by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
In an effort to ensure consumer confidence in the beef industry and instill best management practices in producing healthy cattle, Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Oneida County recently offered a level 1, Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) training program, led by Marylynn Collins, Oneida County CCE Dairy & Livestock Educator.
The classroom portion of the event focused on management skills, including basic handling techniques, protocol for handling animal health products, importance in placement of injections, increasing documentation and proper record keeping to produce a consistent, high quality, end product.
“We want to accept responsibility for our actions on the farm,” said Collins. “We want to enhance carcass quality and consumer confidence.”
Collins explained that balancing all segments of the industry is an objective of the BQA program, with one element being in response to animal welfare concerns of the public and other elements focusing on producer safety and consumer safety — along with “eating satisfaction.”
Injection site lesions and medication control were looked at.
“Bruising and handling methods affect quality,” Collins reminded attendees.
Animals should be de-horned as they naturally push and shove each other and horns result in injuries.
When loading or unloading, cattle should be monitored closely to avoid injury. Banging trailer doors and gates can seriously bruise animals, leaving behind scarring to the meat.
Slippery ramps and floors can also cause accidents.
“Is that animal going to go down and get banged up?” Collins asked.
“Injections should always be given in front of the shoulder,” she instructed. “An injection almost always produces a reaction, sometimes it’s a toughening of the muscle or formation of scar tissue.”
Therefore, any damage resulted from injections would be localized to the neck muscle, which is the least valuable part of the carcass.
Needles should be the proper size for the inoculation given and re-using needles is frowned upon.
Monitoring emerging pathogen issues is another critical component to the BQA program and the use of antibiotics was discussed.
Collins emphasized reading labels on all products used to treat cattle and to be sure to check expiration dates, disposing of any outdated bottles.
“Don’t mix old medications or vaccinations with new bottles, even if it is the same,” she advised.
Another factor when dealing with medications in the field is to be wary of leaving them in the sun, as exposure can cause defection in the medications, and can prove to be very costly. Collins advised to always keep bottles of meds in a cooler, covered and at the labeled temperature.
A low stress environment is advised for cattle and handlers.
“Keep in mind at all times,” Collins remarked, “that low stress is not just for the animal, but for yourself, as well.”
Low stress includes working with animals in high temperatures on hot, humid days, which results in short tempers for animals and handlers.
“Good planning keeps both my animals and me cooler,” said Collins, who owns and works with a herd of about 70 cow/calf pairs.
“Work calmly with your cows.”
Separating a cow from her calf is a prime time for injuries to happen, and it is always best to work as a team when separations need to occur.
Record dates of separations in your herd. Maintaining records should include dates for any pertinent information, not just breeding dates and vaccination records.
Using herbicides, insecticides or other pesticides? Make sure you document where you are using them, what the ingredients are or the label you are using, and again, check your label for expiration dates.
“Prevention is another area to focus on,” Collins instructed.
This should work hand-in-hand with your bio-security program, which you should already have in place.
Use species-specific feed when feeding grain.
Level 1 BQA completion certificates were distributed to participants of this program after attending a chute-side training session with Dr. Steve Burton for practicing injections.
Level 2 certifications are earned by filing a signed Veterinarian Client/Patient Relationship (VCPR) form with the New York Beef Council office.
It is important to know that becoming BQA certified is a requirement to qualify as ‘NY State Grown and Certified.’
This certification provides producers with an opportunity to apply for grant funding of up to $50,000.
For more information call CCE Oneida County at 315.736.3394 ext. 124.