By Chase DeCoite, Director of Beef Quality Assurance, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a contractor to the beef checkoff

The checkoff-funded Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program recently launched a training and certification program for cattle transportation. The program, known as Beef Quality Assurance Transportation (BQAT), provides cattle producers and haulers with comprehensive training based on their roles in the cattle industry. Online training launched in November 2017 and has quickly amassed over 700 enrollments by producers and cattle haulers from across the country.  Additionally, Cargill is supporting in-person training programs through the network of BQA state coordinators. 

With consumers demanding more transparency from the beef industry and animal welfare becoming an increasingly important priority of consumers it is vital that the beef industry share the honest and responsible story of BQA.  BQAT training helps to ensure that cattle are handled and raised under BQA standards from pasture to plate, without any lapses.  Earlier this year, Tyson made a commitment to require BQA certification at the feedyard level of their supply chain by January 1, 2019 and BQAT certification of all haulers and transporters by January 1, 2020.  Commitments like this show the beef supply chain’s commitment to science based, industry supported cattle management and quality assurance programs. 

“The BQA Transportation training and certification program has been a long time coming,” said Josh White, executive director of Producer Education for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the beef checkoff. “By educating cattle haulers and producers on the best practices in cattle transportation, BQA is helping make improvements in cattle care and beef quality. Participating in the BQA Transportation program is an indicator that the beef and dairy industries are committed to responsible animal care during transportation and makes both the BQA and dairy FARM animal care programs more complete.” 

The BQA program was first funded by the beef checkoff in the early 1990s and developed its first guidance on transportation in 2006. Today, the program offers training and certification programs for all sectors of the industry: cow-calf, stocker and feedyard. This is the first time a nationally recognized certification has been offered for the transportation segment of the industry. “While there have been solid transportation training resources around cattle transportation in the past, the new program allows participants to get a nationally recognized certification for doing the right thing”, says White. 

Just how important is the transportation aspect of the beef industry? The 2016 National Beef Quality Audit found that market cows and bulls traveled an average of 6.7 hours and over 280 miles to harvest facilities and fed steers and heifers traveled nearly 3 hours and 135 miles to harvest. The findings of the 2016 NBQA also suggest that handling and other transportation factors such as comingling of horned or different sex cattle and space per animal play a role in carcass bruising resulting in a net loss of weight and production yield.  BQAT training addresses these concerns and has the potential to help the industry improve cattle well-being, beef quality and yields. 

Online training for BQAT is offered in two different modules: Farmer/Rancher and Professional; in-person trainings are tailored to the audience for the best learning experience possible. Farmer/Rancher modules focus on fitness for transport decision making, the use of stock trailers, and smaller loads of cattle that beef and dairy producers might typically haul themselves. The Professional modules focus on the use of tractor-trailers and larger loads that are typically hauled further distances. 

“With the new transportation training modules the BQA program is taking another step in being the leader when it comes to educating producers and the cattle industry on the right thing to do,” said Dan Kniffen, past chair of the BQA Advisory Board, Assistant Professor of Animal Science at Pennsylvania State University and a cow-calf producer, “We have known for a long time that transportation plays a critical role in our industry. Now we are fully able to train and show our commitment to beef quality and cattle care from pasture to plate.”

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