Given the intensity and desire expressed by cattle producers for acquiring calving books each year, the calving book obviously is a critical part of many beef operations. But many producers -- by simply failing to more fully utilize their calving books -- are letting marketing opportunities to market age- and source-verified calves escape.

The point is this: If a producer actually utilized the calving book by tagging the calves at birth and noting the birth in the calving book, those calves are age and source verified. The only step remaining is the verification of the calving book.

There are a lot of value-added marketing programs available, and it's easy to get confused. But the basic underpinning of most programs is verification of age and source of the calves. And for those producers using a calving book, the first step is done. It's that simple.

Next, a producer only needs to select a particular program that offers verification of the data collected. For example, if one was to utilize CalfAID or a similar program, the general steps are to individually ID calves at birth (visual or electronic ID), complete the calving book, enroll the herd in CalfAID or a similar USDA Process Verified Program (PVP) or Quality Systems Assessment (QSA), and submit the completed calving book (photocopy, digital photos or printed forms) as required to obtain a verification document for marketing.

Most programs will require the calves to be electronically identified (EID). If this isn't done at birth, calves will need to be EID-tagged prior to leaving the farm or ranch. Individual EIDs will need to be cross referenced with the calf's visual ID and the info provided to the program of choice, such as CalfAID or selected USDA PVP or QSA programs.

Editor's note: For a list of value-added, calf-marketing programs, see the "2007 Alliance Yellow Pages" in the August issue of BEEF. (Or View .pdf of 2007 Alliance Yellow Pages).

-- Kris Ringwall, North Dakota State University beef specialist