What is in this article?:
If producers don’t have the BQA records, they can’t capture the added value associated with verifying animal health and management practice.
Editor’s Note: This is the third and final article in a series focusing on Beef Quality Assurance. From an initiative to address a single perceived industry problem to a multifaceted, multidisciplined inventory and evaluation, BQA has been a driving force for positive change affecting every aspect of beef production.
BQA Moving Forward
Push come to shove, Dr. Thomson stresses that veterinarians involved in a strong VCPR serve as the final word for cattle well being when questions arise.
“As veterinarians, we’re there to help clients develop best management practices,” Dr. Thomson explains. “But, when someone comes to the farm wondering about herd health and animal care, the veterinarian will provide the answer.
“I don’t know of anything more defensible in the public eye than producers being able to say they are caring for their cattle under the supervision of a veterinarian. It’s like saying you’re caring for your kids under the supervision of their doctor.”
Logically, Dr. Thomson expects the next major area of BQA to revolve around the environment and food safety.
Already, Ruppert says industry working groups are developing what would become BQA approved practices for such things as castration and dehorning.
“BQA is really a promise to consumers that we care about our cattle and understand how to care for them,” Ruppert says. “I really think for producers to get to the next level, to make BQA part of their culture and part of their business model, they need the broader perspective of their veterinarian. They need that perspective to help them identify the BQA concepts they need to work on and how they can implement them.”
Just as outside perspective elevates BQA within operations, Dr. Smith stresses cooperation within organizations is essential for BQA success.
“For BQA programs to be effective, it takes commitment from everyone, from the owner, to the manager, to the pen rider, to the person delivering feed,” Dr. Smith says. “We have to be constantly aware of employee turnover and the fact that newer employees might not yet be BQA certified. Client operations need to have a program established that allows employees to see their commitment to BQA. It should be included in the employee handbook if there is one. There should be an opportunity for new employees to become BQA certified early in their employment. Special effort should be given to training what I term mid-level employees so that they can serve as trainers and mentors in order that everyone is performing on the same level in providing animal care.”
“It’s a fluid process; it will never be done,” Dr. Thomson says.
Though Dr. Smith is confident there are no glaring deficiencies in the current BQA program, he says, “We have to keep looking for areas where we can improve BQA and the well being of animals and touch all facets of the industry. BQA allows us to showcase our commitment and investment in nutrition, cattle handling, the environment, everything that is part of animal care.”
“I think BQA certification will be the first step going forward for cow-calf producers to verify their sustainability, their animal welfare and all of those other things,” Ruppert says.
Beyond the traditional role of helping clients with biosecurity and disease control, Dr. Thomson believes the greatest value veterinarians will offer in the future is providing the kind of herd-wide information and consultation alluded to earlier.
“There is no group that will be more important than veterinarians to the family farm as society moves toward more regulation and transparency,” Dr. Thomson says.
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