Equity Cooperative earns 2019 BQA National Marketer of the Year award
As a strong advocate for Wisconsin’s beef industry, Equity Coop strives to instill consumer confidence through product safety and quality – something they have in common with the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program. This, combined with their efforts to create low-stress environments for both livestock and employees, has earned Equity Coop the 2019 BQA National Marketer of the Year Award.
The award was presented at the 2019 Cattle Industry Convention in New Orleans, LA. Award winners are selected by a committee comprised of BQA certified representatives from universities, state beef councils, sponsors and affiliated groups.
The committee assesses nominations based on their demonstrated commitment to BQA practices, their service as leaders in the beef industry and their dedication to promoting the BQA message to grow consumer confidence. For anyone who’s had the opportunity to work with Equity Coop, this award would come as no surprise.
When you’ve been in the livestock business for nearly 100 years, you’re bound to encounter some bumps along the way. Equity Cooperative Livestock Sales Association (Equity Coop) is not unique in this, but they are unique in how they’ve handled issues within the cattle industry.
Equity Coop was established in 1922 and is Wisconsin’s largest livestock marketer. With 14 locations, over 300 employees and nearly a million head of livestock moving through their locations annually, they realized the importance of implementing standardized best practices early on.
Equity Coop believes marketing facilities have a responsibility to take the upmost care of the animals that come through their doors.
“It was because we saw a need that had to be picked up, both on the condition that the animals were being delivered to us, and also how we were handling them within our facilities,” says Chuck Adami of Equity Coop.
To ensure they were doing the best they could for their livestock, Equity Coop began setting standards for animal care, and have earned the trust of producers in turn.
“When we were doing our research, we discovered that BQA was kind of ahead of the curve,” says Curt Larson of Equity Coop. “They had already established a lot of the best practices, and we tried to incorporate as many of those as we could into our policy and procedures.”
Based on these BQA best practices, Equity Coop developed an internal animal handling and safety program that every employee is required to complete before starting work at any of their locations. “Beef Quality Assurance helps us train our individual people in the right things to do and the right ways to handle stock as they move through our facility,” says Tod Fleming of Equity Coop.
Equity Coop recognized that this wasn’t only the right thing to do for the sake of the livestock, but for their employees as well.
“We try to be very calm in the handling of them,” says Mark Koger of Equity Coop. “So, I think it’s not only a benefit to the animals with not getting them all riled-up and having things in a hurry, but it’s also a safety component for the employees.”
Adami explains that this has been a critical move for Equity Coop. “I believe we have made a difference in what our producers are receiving for animals because when they’re delivered to the buyers, they’re in better shape,” he says.
In addition to proper animal handling techniques, antibiotic stewardship is a high priority for the cooperative. In 2011, Wisconsin had the highest drug residue numbers in the nation. Equity Coop recognized this as a major issue – one that could be fixed.
To meet consumer and industry demands, they took it upon themselves to solve this major problem. They hit the ground running with hands-on initiatives. By holding seminars for producers and reaching out to offenders, Wisconsin soon began to see their drug residue numbers fall. They didn’t stop there. Equity Coop continues to be a strong advocate for healthy and wholesome beef that consumers can trust.
“Consumer confidence is one of the main driving forces behind the BQA program,” says Tammy Vaassen, BQA Coordinator of the Wisconsin Beef Council. “And Equity Coop has been a really great resource for us to talk to producers about BQA and the importance of BQA.”
Fleming explained that Equity Coop has also started implementing additional resources for producers. “With industry requirements asking for BQA certifications in order to bid on certain classes of livestock, we’re holding meetings, encouraging people and getting the word out to utilize the online training,” he says.
It’s clear that Equity Coop goes above and beyond to provide livestock, employees and producers with everything they need to thrive in the cattle industry. “It’s the right thing to do for the employee, for the producer, for the animals and for the consumers – everybody in the chain benefits from it,” says Larson.
For more information on Equity Coop and other 2019 BQA Award winners, visit https://www.bqa.org/about/bqa-awards.