BQA program promises beef industry benefits

Ray Mueller
Now Media Group


For reasons such as a claimed $11.20 return for every $1 investment, annual sales increases of 15.7 billion pounds (11.3 percent) in the national market and a 6.4 percent increase in export sales, beef industry promoters suggest that the sales checkoff of $1 per animal sold for beef is a bargain for all involved.

On that premise, the Minnesota Beef Council arranged a late winter series of five informational workshops and clinics to affirm that message to cattle owners and others in the industry. Like 44 other state councils, it receives 50 cents of every $1 checkoff through the national program which also funds the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board.

At the session held in the Equity Cooperative Livestock auction market barn here, attendees learned that current emphasis in promotional efforts by those organizations is packaged in digital formats targeted for the millennial segment of the population.

BQA program review

Along with a certification test for attendees, a review of the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) protocols was presented by Outagamie County Extension Service dairy and livestock agent Zen Miller. He was pinch-hitting for the scheduled presenter from the Wisconsin Beef Council.

In place for 25 years, BQA is designed to provide safe and tasty beef products and to encourage management practices that align with that goal, Miller pointed out. That program, for which all of the details are available on the website, receives third party certification from specialists at Kansas State University.

With the pending implementation of the national veterinary feed directive (VFD) on Jan. 1, 2017, that will govern the use of feeds medicated with antibiotics, Miller reminded sellers of cattle, especially those coming from dairy farms, of the importance of biosecurity and recordkeeping. It was noted that 15 to 20 percent of the beef meats sold in the United Stated come from dairy cows and bulls.

Feeds containing antibiotics such as penicillin, cephalosporin, quinolones, sulfas, macrolides, tetracyclines, fluoroquinolones, or glycpeptides are subject to the VFD. Antibiotics which are not covered by VFD are coccidostats, ionophores, bacitracins, carbadox, tiamulin and flavomycins.

Consumer perceptions

As consumer concerns about animal care have heightened, Miller is bothered by the use of terminology such as 'no hormones' in meat or milk. He explained that this is not possible because of the natural hormones in cattle without which no milk or meat would be produced.

When working with a down cow, Miller encouraged dairy farmers and their employees to move her in a sled or other implement rather than dragging her over concrete or other rough surfaces. He cited incidents in which that was obviously not done.

On a related point, Miller remarked that other concerns are also definitely legitimate. On that list are the use of 'hot shots' in handling cattle, the sending of cattle which are close to being non-ambulatory to the slaughter market, and the shipping of cattle known to have cancer eye, to be blind or to have a lumpy jaw symptoms.

Precautionary practices

Beyond that, observe the labeled withdrawal times for cattle which have been treated with drugs before sending them to a slaughter market and realize that an unhealthy animal is likely to need a longer withdrawal time to prevent the finding of a drug residue via the kidney inhibitor swab test or other form of detection, Miller advised.

In addition to observing drug treatment dates and dose sizes, Miller emphasized that the drug must be kept safe in storage before they are used in order to be effective. That rules out leaving them sit in a hot vehicle, in sunlight or at a place where they can freeze.

Needle etiquette

When administering drugs, be careful to replace needles when they are no longer clean or have developed a blunt end, Miller pointed out. Never mix products in the same syringe and don't apply aggressive disinfectants, he added.

To prevent damage to prime meat cuts, injections should never be made in the rump but rather in a triangle area in front of the shoulder near the neck with a limit of 10 ccs per treatment, Miller stressed. Multiple injections in the same area should be spaced by about 4 inches and they should not be made in the muscle.

What happens far too often is that a portion of the needle breaks off and remains in the flesh, Miller reported. He learned that meat processors are bearing the expense of finding and removing those needle segments before approving a product batch for final processing.

Consequences of violations

Violations of the needle etiquette create lesions and other damage that have to be removed from carcasses and meat cuts, Miller explained. This affects consumer acceptance and is an economic loss to the meat industry, he noted.

A more serious consequence would be a drug residue violation drawing the attention of the federal Food and Drug Administration, resulting in a warning letter and an investigation, Miller warned. In conjunction with such a violation, and most likely in any repeat incidents, a seller can expect to lose a market for the cattle.

(As of Feb. 19, the Food Safety and Inspection Service's update of repeat violators within the past year names two Wisconsin farms – one each for ceftiofur and sulfa drug residue. States with more entries on that list are California, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In 2008 and 2010, Wisconsin had the most violators on that list before not having any in 2011.)

The right way

With restaurant chains increasingly stating 'this is what we want' in conditions and traits of products they're willing to buy and serve, producers need to pay heed, Miller advised. For some, the start might be to establish a valid veterinary client patient relationship (VCPR), he said.

With a VCPR, it should be more convenient to create records of the who, what, and when on the treatment of individual animals so the odds of a drug residue violation will be greatly reduced, Miller promised. He noted that sulfa, penicillin, flunixin, neomycin and ceftiofur drugs have been the most frequent sources of violations in recent years.

In general, pay attention to biosecurity and on-farm sanitation, isolate animals when appropriate, institute traffic controls on site, and carry out a starling or other bird control program when necessary, Miller advised. 'Get help from professionals as needed.'