The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program continues to set U.S. producers apart from global competitors. It all starts at that boots-on-the-ground level, where producers like Guillermo Pineda work every day. The son of a native Venezuelan, Pineda and his dad started their South Carolina cattle business in 2012.
The elder Pineda was accustomed to vaccinating cattle every three months because of disease threats in his native tropical environment. The agricultural engineer also put a priority on designing and building safe and efficient working facilities, and implementing a top-notch herd-health program for the new operation.
Today, the Pineda family runs a 150-head commercial cow herd, in Saluda, at Westlake Farms. The BQA standard has been a priority from Day 1.
BQA is a producer-driven program in which cattle producers, from the cow/calf producer to the feedlot sector, assume responsibility for producing beef that is a healthy, wholesome, quality product and free from defects like injection-site lesions and bruises. There are more than 200,000 beef producers in the U.S. today who are BQA-certified.
Guillermo says proper vaccine administration is critical, both for the animal to be able to develop immunity and to prevent unnecessary local complications like abscesses. Prevention is key, says Guillermo, a cardiologist. And, he gets no argument from his wife, Jackie, an internist.
"We are very particular," she says. "When we work cattle, it is a family day. Guillermo insists on doing the vaccinations himself, I keep notes, and our sons, Daniel and Andres, move the animals into the chute."
To make sure workdays are as stress-free as possible for cattle and humans, the family focuses on low-stress handling techniques and cull females that aren't docile.
BQA CERTIFIED PREMIUMS
Even for herd-health oriented producers like the Pinedas, it's important to stay current on BQA certifications. Carla Dean Sanford, a former Montana State University Extension beef specialist, explains that BQA continues to evolve and improve. As an example, she points to a North Carolina State University and Ohio State University research trial on prostaglandin injections given during estrus synchronization. Scientists reported no advantages as far as conception rates when these injections were given in the rump rather than the neck.
That standard for injections, in the triangle area of the neck instead of the rump, is a basic tenet of BQA. It eliminates injection-site lesions in high-value cuts found in the loin and rump.
Sanford adds, "Always opt to give an injection subcutaneously rather than intramuscularly if you're given the option on product label guidelines." She says research continues to develop pharmaceuticals that can be administered topically or intranasally rather than injected. Today, Sanford's role puts her in a prime position to see BQA value from a different side of the market. She is now Southeast regional customer verification specialist for IMI Global, a division of Where Food Comes From, where she performs third-party verifications for value-added programs. And, she still works on her family's cow/calf operation, allowing her to emphasize BQA standards at work and in her home herd.
The sixth-generation cattle producer says it's clear BQA-certified cattlemen in today's market can capture premiums. "There was a Colorado State University study done in 2019 with data from 2010 to 2017," she says. "With video lots of steers and heifers sold in nine western states, there was a $16-a-head premium on calves coming from BQA-certified operations. Let the auction house or video company know you're BQA certified."
Sanford says IMI Global understands the value of BQA, which is why it's a critical component of their CARE-certified standard for beef producers at the cow/calf and backgrounder levels. CARE is their animal care, environmental stewardship and people- and community-support program.
BETTER THAN GOOD ENOUGH
The Pinedas used their BQA training as a springboard to certify feeder steers and heifers as Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC) and Global Animal Partnership (GAP) cattle. They're able to market with other area producers through Mid-Atlantic Cattle Sales and see premiums of $15 to $20 per cwt.
"If you're already doing the right things, it really isn't harder," Jackie Pineda says.
Sanford agrees, adding, "being BQA-certified shows consumers and other producers we're better than just good enough. It not only ensures we meet the standard but that we're not doing anything that could negatively impact the animal and its carcass."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
-- Online Certification: www.bqa.org
-- Field Guide: https://www.bqa.org/…
-- CARE Certification: www.imiglobal.com/wfcf-care
-- Global Animal Partnership: https://www.globalanimalpartnership.org/…
(c) Copyright 2022 DTN, LLC. All rights reserved.