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Stackyard News Jan 05
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Prepare for Cohort Culling with OTM Rule Change 29/01/05

English beef and dairy herds will need to be prepared for their first taste of cohort culling from next month as part of the planned Over Thirty Month rule change allowing animals born after July 1996 to enter the food chain, warns the English Beef and Lamb Executive (EBLEX).

While this may come as a shock to some, enforced culling of cohorts must be accepted positively by all concerned, alongside the very best traceability disciplines, as a small price to pay for the re-admittance of beef from older animals to the food market and the opening-up of bone-in exports that EU acceptance as a moderate BSE risk state will bring.

The OTM rule change will mean England adopting the standard European practice of identifying and culling the cohorts of all animals slaughtered for food that test positive for BSE - a definition that includes all animals reared with a BSE case in the first year of its life when they were aged less than a year old as well as herd-mates born within a year of the birth of a BSE case.

The rapidly-declining national incidence of BSE means relatively few animals born after July 1996 are likely to test positive. Any that do, however, will automatically trigger the identification, tracing and rapid culling of all cohorts. This will inevitably mean the enforced loss of productive breeding stock from herds which may never have seen a case of BSE or been associated with one, simply because they bought-in heifers from groups with which a positive BSE-testing animal was once reared.

For cohorts born before August 1996 as under the current OTMS, of course, this practice remains unnecessary because the stock are automatically prevented from entering the food chain anyway.

Some 4500 cohorts of positive-testing animals have already been identified in Great Britain. They are expected to be culled from February in preparation for the rule change.

At the same time as preparing for cohort culling, the entire cattle industry needs to maintain the progress made over the past year in improving the running of the Cattle Tracing System so that bone-in beef exports can be re-established as close as possible to the OTM rule change.

In this respect, all sides of the industry must work together as part of the concerted Defra Action Plan in place to ensure fully water-tight controls can be demonstrated to the EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) mission at its critical inspection mission in June.

In particular, following the success of the first two rounds of BCMS statements in eliminating errors from CTS last year, producers should take time and effort to check and return the new statements to be issued in the coming month, improving the quality of the database to an even greater degree.

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