Keep in mind there is an industry-wide assessment tool, too. It’s called the National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA).

“The national audits are how we compare ourselves at one point in time to another,” Dr. Smith explains. “They help guide our research and educational efforts for further improvement.”

More and more, BQA and assessments are as much about the outside world as the operations employing the tools.

“The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) continues to tell us their members want to see more animal welfare work in the beef industry,” Ruppert says.

It’s not necessarily that FMI and others have a problem with how beef producers care for their stock, it’s that they don’t have a way to assess it. At the same time, pork and poultry producers are further ahead in providing those kinds of assessment tools.

That’s why records, written protocols and documentation are crucial to BQA.

“It’s like [Dr.] Dee Griffin always says,” Ruppert explains. “If you don’t write it down, then it never happened. You have no way to prove it.” Dr. Griffin is another BQA pioneer and lynchpin who is University of Nebraska’s Feedlot Production Management Veterinarian at the Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center at Clay Center, NE.

“We’re seeing packers and retailers pay more attention to BQA, too,” Dr. Smith emphasizes. In the past several months he has helped three clients prepare for and undergo BQA based audits from retailers.

“Using BQA assessments assure us that we’re doing things right,” Dr. Smith says. “These assessments also help us get ready for audits when our industry partners ask for them.”

“If you don’t have records, you can’t capture the added value associated with verifying animal health and your management practices,” Ruppert says. “You have no reference point for improvement.”

Think about BQA in the feedlot sector which set the standard for other segments of the industry. Think about those audits being requested by packers and retailers. Because of their BQA efforts, logic suggests it wasn’t much of a stretch for feedyards to begin participating in and receiving added value from process verification programs associated with things like age and source verification.

“Especially with the cost of production today, as veterinarians, it’s imperative that we provide management advice in addition to health advice,” Dr. Smith says.

Doing so means strengthening the veterinarian client patient relationship (VCPR). It means becoming more involved with client goals and resources, providing nutritional advice, and ferreting through production records, Dr. Smith says.

It might even mean conducting in-house research trials, as Dr. Smith has done with clients, to evaluate the worth of a particular product or practice in a given situation.

Incidentally, for the veterinary community, Dr. Smith says, “A near-term goal should be getting an FDA approved, effective, affordable pain control product that we can use for routine surgical procedures like castration and horn management, as well as for managing the pain associated with lameness.”