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Beef Quality and Care Assurance:

Why should Cattlemen and Cattlewomen Care? Darrh Bullock Beef Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) was developed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) in the early 90’s and by every measure has been a huge success in promoting and ensuring a safe beef product. Actually, prior to the BQA program, efforts were already in place to emphasize to farmers proper pharmaceutical use and the importance of withdrawal time which has a large impact on our product’s safety to consumers. Then, based on the first Beef Quality Audit in 1991, the initial effort of BQA was to target injection site lesions and encouraging beef farmers to move all injections to the neck area. Even though the term “quality” is in the title, our traditional measure of quality, USDA Quality Grades, was not addressed until many, more pressing, issues were addressed. One of the great things about BQA is that it is an industry driven program instead of a government mandated program. In the absence of this producer driven, industry self-policing program beef farmers today would likely be subjected to increased government regulation in the production of beef. Fortunately, independence minded beef farmers took a proactive approach to remedy some serious issues that the industry was facing. Because of strict recommendations and dependance on record keeping many of the major problems facing the beef industry in the 80’s, including food safety and improved product acceptability have been addressed. According to the BQA Train-the-Trainer Manual “This voluntary program has clearly been successful, BQA practices have helped to nearly eliminate any problems associated with violative residues and significantly reduced the incidences of injection site lesions in fed beef cattle”. When you combine that with the fact that we are improving the marbling of cattle while maintaining a lean product we continue to see improved consumer acceptance and that is why beef is what’s for dinner!

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A great benefit of the BQA program is that it is a win-win situation for farmers and consumers. Not only does it encourage farmers to implement practices that ensure a safe product to consumers, but these same practices ultimately result in more profits for them. One of the primary components of BQA is to educate beef farmers on the proper way to handle, store and administer pharmaceuticals. Keeping vaccines at the proper temperature has an enormous impact on the efficacy of the product but is something that is often taken for granted by beef producers. The BQA program emphasizes the importance of maintaining the proper temperature from the time of purchase, to storage prior to use, to handling the product at your working facilities until it is properly injected into the animal. If a mistake happens at any step it can lead to the product being ineffective which can result in sick cattle. As you can see by the name adopted by the Kentucky Beef Quality and Care Assurance program, we have taken the national program one step further. We concede that the national program does take animal care into consideration, but we felt it deserved a greater emphasis. The inclusion of a focus on animal care was initiated by beef producers in Kentucky and was implemented by a partnership between the Kentucky Beef Network and the University of Kentucky. This started as a separate program called Cattle Handling and Care but merged with the KY BQA program to become KY BQCA. KBN and UK work very closely together to make this program available and share in the administrative aspects. Also, most of UK’s Agriculture and Natural Resource Extension agents and Kentucky Beef Network’s facilitators have been trained to offer BQCA certification to Kentucky’s beef cattle producers. To stay current producers must go through re-certification every 3 years. There are several ways for beef farmers to get their BQCA certification or recertification; chute-side or classroom training from your local trainer (agent or facilitator), online through the UK (http://afs.ca.uky.edu/beef/irm) or KBN (http://www. kybeefnetwork.com/) sites (please read the online instructions that are available on these sites before starting the course), or the NCBA site (https://www.bqa.org/beef-quality-assurance-certification). Regardless of the method that you choose, you will be required to go through the training sessions and then receive a passing score on an assessment exam. Farm signs with your certification distinction are available for purchase once you have successfully completed the course, please contact KBN for more information. Kentucky beef farmers have a lot to be proud of, and even though it may not get a lot of press, your dedication to providing a safe product to consumers and insisting on the proper handling and care of your stock ranks toward the top in my opinion. Kentucky has always been a leader in the national BQA effort and the improved perception of western feeders about Kentucky cattle is the payoff. Keep up the good work! Thanks to a partnership with the Kentucky Livestock Marketing Association and the Kentucky Beef Council, you can get a FREE BQCA CERTIFICATION through December 31, 2021.