Don\’t Drag Your Feet! Get BQA Certified!

By: Jill J. Dunkel

Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certification has been around for a while, and thousands of producers have completed the program. Yet, there is still a large number of cattlemen and women who have yet to undergo the certification process. Associate Director of Beef Quality Assurance, Chase DeCoite, urged producers to take advantage of next year’s upcoming free certification period and get BQA certified.

Even though you may already be doing all the right things, BQA certification is proof that our industry is dedicated to producing beef in a responsible manner, he said.

“BQA is used as the foundation of a much larger story of the beef industry,” DeCoite explained. “It allows our industry to tell an honest, true story of how cattle are raised, building demand for beef. Consumers are increasingly concerned with how animals are raised. BQA is the basis of sharing that story with consumers.”

He said that Beef Quality Assurance is the story the industry shares with retailers and regulatory agencies about the proactive approach producers take to ensure they are responsibly raising cattle. That includes the judicious use of antibiotics, ensuring adequate pen space, clean water, etc.

“You may think you are only one person, but you are one of many. The more producers we can get in that program, the better. Without you, our story diminishes. We need to keep momentum in the story of responsible beef production,” DeCoite said.

Beef Quality Assurance certification is an ideal way to communicate across the food supply chain that you’re showing your commitment to quality to fellow producers, auction markets and retailers, said Melissa Sandfort, who works with the Beef Checkoff program.

“It’s that stamp of approval,” she said. “Being BQA certified is a source of pride. It shows other producers that you follow the BQA best management practices.” In some states, gate signs are available, visually reinforcing producers’ commitment to responsible beef production.

Although information in the training may be second nature to producers, the BQA certification process is a good refresher and also a great training tool for new employees.

“If nothing else, you might gain a new idea or adapt something in your operation,” DeCoite said. “Maybe you’ll pick up on something that could make you more profitable.”

BQA certification is also a way to keep up with changing regulations, like the Veterinary Feed Directive. Evolving Best Management Practices and regulations are covered in the training and certification process, and certifications should be renewed every three years.

Individual Certifications
Individual training and certification is available in person or online.

“Go to bqa.org for certification information and select your state,” DeCoite said. “The certification process is different in every state. There is web training on BQA principles, and producers can receive their certification online or through their state coordinator.”

Videos are available on various BQA topics with individual modules geared to each segment of the industry. After each video, there is a short quiz on that information before producers move on to the next module. The certification can be done all at once or you can log in and save your progress as time allows.

In person training typically features four to six hours of instruction followed by a comprehensive quiz for certification. “

All of our states have BQA state coordinators who manage a network of trainers and typically host many training programs through the year,” said DeCoite.

Feedyard Assessment
DeCoite said it is ideal for feedyard employees to be individually certified, but he also recommends feedyards complete a feedyard assessment and certification. Some states, including Texas and Kansas, offer extensive resources to complete the feedyard assessment; in others feedyard operators can complete a self-assessment.

“Yards should work with their state coordinator, and at completion of the program they are added to the feedyard assessment database. Packers can access this database to see what yards are participating in the program,” he said. More information on feedyard assessments is available at feedyardassessment.org

A free certification period sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim will be offered in the spring. Producers can complete the certification process anytime for a nominal fee at bqa.org.