BQA: One Year Later

Garth Ruff, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ohio State University Extension, Henry County (originally published in The Ohio Cattleman summer issue)

Early last year I wrote an article titled Understanding Customer Relations in a Changing Beef Industry, which examined the factors that drove the demand for cattle producers to complete Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) training.

Now after a years’ time, with nearly 100 in-person trainings taught, and almost 7,250 Ohio cattle producers BQA certified in-person and another 2,100 online, where do things stand?

As a refresher, the push to have producers trained in BQA was at the request of Tyson, one of the major packers’ decision to only source fed cattle from cattle feeders certified in BQA by 2019. Tyson’s decision was largely due to the commitment of Wendy’s to do the same, at the demand of their customers. As we have seen in all segments of food production the consumer, now more than ever, wants to know how their food is produced. Often in the case of meat, consumers want to be assured that the animal was raised humanely and cared for under good production practices, the basic principles of any livestock quality assurance program.

In 2018, the majority of the producers certified, completed BQA training for the first time. Producer attendance Continue reading

Weaner Cattle Need Their Own Trainer

– Kirsten Nickles MSc and Anthony Parker PhD, The Ohio State University Department of Animal Sciences

The addition of a social facilitator cow seems to reduce the negative walking behaviors associated with weaning.

The most common weaning method in the United States beef industry is the abrupt removal of calves from cows at 5-8 months of age (Enríquez et al., 2011). Natural weaning in beef cattle however, occurs later in life for a calf at 7-14 months of age (Reinhardt and Reinhardt, 1981). The immediate cessation of milk supply and complete maternal separation causes calves to exhibit stereotypical behaviors such as walking and vocalizing at weaning. Calves will engage in these stereotypical behaviors for three to four days and the excessive activity and lack of feed intake result in body weight loss and fatigue (Weary et al., 2008). The anxiety and frustration experienced at weaning by the calf are critical factors that negatively affect the growth rate of the calf and can contribute to the onset of disease such as bovine respiratory disease. This is why we should aim to manage calves in a way that reduces these negative stereotypical weaning behaviors.

The use of a “trainer cow” or “social facilitator” has been proposed as a method to Continue reading

BQA Transportation

Beginning next year, several packers will require BQA Transportation certification of the hauler/drivers delivering cattle to their plants.

Transportation quality assurance plays a critical role in the health and welfare of cattle. The proper handling and transport of cattle can reduce sickness in calves, prevent bruises, and improve the quality of the meat from these animals. By using best practices, transporters can save the beef industry millions of dollars each year. When a transporter participates in the program they are showing consumers they are ready to take every step possible to keep cattle as healthy and safe as possible.

Beginning in 2020, several major packers will require BQA Transportation Continue reading

Grill Smart; Hands-on Learning Great Grilling

The next summer get-together is just around the corner.

Family, friends, or old classmates will be in town.

It’s the perfect time for inviting them over to grill out for dinner . . . or is it?

Few things can satisfy or impress family and friends like the aroma, tenderness, juiciness, and deep rich flavor of a steak or chop grilled to perfection. However, there may not be anything that strikes as much apprehension and fear into the hearts of a dinner host, as that of failing to correctly select, prepare and grill the perfect steak. If you’ve ever struggled with the angst of whether you can pull off that perfect meal and eating experience of dinner originating from your grill, then Continue reading

Bruising and Cattle

Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Cattle Specialist

Cattle bruising is an animal well-being concern as well a loss in economic value. When loaded, 60% of cattle are in the middle portion of a trailer, 30% in the rear compartments and 10% in the nose. Cattle rarely change position while a trailer is in motion, and the cattle typically position themselves at right angles to the direction of travel to try to compensate for the trailer movement and focus energies on keeping their balance. Road conditions can have an impact on carcass bruises as well as driver experience. In one study, it was observed that ‘low’ space stocking rates caused lower carcass weights compared to ‘medium’ and ‘high’ space stocking rates. However, the ‘medium’ space stocking rate resulted in the lowest bruising rate; the ‘low’ and ‘high’ space stocking rates had 4 and 2 times greater bruise scores.

Helen Kline (2018, Colorado State) conducted a study in five commercial slaughter facilities, located in multiple regions of the U.S. Individual carcasses were followed through the slaughtering process and were evaluated for bruising, weight of bruised meat and location of bruising. In Kline’s study she found that Continue reading

Forage Shortage: Considering Early Weaning

Garth Ruff, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ohio State University Extension, Henry County (originally published in Ohio’s Country Journal on-line)

Less than ideal conditions have led to forage shortages throughout the Midwest. Photo: Ohio’s Country Journal

Low hay inventory this past winter combined with poor pasture stands due to excessive moisture have led to a greater proportion of thin beef cows both across the countryside and on the cull market. As we evaluate the toll that this past winter took on forage stands, especially alfalfa, hay is projected to be in short supply as we proceed into next winter as well.

For a beef cow to be efficient and profitable, we must meet her nutritional requirements for maintenance in addition to those for reproduction and lactation. As a reminder, the hierarchy of nutrient use is as follows: Maintenance, Development, Growth, Lactation, Reproduction, Fattening. This applies to all nutrient categories, not just to energy alone. As we conclude calving season, we are entering the most challenging time in production cycle when it comes to providing adequate nutrition. If the cow does not intake enough nutrients and is in suboptimal body condition at calving (BCS < 5), reproduction is the first to fail. With that in mind, one strategy available to minimize body condition and reproductive losses when forage is in short supply is to early wean calves.

Early weaning is certainly not a new concept and is one that is often employed when Continue reading

Remember your BQA Ps and Qs

– Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist

There are many things a rancher can count on as spring makes its way across the landscape. Green grass, spring flowers and waving a happy adios to winter are among them.

Beyond that, spring means calving season for many. And calving season means calf working time isn’t far behind.

As the majority of the calves reach their second month of life, it is time to castrate the male calves if this has not already been done and immunize all of the calves to protect them against blackleg. In some situations, calves may be vaccinated for the respiratory diseases such as IBR and BVD. Check with your large animal veterinarian about these immunizations.

That’s where your Continue reading

Genetic Markers and Their Use in Feedlot Cattle

Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist

Carcass characteristics are economically important but can be difficult to measure pre-harvest. Therefore, genetic markers associated with these traits may provide valuable information to decision makers. The success of genetic markers depends on the accuracy of molecular breeding values (MBV). Researchers at Oklahoma State University evaluated molecular breeding values for yield and quality grades for commercial beef cattle and reported it in their publication:

Yield and quality grade outcomes as affected by molecular breeding values for commercial beef cattle.
N. M. Thompson, E. A. DeVuyst, B. W. Brorsen, and J. L. Lusk.
J. Anim. Sci. 2015.93:2045–2055

Independent validations report significant correlations between molecular breeding values and the traits they predict. However, many of these molecular breeding values explain Continue reading

Beef AG NEWS: Vaccination Programs Considerations for the Beef Breeding Herd

With calving season into full swing throughout much of Ohio, breeding season is around the corner. A well planned breeding herd vaccination program can improve fertility and conception rates.

In this edition of the Beef AG NEWS, host Duane Rigsby and OSU Extension Beef Coordinator John Grimes offer considerations for implementing your pre-breeding season whole herd vaccination program.

Sanitation Procedures When Implanting

Stephen Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

Sanitation is paramount when administering implants for beef cattle. Manure, dirt and bacteria must be removed and a disinfectant solution should be applied to the implant injection site area of the ear. Growth implant efficacy and return on investment decreases if an abscess forms because of unsanitary practices. In one study, average daily gains were decreased 8.9% (3.18 versus 2.92 pounds) and feed efficiency decreased 8.5% (5.62 versus 6.14 pounds of feed per pound of gain) by abscessed growth implants.

A number of years ago a method called “scrape, brush and disinfect” was introduced to raise the awareness of ear sanitation prior to implanting by cattle processing personnel. Make an initial assessment of ear Continue reading