Quality assurance is important to the dairy industry

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Holstein cows
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

In a recent Iowa State University Extension Northwest Iowa Dairy Outlook, the report described the impact of dairy beef on cattle slaughter. This article will review the report and discuss the importance of Beef Quality Assurance.  The complete report is available here: https://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/nwiadairyoutlook/2023/10/03/dairy-cow-slaughter-accounts-for-40-60percent-of-overall-cow-slaughter/.

Background

According to the report, approximately one-half of U.S. cow slaughter is made up of dairy cattle.  The reason?  There are far fewer dairy cattle than beef cattle. In fact, on Jan. 1, USDA estimated the U.S. beef herd at 28.9 million cows and 9.4 million dairy cows.  The reason there is such a large share of dairy cows compared to beef cows in the slaughter numbers is because dairy cows are replaced at a much higher rate.

Beef Quality Assurance

Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) is a program designed to ensure beef and dairy cattle are raised in a manner that results in a safe and wholesome food product.  The development of the BQA program can be traced to consumer concerns about food quality.  Based on national audits, there is clear evidence the BQA program has made a significant improvement in beef quality for the consumer.

BQA principles

Everyone, from producer to consumer, has a role to play in quality assurance.  This includes all aspects of production, transportation, processing, and consumption of beef and dairy products.  As a dairy producer, what principles can you follow to maintain a safe food supply?  These principles are provided below.

VCPR – The herd’s practicing veterinarian:
• makes medical decisions that the client follows
• is personally/regularly acquainted with the patients and their care
• is available for follow-up consultations
• regularly evaluates patient’s medical records with clients
PREVENT CARCASS QUALITY DEFECTS
• Reduce bruises, scars and blemishes
DRUG USE
• Read the label
• Follow instructions on the label and from your veterinarian
• Proper needle selection
• Follow withdraw times
THINK LIKE A COW
• Cattle want to be with people, other cattle and move away from danger
CALM BEHAVIOR AND HANDLING
• Understand animal behavior and flight zone
• Never abuse cattle
• Provide personnel with training/experience
• Make timely observations of cattle
• Design and regularly inspect facilities
• Keep feed and water handling equipment clean
RECORD KEEPING
•Producers should be prepared to provide copies of records for buyers and processors.
•If a drug residue is traced to an animal you owned, your records may help you with the FDA investigation
•Records should be kept for a minimum of 2 years and include: individual animal identification; date treated; name and manufacturer of the drug or vaccine used; lot and serial numbers of the products; dosage; route and location; date withdrawal period is complete
BIOSECURITY PRACTICES
• In consultation with your veterinarian, assess risks
• Recognize and mitigate the biosecurity risks associated with the introduction of new cattle and inter-herd/inter-operation traffic
• Apply basic sanitation practices to equipment, vehicles and clothing
• Prevent manure contamination of feed and feeding equipment
MAINTAIN PROPER BCS
DEVELOP EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN
Consider including the following:
• Name of site
• Premise ID Number (PIN)
• Owner Name and/or Operator Name
• Farm Services (FSA) Number
• GPS coordinates
• Site physical address (911 address)
• Directions to the site from nearest town(s)
• Important telephone numbers & contact

Summary

Implementation of the BQA program and adoption of the principles discussed has made significant positive impacts on the industry. I encourage all producers to continue following these practices to ensure a safe food supply that all consumers desire.

If you have questions about BQA, consult your veterinarian or local Extension Educator.

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