As I noted in this blog a few months ago, I am currently completing the Beef Quality Assurance (“BQA”) training through the New York Beef Industry Council, Inc. Last weekend, I have reviewed the Producer Certification Manual for the Mid-Atlantic region (which includes Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Maine, New Jersey and Vermont). After reviewing the materials, I took the Beef Quality Assurance Training Test and I am still awaiting the final verdict. Before I am certified, I also need to submit the Veterinarian/Client/Patient Relationship Validation Form and complete the chute-side training.
Overall, I think this is an important program for all beef producers to complete. The manual gives an excellent overview of the following topics:
1. The Importance of BQA– including the history of BQA and the industry’s quality challenges pursuant to the National Beef Quality Audits;
2. Vaccine and Drug Practices – including an overview of injection sites and techniques for administering subcutaneous (SQ) and intramuscular (IM) injections in the neck region, needle use and handling, drug management and residue, drug classifications, extra-label use of drugs, and managing implants;
3. Livestock Feeds and the Feed Supply– including a discussion regarding purchased feeds, feed storage and handling pesticide and petroleum-based products, and the Ruminant Feed Ban regulation from the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”);
4. Impact of Management Practices on Carcass Quality– including lessons on improving quality and consistency via genetics and animal handling techniques, the reduction of excessive external fat, reducing pre-harvest stress to eliminate the frequency of dark cutters, and feedlot management;
5. Quality Assurance of Market Cows and Bulls– including herd culling, quality control, strategies for marketing cull cows and bulls, and condemnation prevention;
6. Cattle Care: Handling and Facilities– including notes on cattle handling techniques, bovine behavior and psychology, cattle handling facilities and equipment to reduce stress, and procedures to increase safety while working cattle;
8. Biosecurity– including an overview of disease sources and how to reduce biosecurity risk;
9. Non-Ambulatory Cattle– including a brief discussion on euthanasia and animal disposal;
10. Cattle Identification– including a nice overview of the different types of cattle identification and its importance; and,
11. Records– including the suggested requirement that production records be kept for a period of 36 mos. (3 years).
The manual also includes beneficial checklists for the (i) Stocker/Backgrounder/Feedlot, (ii) Market Cow Producer, and (ii) Cow-Calf Producer. The back of the manual also includes example record forms to be regularly kept by the producer and a drug withdrawal time chart for dairy and beef cattle.
So why would an agriculture attorney go through the BQA program? A few reasons. First, I am a beef producer. I am a co-owner of Rincker Cattle Co., a SimAngus operation in Illinois. When I was younger, I remember giving IM shots in the round muscle. Producer education about injection-site defects have encouraged beef producers to use sounder handling techniques. I want to implement these types of techniques in my own operation.
Second, I am passionate about the beef industry. Not only to I want this industry to be economically viable in years to come but I want U.S. cattle producers to continue producing quality beef products for the American public. After studying the statistics from the 2000 National Beef Quality Audit, it is obvious that the BQA guidelines will increase profit margin while improving product consistency.
Third, I’m a New Yorker. I live in a metropolitan area where few people understand animal agriculture. I continually hear criticism about modern agriculture practices – and the forefront of the complaints is with drugs and antibiotics. Some consumers are concerned about the safety of their meat products and programs like BQA can help put the public at ease.
Finally, as an agriculture attorney I do advise cattle producers to participate in the BQA certification program. Not only can it serve as a proactive step to deter (and defend) livestock animal cruelty charges, but it is also wise to include some of the Best Management Practices (“BMPs”) in the livestock operation’s employee handbook. Cattle owners should regularly train its employees with proper animal handling techniques.
It is important to note here that simply complying with the BQA Guidelines does not mean that you are not breaking the law in your state. The BQA Manual is silent on state specific animal care laws that may affect your operation. For example, the manual did not note the 28-Hour Law or any other state specific livestock animal cruelty law. Thus, it is recommended that cattle producers seek the counsel of an attorney licensed in their jurisdiction to answer any specific animal welfare concerns.