SALEM, Ohio – Pennsylvania dairymen have another tool to help make more money.
The Blue Tag Program, developed by the Pennsylvania Beef Council, is aimed at bringing in more dollars and cents from dairy cull cows.
The focus. “Too often dairymen see ‘beef’ and think ‘that’s not me’ because they’re more focused on the milk,” said Scott Wright, director of beef and dairy quality assurance for the council.
But dairymen have a leg up over beef ranchers – dairies can sell both milk and beef – and need to cash in any chance they get.
Value. Participants in the program will get up to 100 free blue eartags each year to put into the herd. Each is marked with the Keystone emblem and a steer, Wright said.
When cows are culled, those blue tags will have meaning and value: They prove the cattle come from a dairy with a good image.
They’ll be free of drug residues and have no carcass defects.
“The tags signify cattle are from herds or farms that have been through the quality assurance program,” Wright said.
“That tells packers or buyers the farmer is going through best management practices to improve the carcass,” he said.
“With rules like no downers and others, it’s important for producers to have backup that they’re doing the right thing and taking initial steps to have healthier animals,” Wright said.
Making money. Dairymen lose around $70 per head on cull cows due to defects like injection lesions, bruising and poor body condition, Wright said.
Lessons in the program can help producers learn to market a better beef animal once it’s outlived its milking career.
Regional interest. Some dairymen in western Pennsylvania are interested.
Meetings held earlier this month at five locations in the area attracted approximately 100 more dairymen, according to Nelson Smith, extension dairy educator in Clarion County.
“We’re more than pleased with the turnout. It shows the value in this type of program,” he said.
“And through this, with BSE and all those [animal health] issues that are consumer driven, we can jump on the bandwagon and protect ourselves from this end,” Smith said.
Sale barn selling. How local livestock auctions and buyers may react is still up in the air.
New Wilmington Livestock Market manager Tom Skelton said he was unaware of the new program. Sale barn managers from Mercer Livestock Auction and Eighty-Four Auction were not available for comment.
Meat matters. The Pennsylvania Beef Council started a quality assurance program for beef producers three years ago.
But half of all Keystone State beef is from dairy cull cows. The council began the dairy-focused program in the summer of 2003.
More than 1,700 beef and dairy producers have participated in at least one part of the quality assurance training, either in the classroom or at cow-side.
Wright said slightly more than 100 of those are dairymen.
Around 1,000 producers have been through both parts and are certified.
(Reporter Andrea Myers welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Get the details
* Pa. Beef Council
1500 Fulling Mill Road
Middletown, PA 17057-3116
* Scott Wright
Quality assurance director
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