SALEM, Ohio — Cattle producers who want to sell beef in 2019 and beyond should consider getting their Beef Quality Assurance certificate.
Beginning Jan. 1, major U.S. buyers, including Wendy’s and Tyson, will require the farmers they purchase from to be BQA certified, and the expectation is that other buyers will follow.
The BQA program covers the basic aspects of animal production, care and handling, and is another way for meat buyers and producers to assure their customers of a quality product.
“The consumer drives the marketplace and this is something that our consumers are looking for,” said Stephanie Sindel, the Beef Quality Assurance Coordinator with the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association. “You have to stay competitive in your marketplace, and this the new industry standard.”
Sindel said it should be a relief to producers to know that the new standard is based on a program that has been nationally accepted for many years. The training lasts about two hours and covers critical issues involved with the production of quality beef, including feedstuffs, medications and injection sites, herd health and cattle handling.
There is no cost to complete the training in Ohio, thanks in part to Ohio’s beef checkoff funding, and partnerships with Ohio State University Extension. The training can be completed in-person or online, and a certificate is issued to the producer after completion. The online training is available to producers in all states.
Although the material is likely something farmers are already doing, Sindel said it provides them a good measuring stick and a way of promoting the quality of their operation.
“We’re very optimistic and positive that it’s not a separate program — it was something that was pre-existing to the industry,” she said.
Related: See a list of upcoming trainings in your area.
According to the state database, just over 4,200 producers are certified, but it’s estimated there are about 17,000 beef farms in the state, meaning there is some catching up to do.
Farmers do not necessarily need the certificate, if they do direct marketing or sell to a buyer who does not require BQA certification, but because of where the industry is heading, many say it makes more sense just to get certified.
“It all started with Wendy’s and Tyson — eventually all of the packers are going to follow their lead,” said Denny Ruff, who manages the Muskingum Livestock Auction in Zanesville. “I’m just telling everybody to do it — it’s not that big of a deal.”
Pennsylvania auction barns are seeing a similar trend, and say that overall, the certification is not difficult and is probably a good way of preparing for the future.
“It is what it is. What’s going to happen is they’re all going to require it, one day or another,” said Justin Loomis, auctioneer at Mercer Livestock Auction, in Mercer, Pennsylvania. “It’s going to happen at some point.”
The Muskingum auction has held the training on-site in the past, and is planning another training Dec. 18, at 7 p.m. at the auction barn. The training will also be held the same day, at 6 p.m., at Erv-N-Del Farm, in Louisville, Ohio. For that meeting, pre-register with Lisa Parker at 330-832-9856, ext. 3465.
Six additional training sessions in Ohio are scheduled at the beginning of 2019. Visit http://u.osu.edu/beefteam/events-programs/ for dates and locations.
Producers can also schedule a training in their area, if necessary.
(The following are some answers to frequently asked questions, as developed by beef experts with Ohio State University. Learn more about the program at http://u.osu.edu/beefteam/bqa/)
Q. What is BQA?
A. Beef Quality Assurance is a nationally coordinated, state implemented program that provides information to U.S. beef producers and beef consumers of how common sense husbandry techniques can be coupled with scientific knowledge, to raise cattle under optimum management and environmental conditions.
Q. I’ve never been BQA certified, why do it now?
A. By 2019, Wendy’s has committed to sourcing beef from only BQA certified producers and Tyson has pledged to follow suit, also by Jan. 1. Beef experts expect other retailers and packers will do the same. Being BQA certified will be a producer’s ticket to market access, much like the pork industry.
Q. Who needs to be BQA certified?
A. Anyone selling beef animals to be harvested for meat. This includes producers of fed beef, dairy beef, cull cows and bulls including dairy cull cows.
Q. What do I need to do to become BQA certified?
A. Attend a training session hosted by OSU Extension. Training dates and times are posted under EVENTS/PROGRAMS at beef.osu.edu. 2) Complete online BQA training at BQA.org. Either format will require a couple of hours’ time.
Q. How long is my certification good for?
A. Three years.
Q. How will the cattle buyer know I am BQA certified.
A. Upon completion of BQA, you will receive a confirmation that you completed the certification. It is up to you to share that information with your local stockyards to relay to the cattle buyer or you can share with the buyer when in a direct marketing scenario.
Q. Where can I check my certification status?
A. A database with all certified producers will be housed at the state beef council and maintained by the state BQA coordinators.
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