AGRICULTURE

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1994:

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt on
March 17 announced his third proposal in
less than a year to increase grazing fees on
federal land and prevent soil erosion of over-
grazed leases in 17 western states. Expected
to take effect later this year, the new propos-
al does not require Congressional approval.
It would double the grazing fee to $3.96 per
animal unit, and set different environmental
standards from state to state within a frame-
work of national principles. The proposal
was immediately attacked by both ranchers
and environmentalists.
American Breeders Service of
DeForest, Wisconsin, now sells cattle
semen and embryos “that carry a predicted
twinning value of at least 40% for bulls and
30% for cows,” according to the USDA,
which developed the method. The idea is to
cut production costs by getting more births
per pregnancy, but the gains may be offset
by increased birthing injuries to cows,
which are the leading cause of downers.

The growth of free enterprise in
China has produced a livestock breeding
boom . Animal husbandry accounted for
only 15% of the agricultural output of Hunan
province in 1978, but now accounts for
37%––including 60% of the total increase in
production over the past 15 years. Livestock
makes up 50% of Hunan’s agricultural
exports. Whether the hard-used Chinese
environment can sustain a large livestock
industry is yet to be seen.
The world’s only cattle-manure-
to-energy plant is out of business, perhaps
forever. Opened near Imperial, California,
in 1988, the $47 million plant contracted
with Southern California Edison to supply 15
megawatts of electricity––enough to light
15,000 homes––but defaulted last year after
heavy rains disrupted the chemistry of the
reactors. The plant was touted as the proto-
type for an ecologically sound response to
the growing question of what to do with the
manure produced by factory farms and feed-
lots. Farmers traditionally spread manure on
pastures and hayfields. The harm done to
waterways by contaminated runoff has been
offset by the value of the nutrients restored
to the topsoil. Factory farming, however,
separates cattle-rearing from feed produc-
tion. Because the water content of manure
makes it heavier per nutrient unit than chem-
ical fertilizers, trucking it to distant hay and
grain farmers tends to be prohibitive.
Pajerski Foods, a.k.a. Pork King
Packing, has been fined $50,000 for dump-
ing blood, offal, and animal feces into Coon
Creek, a tributary of the Kishwaukee River,
near Marengo, Illinois.
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