Rural food animal practitioners used to hire a new veterinary associate, provide them a truck and some tools and say, “Go find new clients and grow our business.” That model no longer works today because the number of clients or beef producers is decreasing as we see consolidation of beef herds across the country. Providing the same service to more people has developed into the business model of providing more services for less people involved in beef production.

BQA education and on-farm assessments can be a service incorporated into veterinary visits. On the education side of things, BQA makes for great information for veterinary newsletters and producer meetings. Also, veterinarians are often called on to present information to 4-H and FFA groups. BQA education is for all involved in the beef industry.

Furthermore, guiding your producers to the online BQA training can be a service that allows producers to self-pace their BQA education, while decreasing the time spent leaving the farm or ranch. The online BQA training programs include versions in English, as well as Spanish, for producers looking for tools to bridge the language barrier gap with their employees.

Assessment tool is valuable

The new BQA assessment tool has been a great device for practitioners to work with their clients. It involves the development of the BMP that you and your client think are best for his or her cattle operation. These BMP are provided in the back of the assessment guide manuals, and can be used as a template for you and your client to develop specifically to an operation.

As we have conducted the assessments on beef operations, the lack of BMP has been glaring. Documentation of the BMP is important when dealing with people who might question the care of animals on a farm. It can also be used positively as a marketing tool when selling cattle to other ranchers or cattle feeders.

The assessments also observe the training and education given to people responsible for castration, dehorning, euthanasia and other practices. It is important to document how people are trained on the farm to make sure we are using the procedures best suited for the animals. It is also important to document employee training to protect the farm if the employee does not execute practices in a humane way. Farm owners are responsible for their employees’ training and understanding.

The assessment also has a “hands-on” portion where a veterinarian watches cattle being worked through a chute, as well as a facilities inspection. The facilities inspection involves the evaluation of feeding and watering equipment/accessibility, handling facilities and other areas in which cattle are housed.

The cattle handling assessment is easy for veterinarians to implement when pregnancy checking the cows or working with a feedyard processing crew on a consulting visit. These evaluations are great educational tools for producers and increase the level of awareness of improving facilities or handling practices for their cattle.

We have worked with the Kansas Beef Council and the Kansas Livestock Association over the last year and have conducted BQA assessments on more than 80% of the fed cattle capacity in the state. I have yet to conduct an on-farm BQA assessment where the producer did not think it was valuable for their employees, their cattle and their profitability.