An added element to the 2011 National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) was a focus on hearing directly from beef producers. An online and written survey was conducted with cattlemen including seedstock operators, commercial cow/calf operators, backgrounders, stocker/yearling producers, feedlot producers and dairymen to identify the adoption of beef quality assurance management principles.
This was the first time cattle producers were actually surveyed on a national basis to provide input on the safety and quality-based practices they implement on their operation.
Dr Jason Ahola, associate professor of beef production with Colorado State University coordinated the data collection of Phase 3 — the producer component of 2011 NBQA. Ahola says the goal of Phase 3 was to gather input from producers on key elements including: 1) what are their views about quality; 2) how do you think you influence quality and 3) what types of procedures do they do on their operation relative to beef production. The producers were asked about their involvement in a beef quality assurance program and their production practices. The overall goal was to gain further insight on how all segments of the industry influence quality.
When producers were asked about quality and what they think about when they hear the word quality, Ahola reported the most common response was 1) producing cattle and calves that were healthy and 2) producing beef that is safe and wholesome. Practices conducted by producers to influence quality at the producer level was through the use of good stockmanship and animal handling skills and secondly through preventative animal health practices.
The survey results indicated that nearly 90 per cent of producer respondents indicated they have a working relationship with a veterinarian. Continued progress on the beef quality assurance focus of reducing any carcass blemishes was reinforced as the preferred route for administrating injections was subcutaneous as indicated by 84.2% of the respondents and 87% said the preferred location they give injections when processing cattle is in front of the shoulder (neck region). According to the survey, 87% of the producer respondents had heard of beef quality assurance. The industry appears to have made good strides in reducing the incidences of defects and many of the parameters taught in beef quality assurance have attributed to these positive results, Phase 3 summarizes.
Ahola reminds us that one of the major concerns that came out of the quality audit was the concern from the beef supply sector about how and where cattle were raised. The audit concluded that the beef industry needs to work to improve on how they tell their story of food animal production. The impact this has for producers is the emphasis on the need to document their production practices. It’s time for producers all through the chain such as feedlot, stockers, cow/calf producers to step up and tell their story and document their practices so that when or if the industry is questioned, producers can be proactive in doing so, Ahola emphasizes.
The NBQA was funded by the Beef Checkoff and conducted by a team of researchers representing several land grant universities and was coordinated by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
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