@krismoriah & @steveb4
I’m not promoting or defending feeding poultry litter to cattle - it always seemed somewhat repulsive to me, but from a wise use of resources standpoint, I understand it… it’s a waste material which poses some environmental issues so far as disposal is concerned… but ruminants can, by virtue of their rumen microflora, utilize the urea which is the principal Nitrogen compound in poultry manure, to manufacture amino acids and proteins which can then be assimilated by the cow to build muscle, milk, tissues. Those rumen ‘bugs’ (bacteria, protozoa) can split the ammonium groups off of urea and hook them onto carbon chains from dietary carbohydrates and synthesize amino acids and proteins, which are then digested and assimilated by the cow. It’s a wonder!
I’m not sure how much poultry litter is still fed to cattle… usage probably peaked in the 1980s, but it’s been decades since I’ve actually known of anyone feeding it, and then, only to beef cattle - not dairy. I think it’s largely fallen out of favor due to public perception (or misperception, as the case may be).
Cattle feeders weren’t just feeding straight chicken sh!t… poultry litter (feces, bedding - usually rice hulls in this part of the country - and yes, feathers, spilled chicken feed, etc.) would be analyzed for nutrient content and incorporated into a mixed ration in levels sufficient to supply up to 1/3 of total ‘protein’ content. Overfeeding urea can cause issues ranging from feed refusal to death due to excessively high rumen pH.
Now… realize that there have been a total of 233 cases, worldwide, of ‘acquired’ variant Creutzfeld-Jacob disease - the human spongiform encephalopathy that has been associated with BSE(Mad Cow Disease) - since the possible link between the two conditions was proposed, back in 1996. If you listened to the hysterical ‘news’ media, you’d think it was on every street corner… but no… 233 cases around the world in the past 26 years. That’s less than one-third the number of homicides in Chicago in 2021.
No doubt devastating if it’s you or a loved one affected, but hardly a huge threat to mankind.
The ‘acquired’ form of vCJD accounts for well below 1% of total cases diagnosed. The vast majority (85%) are ‘sporadic’… occurring with no known exposure/cause. The other 14% or so of vCJD cases are of the ‘hereditary’ type.
There have been a total of 6 cases of BSE diagnosed in cattle in the USA since 1993. Of that 6, only 1 was of the ‘classical’ type, associated with feeding ruminant-derived protein back to ruminants (and she was born - and probably contracted BSE - in Canada); the other 5 were ‘atypical’ BSE which, at this time, do not appear to be transmitted by an oral consumption route. With prohibition of feeding ‘ruminant-derived protein’ to cattle in place since the late 1990s… the likelihood of additional cases of classical BSE gets smaller as the years go by.
FDA promulgated rules in the late 1990s, in response to the issue of BSE, which all but ended rendering as a practice for dead cattle and non-edible waste(offal, bones, etc.) from cattle over 24 months of age which were going to slaughter. It impacted my job as a pathologist at a veterinary diagnostic laboratory in a major way… carcasses and offal that used to go to the rendering plant now had to be either landfilled or incinerated (the amount of natural gas needed to incinerate a walk-in cooler full of dead cows & horses is incredible!). Rendering company which used to service livestock producers and the two vet diagnostic labs in KY essentially stopped rendering deadstock altogether, so… dead cows/horses/pigs/goats/sheep… have had to be landfilled, buried on-site, or incinerated. And anyone who’s been involved in animal husbandry knows that if you have livestock… at some point, you’re going to have deadstock.