Q: How are cattle farmers educated and trained on animal practices, food safety and quality?
A: I am certified through the Beef Quality Assurance program, with principles of best management practices and safe operating procedures designed to meet U.S. food production standards.
Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) is an education program for farmers that ultimately strives to insure safe and wholesome beef and milk products for consumers. Nearly every state has a BQA program. It is a voluntary program, however, some cattle buyers are requiring farmers to have BQA certification.
My first BQA certification event was at Blackhawk Community College five years ago. The focus then was more toward cow-calf producers. They have the challenge of starting young animals by building their immunity, maintaining growth potential and overall herd health. Then it’s our job as feedlot producers to continue herd health as we feed cattle for market.
BQA covers these main topics: 1) Vaccine and drug practices,
2) Implant management, 3) Feed management, 4) Carcass quality, 5) Cow and bull quality, 6) Handling facility, 7) Transportation,
8) Biosecurity, 9) Sick or non-ambulatory animals, 10) Animal and Premise ID, and 11) Recordkeeping.
Much of the information covered thru BQA is considered obvious to most cattle producers. The principles are based on best management practices and standard operating procedures designed to meet U.S. food production standards.
Carcass quality issues affect the value of the meat. Injection sites for vaccines, other than the neck, are discouraged. Meat marbling can be affected by using the wrong implant at the wrong time. Improper energy intake levels from the feed affects the carcass quality as does a poor or missing vaccination/deworming program.
Handling facilities make a difference in beef production and come in all shapes and sizes. Smaller producers have a harder time justifying expensive equipment for a few head of beef. So, sharing or borrowing of a squeeze chute/head gate can be more cost effective for sorting and vaccinating cattle. Feedlots that have cattle arriving and leaving daily, weekly, or even monthly tend to have a working tub and alley system with safety in mind for cattle and workers.
Transporting livestock in variable weather conditions has improved greatly. Trailers are vented to allow airflow to circulate thru in hot weather, and vents can be closed or plugged to limit the cold air drafts during extreme cold conditions.
Cleaning of hauling equipment between loads has become more common, especially if cattle have been loaded from a sale barn. Better to be safe than sorry. A good pressure washing and time to dry out, and even an occasional disinfectant spray can help to avoid transferring any number of diseases.
If there was ever to be an outbreak of a potentially devastating cattle disease, BQA lets producers know how they should be prepared and who will be the lead agency for their support. We would quarantine any diseased animals from the rest of the herd and have a veterinarian diagnose the problem.
Ear tags and electronic ID buttons are most useful in tracking the origins of cattle. Good records are necessary in case of a recall of a feed ingredient, implant or drug used on the farm. Dosages, lot numbers, brand name, type of injection or feedstuff administered and withdrawal times are noted in records.
ROY PLOTE – SIXTH GENERATION CATTLE AND GRAIN FARMER, LELAND
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