For the second year, Boehringer-Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc. (BIVI) partnered with the Beef Checkoff to offer beef quality assurance (BQA) certification or re-certification at no cost to producers from February 3 through April 15, 2014. This year, 7,732 beef and dairy producers took them up on the offer, saving $25 to $50 while participating in an educational program that adds value to their cattle and protects the industry. The certification total during the offer period was double the number from 2013, bringing the two-year total to 11,000 producers taking advantage of the free offer.

The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program, founded by the Beef Checkoff, has been in place since 1987. The educational program has contributed to steady improvement in multiple measures of beef quality, as documented in the National Beef Quality Audits (NBQA) conducted every five years since 1991.

There remains, however, considerable room for improvement in beef and dairy operations.

The BQA program has continued to evolve, incorporating training and assessments for animal care and handling, transportation and other topics. The program has needed to evolve, as consumer perceptions of what constitutes beef quality change and become more refined. In the 1991 NBQA, the primary concerns related to beef attributes such as external fat and injection-site lesions. In the 2011 NBQA, top concerns included food safety and how and where cattle were raised.

It is important to note that the BQA program applies to dairy producers as well as to “beef” operations. Diary steers go directly into beef-production systems of course, and cull cows also end up as someone’s fast-food hamburger or budget steak. But more participation is needed across the board. The 2011 NBQA found that while 53 percent of cow-calf producers and 68 percent of feedlots use BQA protocols to influence quality, just 28 percent of dairies report doing so. Fewer than half – 44.4 percent of dairy respondents reported attending an educational program that taught BQA principles.

Just 46.4 percent of dairy respondents indicated they preferred to place injections in the neck area as compared to an overall 87 percent of beef producers. Asked where they administer injections, 84.2 percent overall said subcutaneous while 15.8 percent said intramuscular (IM). Among dairy respondents, about half said they use IM injections.

Overall, 95 percent of to the 2011 NBQA respondents said that they “always” or “usually” verify that they followed the proper withdrawal times for animal-health products. Among the dairy sector, that percentage dropped to 93 percent. In either case, there clearly is room for improvement.

Veterinarians are in a key position to encourage their clients to participate in BQA training and become certified, and to work through their state’s BQA coordinator to arrange training sessions in their communities. Training modules also are available online.

To learn more about BQA certification, go the BQA.org website