By Melissa Slagle, Cattlemen's Beef Board
Dairy and beef producers recognize importance of BQA principles on their own farms.
A desire to continually improve Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) on their operations while successfully encouraging others around them to implement BQA. A desire evident this week as two producers were honored with the annual national Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) award, created to recognize outstanding beef and dairy producers from across the country who incorporate BQA principles as part of the day-to-day activities on their operations. The winners were selected based on their commitment to beef quality assurance while operating sustainable cattle operations.
Winners were Phoebe Bitler, Vista Grande Farm in Fleetwood, Pa. (dairy) and Jim Warren, 101 Livestock Inc., Aromas, Calif. (beef).
Vista Grande Farm
Vista Grande Farm was founded in 1937 by Phoebe's parents. Phoebe grew up on the registered Holstein farm, and her 4-H project cows paid for her college degree and also helped to build the foundation for the dairy herd that she and her husband, Dave, began in 1977. On Jan. 1, 2010, they began a partnership with their son, Jesse, operating as Vista Grande Farms, LLC and Vista Grande Cattle Co., LLC.
The dairy farm currently consists of 100 milking registered Holstein cows; 23 owned by the Bitlers, and the balance owned by two young men developing their individual herds, they have placed 30 more milking Holsteins in other young farmers herds, have a dairy replacement business with 150 females, and farm 600 acres, producing feed crops for the livestock. In addition, the family also performs a variety of custom farming operations, facilitates farm-to-farm dairy cattle sales, and Phoebe conducts educational agriculture tours that showcase what family farms have done to remain viable in the industry.
Vista Grande Farm is located in a densely populated county in southeastern Pennsylvania and one of their ‘next door' neighbors is an industry that employs 5,000 persons. The road that travels between the farm buildings is heavily traveled. This creates challenges for cattle and equipment movement, but also provides the opportunity to showcase a tidy farmstead, along with clean and well cared for animals to the consuming public.
Phoebe and her family have hosted many "Ag in the Classroom” type events for schools, scouts, seniors and farm-city tours. They have also hosted "Breakfast on the Farm” for the Berks County Chamber of Commerce Executive Board. These types of events provide opportunities to share the truth about modern animal production, dispelling popular animal rights myths. Vista Grande Farm coexists with their community by offering a transparent view of their dairy practices.
Nominator Paul Slayton, Pennsylvania Beef Council executive director, says, "Phoebe believes firmly that they and their cattle are a team; they work in partnership. They also manage their dairy for increased returns on market cows at harvest by reconditioning prior to selling as ‘white cows.' Currently they are researching the costs and benefits of selling custom bulk freezer packs utilizing BQA labels and the farm logo to accommodate the changing consumer needs and wants. And, she provides extensive training to hired labor. She is very deserving of this award.”
101 Livestock, Inc.
101 Livestock, Inc., is a livestock marketing business that sells predominately beef cattle, from 200 pounds to slaughter cows and bulls at public auction 50 weeks per year. The market operates each Tuesday and has other special sales annually. Located about 45 minutes south of the San Francisco Bay Area, the market serves ranchers and farmers located up to 300 miles north and south of the operation.
Using his own common-sense approach and asking for ideas from experts like Temple Grandin to create the design, Jim has created a sale yard which stands out among other sale barns in the country in its ease of moving cattle comfortably through the market chain.
Beef quality has been the number one goal of Jim and his management team for over 30 years. They started by improving animal health, and developed a physical plant the allowed for the most comfortable and humane transportation of cattle through the facility; next came the electronic ID (EID) program in 1999, followed by their Quality Systems Assessment and Process Verification Program, which were USDA-approved. Being on the leading edge of beef quality issues has kept both buyer and seller, doing business with 101 Livestock for more than three decades.
In 1990, 101 Livestock started to sell any animal with potential health issues into a class called "subject." These animals' destinations are only to federally-inspected processing plants and the sellers are not paid unless the inspector approves the animal. This takes away the temptation to push objectionable animals through the system, and puts the responsibility for these animals where it should be -- on the owner. 101 Livestock accepts no non-ambulatory (downer) cattle. And, at 101 Livestock, safety, animal health, and physical plant meetings for employees are held monthly.
Nominator Matt Byrne, executive vice president of the California Cattlemen's Association, says, "Being transparent and allowing people to see the operation has been good for business. Jim said animal rights groups have seen that 101 Livestock was as committed to the animal well-being as they were. 101 Livestock is the center for cattle activity on the Central Coast. Media, non-ag, and humane groups all look to 101 Livestock for answers to critical issues. Jim's advanced media training and positive approach to these issues help the beef industry put its best foot forward. And, Jim has reached out to other markets to help them improve their facilities and transportation, feeding and loading operations.”
The National BQA award winners are selected annually by a committee of representatives from universities, state beef councils and cattle industry groups.
For more information about the beef checkoff or BQA program, visit www.bqa.org, www.dbqa.org, or www.mybeefcheckoff.com.