New Feedyard Assessment Database Resource Available for Beef Industry

by Josh White, Executive Director, Producer Education, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff

Summary

The cattle industry has been on a course of continuous improvement in the areas of cattle care and handling to increase beef quality for many decades. Training, certification and assessment tools have been developed to provide industry-wide guidelines and measurements for cattlemen to ensure they are utilizing the most effective and scientifically-proven management practices available. The Feedyard Assessment Database, based largely on the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Feedyard Assessment, is a new tool available to provide cattlemen an opportunity for verifying their feedyard is using the latest management practices and employees are properly trained in cattle care and handling.

Background

Beef Quality Assurance is widely recognized as the flagship cattle care and handling program in the cattle industry. Funded by the Beef Checkoff, the BQA program began in the 1980s as an initiative to correct management related carcass quality defect issues, principally injection site lesions and violative drug residues. The program has expanded, through the use of a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HAACP) approach, to include training based on best management practices and sample standard operating procedure templates for each of the major segments of the cattle industry. Beef Quality Assurance has continually sought to bring the consumer perspective to the top of mind for cattle farmers, ranchers and feedyards with a goal of providing a high quality, safe beef product.

Discussion

Beef Quality Assurance Assessments for the cow-calf, stocker and feedyard segments were developed and published during the past decade. Assessments were designed to be completed by the owner/manager, a second party assessor (collaborative partner in farm, ranch or feedyard such as veterinarian, extension agent or nutritionist) or a third-party assessor (professional assessor not affiliated with the operation). Each assessment has an accompanying assessor’s guide to aid in the completion of the assessment. The guide provides tips and suggestions for the assessor including sample best management practices and standard operating procedure templates. The assessment is a very practical on-site educational tool that may be used by owners or managers to benchmark animal care and handling, record keeping methods, best management practices, facilities design and equipment maintenance. Periodic re-assessment will allow farm, ranch or feedyard management to evaluate progress and set goals for systematic improvement. 

The most recent National Beef Quality Audit, published in 2011, identified several “Barriers to Continued Progress” in the beef industry including:

  • Low level of written protocols
  • Lack of trust between industry segments
  • Lack of common language between segments
  • Poor job of telling our story to consumers

Additionally, consumers continue to rate animal care very highly in the Beef Checkoff-funded “Consumer Image Index” (CII). The CII is conducted annually to better understand how consumers view aspects of beef production, the importance consumers place on each aspect and the degree to which social consciousness affects consumer perceptions. The most recent CII completed in the fall of 2014 showed that 79 percent of consumers felt it extremely/very important that cattlemen be committed to the health and welfare of our animals. This consumer concern consistently ranks near the top of the CII along with food safety concerns.

Creation and industry use of the Feedyard Assessment Database (www.feedyardassessment.org) is a proactive step in addressing the barriers identified in the 2011 NBQA as well as current consumer concerns. The Feedyard Assessment Database follows the national BQA guidelines. To be listed on the database, feedyards must complete the following requirements: 

Employee Training – Employee training will be accomplished by utilizing one of the following: the online BQA training platform supported by the Beef Checkoff (www.animalcaretraining.org), face-to-face meetings, on-site training at the feedyard, or other means of training that meet the BQA training requirements as determined by the national BQA standards and state BQA program. The following training requirements must be met for feedyard listing on the assessment database:

  • Manager/key employee BQA training/re-training and certification every three years.
  • All employees receive training in their respective area of work, prior to conducting job duties in an unsupervised capacity. 
  • Certification and/or documented training record must be maintained in state or national BQA database.

Feedyard Assessment – The feedyard must have the BQA Feedyard Assessment (or an assessment/audit that contains all the components of the BQA Feed Yard Assessment) conducted once every three years by the feedyard management/staff member, consulting/staff veterinarian, consulting/staff nutritionist, university/extension personnel, industry auditor, or an accredited third-party auditor.

Finally, the feedyard authorizes its state BQA coordinator to provide the following information to the national Feedyard Assessment Database: feedyard name, city and state.

As with all BQA-based programs, success of the Feedyard Assessment Database is largely dependent on state BQA coordinators extending the information to feedyards and providing them with tools to become eligible for inclusion on the database. Audiences who will have access to the password protected database are BQA coordinators, national BQA program staff, and designated cattle procurement and cattle welfare specialists for beef packing companies. 

Conclusion

While Beef Quality Assurance training and certification is the first step a cattleman should take to affirm their knowledge of proper cattle management, completing the BQA Assessment best suited to their farm, ranch or feedyard will reveal opportunities to further implement BQA practices. The 2011 NBQA revealed cattlemen are doing the right thing by incorporating BQA principles in their operations. The Feedyard Assessment Database provides a venue for feedyard owners and operators to be recognized for their efforts in employee training and commitment to continuous improvement in the management of cattle under their stewardship. Being counted through the Feedyard Assessment Database also offers feedyards the opportunity to make progress in key areas identified as barriers to success in the most recent NBQA by verifying written record keeping, speaking to other industry segments in a common language and being part of the story shared with consumers of quality feedyard management. Beef Quality Assurance training, certification and assessment resources offer management value to each farm, ranch or feedyard that incorporates them. Additionally, BQA provides the foundation for a positive message to consumers that the beef community is committed to outstanding care and handling of our cattle.

Additional Resources

 

Tags: Beef Issues Quarterly, Issues Updates, Spring 2015

March 23, 2015