As ranchers across the country move through the calving season, officials with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA), Nebraska Beef Council, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Extension are encouraging producers to keep good records regarding the age and identification of their spring calves.

NDA Director Greg Ibach said such records are necessary if producers decide at a later date to enroll their cattle in age- and source-verified programs for possible export or domestic marketing opportunities.

“Animal health concerns and consumer demand are driving beef marketing changes,” Ibach said. “There is a great deal of opportunity to capture a share of this changing market if we have livestock that meets age- and source-specifications.

Producers can take some basic steps now to position themselves for possible marketing opportunities once their animals mature.

UNL Extension Beef Specialist Rick Rasby said producers may have to slightly alter their management techniques and records to market into some niche markets. In some cases, for livestock to be considered eligible, producers will need to participate in a Process Verified Program (PVP) or a Quality System Assessment (QSA) program.

“PVPs or QSAs all have specific guidelines that need to be followed for calves to be considered eligible,” Rasby said. “But in an industry where the return on assets typically hovers around 3 percent to 5 percent, it seems critical for cow/calf producers to investigate these opportunities to potentially increase the value of their calves. The extra management steps are relatively simple and, if done right, can open up more marketing options.”

Rasby said producers who may be considering participation in a PVP or QSA program should take these steps with their 2007 calf crop:

  • Record the date the first calf was born in the 2007 calving season;
  • Record the date the last calf was born in the 2007 calving season;
  • Record the location where the calves were born in 2007; if producers have a registered premises through their state, record that premises as the location where calves were born; and
  • Record vaccinations, implants, antibiotics and medicated feeds fed to the calves; record the date the treatment was given and product used.

Rasby said most QSA and PVP programs will require individual animal identification. He said producers may want to consider these steps:

As a form of permanent identification, consider tattooing calves with a number or number/letter.

Handtags in the ear are semi-permanent identification because tags can be lost. Rasby said some producers use double eartags, or an eartag and a button tag or ear clip tag.

Some PVP or QSA programs may require radio frequency identification (RFID); producers should research program criteria before using RFID.

Record: (1) Tag number, (2) date of birth, (3) sex of calf, and (4) calf color markings.

Rasby said as breeding season for the 2008 calf crop begins, producers should keep a calendar entry for the beginning and ending breeding dates.

Producers who are interested in learning more information about PVP and QSA programs can go on‑line to http://processverified.usda.gov.

Ibach said producers can begin educating themselves now about age- and source-verified livestock, and potential marketing opportunities, by viewing a seminar that was conducted earlier this year. The International Beef Market Opportunities Seminar can be accessed at the NDA web site at http://www.agr.ne.gov and the Nebraska Beef Council web site at http://www.nebeef.org. A NebGuide on PVP and QSA programs also can be found on the seminar web page.

The seminar was hosted in February by NDA, the Beef Council and Extension. The on-line version allows producers who may be considering age- and source-verifying their animals to learn about: international marketing opportunities, the perspective on age- and source‑verification from a beef processor, how feedlots fit into the international marketing picture, and some basic steps for producers for cattle age- and source-verification.

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