The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) programme is a State and national industry-led effort that provides guidelines to support the production of quality beef. The goal of the program is to raise consumer confidence in beef quality through recommended management techniques and a commitment to quality within segments of the beef industry, including feedlots.
Guidelines included in a BQA programme focus on issues that include feedstuffs, feed additives and medications, processing and treatment records, injectable animal health products, care and husbandry practices, and guidelines for the general care and handling of cattle. Participating in the BQA programme can help ensure that quality beef reaches consumers through safe handling, feeding, and care of cattle. Improvements in cattle care and health will undoubtedly increase the quality of beef for consumers. In addition, the BQA programme helps to improve food safety and support animal welfare and well-being, major concerns of consumers. The use of the BQA programme can positively impact all that are involved, including cattle, feedlot operators, and consumers.
The US Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) conducted the Feedlot 2011 study, an in-depth look at large feedlots (1,000 head or more capacity) in 12 States2 and small feedlots (fewer than 1,000 head capacity) in 13 States.3
Large feedlots accounted for 82.1 per cent of the January 1, 2011, inventory of feedlot cattle in all US feedlots but only 2.8 per cent of all feedlots. The 12 participating States accounted for over 95 per cent of the inventory of cattle in large feedlots (NASS, “Cattle on Feed” February 18, 2011). Small feedlots accounted for 16.0 per cent of the inventory on all US feedlots and 92.9 per cent of all US farms with cattle on feed. The 13 participating States accounted for 85.4 per cent of US farms with fewer than 500 cattle on feed and 90.5 per cent of the inventory on farms with fewer than 500 cattle on feed (NASS, 2007 Census of Agriculture). Study results presented in this information sheet reflect only large feedlots,4 which were divided into two groups: those with a capacity of 1,000 to 7,999 head and those with a capacity of 8,000 or more head.
Familiarity with the BQA programme
An objective of the Feedlot 2011 study was to describe feedlot operators’ familiarity with the BQA programme and to describe management practices that may impact beef quality. Widespread awareness of the BQA programme has been a goal of the beef industry for several years. Operators on 52.4 per cent of feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 to 7,999 head were very familiar with BQA programme, compared with operators on 69.4 per cent of feedlots with a capacity of 8,000 or more head (figure 1). Overall, only 4.6 per cent of feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 to 7,999 head and 0.3 per cent of feedlots with a capacity of 8,000 or more head had operators who were not familiar with the BQA programme.
Importance of BQA practices
Operators on over 9 of 10 feedlots, regardless of capacity, indicated that each BQA practice listed was somewhat or very important (table 1). Clearly, there was widespread agreement on the importance of BQA practices.
Training for BQA practices
Seven of 10 feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 to 7,999 head (70.1 per cent) had formal training programmes for employees on one or more of the listed BQA practices, compared with nearly all feedlots with a capacity of 8,000 or more head (96.1 per cent) [figure 2]. This difference could be due to the smaller number of employees on the lower-capacity feedlots, leading the operators and owners to assume that a formal BQA training programme is unnecessary.
These data suggest that feedlot operators, regardless of feedlot capacity, are aware of BQA programmes and believe that the programmes are an important aspect of running an operation. Continuing outreach through training programmes, seminars, and other methods is important to maintain and advance support for the BQA programme.
2 Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Washington.
3 Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin.
4 Information on small feedltos is available at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahms/feedlot/index.shtml