Friday, February 06, 2004

Parts is Parts Follow-Up

From Today’s Daily News Record:

Litter Ban: A Mixed Bag
FDA Mandate Comes As ‘Safeguarding’ Measure After Mad Cow Announcement
By Tom Mitchell

Linville – In American agriculture’s war on mad cow disease, Dennis Stoneburner’s budding agribusiness became a regrettable casualty.

The Food and Drug Administration’s Jan. 26 ban on poultry litter as a farm livestock feed additive abruptly impacts Stoneburner’s farm, which for six years used poultry waste as livestock and lawn food. The FDA mandate follows December’s discovery of a mad cow infected Holstein heifer in Washington state.

The FDA intends its edict as a safeguard against mad cow, technically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, by ensuring that barring litter from cattle quarters will keep BSE-infected fowl droppings from spreading the mad-cow bug. The FDA’s decision to ban poultry litter as a feed source stems from the fact that poultry consume ground feed made from slaughtered cattle. Concern that residual feed may mix with poultry-house litter and later feed cattle poses a faint chance that BSE-infected feed presents a threat.

As poultry litter’s high-protein mix of nitrogen, phosphorous, and sodium make the earthy alloy appealing to cattle farmers and landscapers, farmers collect poultry-house floor litter for sale in both markets.

Grinding Halt
Besides serving his cattle dung-filled edibles, Stoneburner sells litter to neighboring and out-of-town farmers for similar feed: in recent years, the latter trade flourished.

“Farmers came from all over Virginia to buy our feed,” said Stoneburner, whose operation fattens cattle for Midwest markets. “It’s obviously worth more than it is as fertilizer.”

The FDA ruling prohibits feeding poultry litter to “ruminants;” that is, such cud-chewing, multi-stomached livestock as cows.

Rockingham County’s Virginia Cooperative Extension animal-science agent, Troy Lawson, insists that any chance of a litter-aided mad-cow plague remains slim.

“The FDA is taking every precaution to ensure that [a BSE outbreak] doesn’t happen.”

Small Consolation
Federal precautions offer little solace to farmers who rely on litter for extra income.

“It’s a double whammy for us,” said Stoneburner, who five years ago spent $20,000 for an automatic litter-bagging machine, “It’s going to pretty much shut down our bagging operation.”

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