While the lessons learned through participation in beef quality assurance (BQA) programming help the cattle industry spread a good message to consumers about issues such as cattle care and antibiotic use, they can also help a rancher’s bottom line. A Montana ag lender recently penciled out what he sees as the economics of applying BQA practices. For example, a Montana cow-calf outfit selling 300 calves could expect:

  • 5 lbs. of extra gain/calf because calves were handled quietly at $1.10/lb. market price is $5.50/head for a total of $1,650.

  • 5 lbs. of extra gain/calf because vaccine was handled and administered properly at $1.10/lb. market price is another $5.50/head for another $1,650.

  • 2 extra weaned 600-lb. calves/year because both cows and calves were handled and vaccinated properly and therefore didn't lose a calf before or after calving is another $1,320.

  • 15¢/lb. improvement in price on a couple of 1,200-lb. cull cows that were sound at time of sale rather than crippled from rough handling is another $360.

  • 5% decrease from annual repair costs on $2,500 worth of equipment because cattle aren’t crammed and jammed through a working facility is another $125.

  • 5% decrease in annual workers’ comp and medical expenses of $5,000 – because people aren't getting injured from livestock handling wreck – is another $250.

  • That’s $5,355 total annual savings or increase in income – with no significant cash outlay.

Here’s a pre-conditioning checklist presented by Tahnee Szymanski, DVM, field veterinarian with the Montana Department of Livestock:

  • Be sure your vaccines are fresh and have been shipped and stored properly.

  • Keep all vaccines cool and out of the sunlight – this includes filled syringes.

  • Have plenty of health products and equipment on hand.

  • Clean syringes with a brush and hot water – do not use disinfectants.

  • Never use left-over vaccines – even if they are from “just yesterday.”

  • Conduct a five-minute vaccination training or “refresher” for everyone.

  • Mix only enough modified-live vaccine that can be used within one hour.

  • Check the calibration of syringes regularly to be sure of the proper dose.

  • Inject all vaccines and other drugs in the neck in front of the shoulders.

  • Change needles and check syringe calibration frequently.

  • Vaccinate only healthy animals and do not treat cattle with antibiotics at the same time as vaccinating.

  • Keep accurate group or individual vaccination records.

-- Montana Stockgrowers Association release