Keeping Beef Quality in Mind

By Garth Ruff – OSU Extension Beef Specialist

Now that we are back to a semblance of somewhat normal, questions regarding Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) have been aplenty. While BQA has been a long-standing program, it was brought to the limelight in 2018 with Tyson’s announcement that would only source fed cattle from cattle feeders certified in BQA. With a certification being valid for a period of three years, those producers certified in our initial statewide push in 2018-2019 are due to be recertified in 2021 and into the spring of 2022.

While the principles of BQA have remained steady over the years, it is my goal as an educator to help the program evolve and move forward past the “basics” of injection locations, routes of administration, and flight zones. Although those topics are certainly still relevant today, I view BQA as an opportunity to educate about management practices that can be used to maintain and improve beef quality and farm profitability.

While the primary audience for BQA remains cattle feeders marketing fed cattle, we have had a tremendous response to the program here in Ohio, and we hope that momentum continues into this recertification cycle.

Maintaining market access and added value for cattle raised by BQA certified producers has been significant in the past few years. On the fed cattle side, we know what happens when one of the major packers is out of the market for a period of time. Producer participation in the program has kept Tyson at Ohio markets and buying Ohio cattle. Depending on the week and who you ask, that is a value of $5-15/cwt.

Evidence of added value has also been seen in the feeder cattle market. In 2019, Colorado State analyzed market data from the Western Video Markets and determined that BQA certified cattle sold with a premium of $2.71/cwt on average compared to cattle where BQA certification was not documented.

Results of the study revealed a premium of $16.80/head for cattle that had BQA listed in the lot description compared to no mention and holding other factors constant. This value was determined by applying the $2.71/cwt premium found in CSU’s statistical analysis to the average weight of cattle in the study data.

At OSU Extension, our offices are open, and we are currently scheduling in-person BQA trainings. Reach out to your local OSU Extension office to find a training near you or log into our Event Calendar for a listing.

Aside from BQA, another reason to keep beef quality at the forefront is the increased demand for local beef products. While demand for local beef had been growing prior to COVID-19, the pandemic accelerated that demand to a point that many, (or any) of us had never seen.

The real question is: how much of that added demand for local beef is here to stay? That answer varies from processor to processor that I have spoken to, however they all believe that those customers who had a positive eating experience will be back to purchase local beef.

That should excite those producers who are set up for the direct marketing of quality beef. That said, the pandemic also brought to light, that there are several first-time direct marketers that need some guidance in producing that high quality product if they want to remain in that direct-to-consumer lane of beef production. This brings us back to genetics, nutrition, and cattle management topics such as BQA.

Once we have a live calf on the ground, maximizing profit potential of that calf and eating quality of the end product are goals to aim for. Now that Extension programs are happening across the state, I hope to be able to visit some of your farms and have conversations on how to accomplish those goals.

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