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Dairy farms stand to lose in downer ban.

Dairy farmers stand to lose income if the government honors congressional demands for a total ban on downer cattle after a California slaughterhouse failed to keep them out of the food supply, according to the Associated Press. In 2004, USDA banned cows too sick or injured to stand. But in finalizing the rule last year, the department called for cattle that get injured after they pass inspection to be re-evaluated to determine whether they are eligible for slaughter.

Dairy farmers sell their cows for slaughter--known as "culled cows"--once the animals are no longer productive. Downer cattle tend to be older dairy cows rather than younger beef cattle because of the health problems associated with aging. Dairy farmers get several hundred dollars for each cow they sell for slaughter.

USDA's Food Safety & Inspection Service, which oversees the nation's slaughterhouses, says it does not keep numbers on how many downers enter the food supply after they've been re-inspected following a fall.

The National Milk Producers Federation hasn't analyzed the economic impact of a total downer ban, according to spokesman Chris Galen. He said that dairy farmers get about 5 percent of their income from the sale of cows for slaughter. The group supports the existing ban but doesn't think it needs to be tightened.
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Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Date:Apr 14, 2008
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