Livestock feed use seen little changed from swine flu

Publish time: 29th April, 2009      Source:
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April 29, 2009


Livestock feed use seen little changed from swine flu




Feed use for livestock and poultry isn''t expected to change much this year despite concerns about more swine flu cases worldwide.



There is speculation that the rapid spread of human cases of swine flu may cause a decline in pork consumption. Some countries have imposed temporary bans on imports of pork from Mexico and at least some US states after swine flu cases were found. This is despite comments from human and animal health organizations worldwide that there is no risk of contracting the disease from eating pork or pork products. The disease is transmitted human to human.



If pork demand falters there are some suggestions that consumers might switch to beef instead. Because cattle eat more corn and soys per pound of gain than pigs, there are ideas that feed grain demand wouldn''t falter, but would actually increase because of the swine flu scare.



That''s not the case, meat industry analysts said. A sustained adjustment in consumers'' purchases of proteins would be required for a noticeable change in feed-grain demand to occur. Should there be a decline in pork consumption, the chicken industry would react the quickest and begin ramping up production, but that would not become available in the stores until about six months.



The life and reproductive cycles of meat and dairy animals don''t allow for quick changes in feed use, and it could take a year or more for any noticeable adjustments in usage to occur, according to analysts and industry participants.



The animals already born or hatched won''t be killed before reaching normal slaughter size, they said.



For beef cattle, adjusting the number of steers and heifers available for slaughter would take two or more years, said Ron Plain, agricultural economist at the University of Missouri. For hogs, it would take about a year, and adjusting broiler slaughter supplies would require about six months or more.


The time required to alter meat supplies appreciably is a function of the biological nature of these species. Short of destroying breeding animals and their young at the farm level, which has occurred in certain instances such as during the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the UK, the standard practice is to allow then to grow to normal slaughter weight and age.