Food safety, beef quality and environmental stewardship discussed in-depth.
By: Blair Fannin, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Area cattle producers recently took part in a Beef Quality Assurance training certification program to learn more about producing high quality beef in a safe and wholesome environment.
The training was sponsored by the Texas Beef Council, Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
“Beef Quality Assurance is a grouping of best management practices,” Joe Paschal, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist, Corpus Christi, told attendees.
Paschal conducted the training focusing on many issues, including food safety, beef quality, environmental stewardship and animal handling.
“BQA is an industry-wide participation,” Paschal said. “It demonstrates commitment to beef safety and quality, creates a positive public image and enhances consumer confidence.”
Jason Bagley, senior manager, for beef quality and exports with the Texas Beef Council, discussed the Texas Beef Checkoff Program. While the national beef checkoff program has been in place for many years and assesses a dollar per head, a Texas beef checkoff program went into effect in 2014. Like the national beef check off, a dollar is collected from the sale of each beef animal for the Texas Beef Checkoff Program and helps fund research, education and marketing efforts. Currently, Bagley said marketing efforts have included emphasis on millennials (born in the 1980s or 1990s).
“There’s 80 million of them out there and my wife is one of them,” he said. “She is on her phone all the time getting recipes and information. This generation has completely moved to the digital age. We are trying to put more beef information online so when a consumer is standing at the meat case, we can get that cooking information to them right then.”
Bagley also discussed international marketing efforts. In 2014, exports added a record value of $300.36 a head for every fed steer and heifer, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Meat Export Federation.
Workshop time was also devoted discussing best animal health practices. Cattle producers should always place subcutaneous injections in the neck, dewlap or elbow pocket. However, as an industry, there are still instances of injection site blemishes in areas such as the sirloin and other high-value cuts, Paschal said.
“Injection site management is a critical component and one that can lead to big economic losses in the beef industry,” he said. “Any management practice can impact the safety and quality of the beef marketed from your operation, so that’s why it’s important to adopt best management practices.”
Overall, Paschal said beef producers should have a herd health plan and establish a relationship with a local veterinarian.
“Once a year, you should go over your herd health plan with your veterinarian just to make sure you are covering everything that is needed to protect your cows and investment.”
Another area covered was cattle and beef quality. Paschal said cattle producers must have the best genetics they can afford.
“You have to start with as good of an animal as you can,” he said.
Calves should be castrated at 300 pounds or less. Cattle should also be branded in the hip region and not in the center of the hide. Paschal said a lot of hide value is lost when ranchers brand cattle in the center of the carcass,
“Brand your cattle so that you have that permanent identification,” he said. “If you have a natural disaster and have cows scattered over four counties, you have that brand and you know those cows are yours when they are located.”
Paschal also discussed environmental stewardship. Stocking rates and forage management affect the overall performance and quality of a beef herd.
“It’s important to not overstock,” Paschal said. “We want to eliminate any nutritional stress by not putting too many cows on a pasture that can’t support them with good nutrition.”
Paschal said cattle producers should also not wait until it is too late to sell off cull cows and bulls.
“You want to get rid of them while they are still in good body condition,” he said. Preferably, that’s when they have a body condition score of five or better.”
For more information about the Beef Quality Assurance program and how to receive certification, visit http://texasbeefquality.com.