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Aug 3, 2012

Cattle Sweep to certify disease-free beef

The exportation of cattle to Mexico through formal trade arrangements has been touted for some time, in fact as far back as 2010; the Prime Minister said it was a done deal. It has taken two years, but it appears that the initiative will come to fruition in about two months. But for the local beef to get into the Mexican dinner tables, livestock farmers have to ensure that each head of cattle is disease free. BAHA, which is the chief implementing organization, has launched a cattle sweep project in the north. The pilot project is expected to be carried out on one hundred thousand livestock across Belize. Through certification, farmers will be able to fetch better prices per pound. News Five’s Andrea Polanco has the story.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The pilot project for the national cattle sweep started here on David Dyck’s farm in Blue Creek in Orange Walk. Dyck already has one hundred and fifty heads of BAHA certified cattle ready to be formally exported to Mexico. Dyck says that having certified livestock is sure to drive up the price in formal exportation.


David Dyck

David Dyck, Livestock Producer

“This is very important because we’ve too many cattle for Belize. We have no legal exports; we were just taking a risk raising more cattle and we didn’t know if we could sell it tomorrow or nor not. For us this is very, very important if this goes through so that we can have a market where we can sell our cattle tomorrow.  Now we’re selling our best for one-fifty a pound; number one, like this one. And I think we should get at least one-seventy five or a little bit more.”


Every head of cattle in Belize under thirty months old will undergo mandatory testing. The animals will also be tagged for identification and movement control. These measures are a must for Belize to formally engage in cattle exportation to Mexico.


Miguel DePaz

Dr. Miguel DePaz, Chief Veterinarian

“We are trying to show or give a scientific proof, therefore we are testing hundred percent of cattle in Belize, both for tuberculosis and brucellosis. All animals over six weeks of age are being tested for tuberculosis; those over six months are being tested for brucellosis. And at the same time we are implementing a traceability system; it means that we are identifying each and every animal so that we can trace them from the time of birth until they are expired.”


Dyck’s livestock, like all other producers’, are being tested for two diseases today. In total over two thousand animals have been tested and tagged.


Homer Novelo

Homer Novelo, Veterinary Coordinator

“We had a team led by a Mexican veterinarian taking a blood sample from the tail vein of an animal and also inoculating an amount of tuberculin into the base tail of the animal. Now this tuberculin injection will be read seventy two hours afterwards and they will check whether there was a change in the injection site. If there was a change or swelling, then the animal will be considered as a reactor to tuberculosis; that doesn’t mean it is positive, we have to do comparative test.  But as soon as the second test is done and there is a reaction, the whole farm will get quarantined. We know Belize, Belize is pretty much clean of this. I think we’ve had about seven reactors but on the comparative test, they are negative so we are happy about that and we’re hoping that rest of the area will be like this.”


Abe Froese

Abe Froese, Chairman, Blue Creek Cattle Association

“We are doing fairly good progress in our testing. We have tagged approximately three thousand animals as of yesterday evening; tested about twenty five hundred for brucellosis; Tuberculin is a little bit more.”


According to John Carr of Belize Livestock Producers Association, this project is critical to the longevity of the industry in Belize.


John Carr, Chairman, BLPA

John Carr

“If we were measuring the threshold of progress from where we stand; I think we are at about a two or three right now. I see in ten years, a tremendous amount of difference in the numbers of cattle even with I would call them discounted prices; the numbers for cattle have doubled in the last twenty years or fifteen years in Belize. I believe if we start getting or are able to start selling in order, we are going to see such an increase in cattle numbers; we are really going to become a cattle state nation at that time. This   is just the most important thing that has ever happened.”


And rightly so, says Minister Gasper Vega, because from all accounts this initiative is sure to be a big revenue earner and is bound to open new markets.


Gaspar Vega

Gaspar Vega, Minister of Agriculture

“I think the people are bit reluctant in giving you dollar value but from what I’m gathering it should bring between thirty and forty percent in revenues just by us going through this process. What a lot of people don’t realize is that we are opening the markets with Mexico but eventually once we are certified, that we are free of these diseases, we will be able to sell our cattle to any part of the world.”


H.E Mario Velasquez, Mexican Ambassador to Belize

Mario Velasquez

“It’s very, very committed to export cattle to Mexico and Minister Vega is working very hard with us in that way and we are working with them every day and we’re closer and closer and soon you’ll see, now we have the ear tags and the sweep will be done and the different tests are in Mexico now and the answer will come and in a few days they will start.”


Testing in Blue Creek will be completed in two months time after which the national sweep project will target a hundred thousand heads of cattle.


Jose Alpuche

Jose Alpuche, C.E.O., Ministry of Agriculture

“We’re expecting that probably within that same two to three months we could commence exportation into Mexico but I must caution that at the end of the day that’s a commercial arrangement that must be agreed between our producers here and buyers in Mexico. The national sweep will quite frankly start while this process is still ongoing here in Blue Creek, so we’re hoping that probably late September the national sweep should start. The sweep itself, the entire project is a three year project  As you can see from the process here, it take s a lot of work, it takes a lot of time and doing approximately a hundred thousand heads of cattle will not be very easy.”


The project is valued at an estimated twelve point two million dollars. The EU along with the Ministry of Agriculture will cover almost eighty percent of the funding. Local livestock producers will incur roughly seventeen percent of the project’s remaining costs.


John Carr

“We are seventeen percent partner in the project and so every farmer is going to pay ten dollars a head to have this process. But the process, if we divide the twelve million dollars by something it is about thirty dollars a head so he is getting a ten dollar a head deal; it’s a bargain. It’s a good deal.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


The sweep will be done in zones; after the north, about eight to twelve teams will be covering the central zone which encompasses the Belize and Cayo Districts. That will be followed by the southern zone of Stann Creek and Toledo Districts.

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4 Responses for “Cattle Sweep to certify disease-free beef”

  1. Belizean says:

    Wow, what a big improvement in our livestock industry. Thanks, Mr Vega, and all the rest that made this possible!!

  2. Josephino Estroberto Pesomedio says:

    What about the beef that goes on my table?
    What “cattle sweep project” is done to ensure that I am not eating a beef that should rather be given to the circus to feed the Jaguars and Lions etc?
    Think Belize, think!!!
    They thinking about big bucks , but not about our health.

  3. me says:

    belizean, don’t gave credit to Vega
    its the people from blue creek
    Vaga just go to look good and big time…

  4. Belizean says:

    What beef goes on your table is your choice. Buy from off the street and you will contract salmonella. Buy from well known companies and youre safe, duh!!!!

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