What do you think the average consumer is looking for when they step up to the meat counter to purchase your beef? Regardless of price, consumers expect a safe, wholesome, high quality product every time they make a purchase and expect that the animal was provided humane treatment throughout its life. Cattlemen can help maintain consumer confidence through daily management decisions that have positive impacts on the quality of beef products while the cattle are in their care.
The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program addresses consumer concerns about cattle care and well-being along with beef safety and quality. Best management practices are used to set production standards in areas such as cattle handling, herd health and nutrition, animal identification, proper handling of non-ambulatory or disabled animals, proper use of animal health products, proper injection site techniques, proper vaccine handling, and record keeping.
Recently, some packers have begun requiring producers to follow on-farm animal handling and welfare audit programs if they wish to sell cattle to their facilities. Many of these programs involve a third party auditor to come to the farm annually and evaluate the care of the cattle, facilities and the records. Becoming BQA certified will likely meet many of the requirements of these on-farm, packer-specific programs. Talk with your buyers for more information about their guidelines.
Anyone directly responsible for the care or handling of cattle, such as producers, veterinarians, or transporters/truckers, can become certified. To become certified, one must attend a BQA training session and complete a quiz to check understanding of the BQA guidelines (Level 1 certified). For South Dakota producers to become Level 2 certified, they must complete a Critical Management Site Plan and have their veterinarian sign a Veterinarian Client Patient Relationship Form. These documents are submitted to the State BQA Coordinator, Tracey Walsh. Certifications are good for three years.
For more information about BQA certification, please contact Heidi Carroll, Livestock Stewardship Extension Associate, Julie Walker, Extension Beef Specialist, or Tracey Walsh, South Dakota Beef Industry Council & BQA Coordinator.