tag to track the animal from birth to slaughter.

Information from the electronic tags would provide producers with information to improve quality and productivity of their operations. USDA officials also can use the ID system for disease surveillance and tracking. The electronic ID system is expected to be used by some Alabama stockyards as early as next year.

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