COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio cattle producers looking to earn Beef Quality Assurance certifications or those looking to become re-certified can take advantage of a new online course and exam offered by experts from Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

The certification is part of a national program that offers sound management practices and guidelines for beef cattle production, said Steve Boyles, an OSU Extension beef cattle specialist.

OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the college. 

And while the certification isn’t a requirement for beef producers, it’s valuable for them to have because it lets consumers know that the producer’s beef is a safe, quality product, Boyles said.

“The real value in having this certification is that it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “The beef industry wants to provide consumers with a safe, quality product that consumers can be assured is not only good food but also is a safe product.

“That’s because the certification process teaches producers information including how to properly administer vaccines and how to handle animals in terms of animal welfare. The financial benefit for producers comes from learning how to reduce blemishes in the meat and reducing outliers of animals that don’t fit what consumers are looking for.”

The training and certification also helps producers be more efficient and produce a higher-quality product while at the same time avoiding discounts, Boyles said.

Stan Smith, an OSU Extension program assistant in agriculture and natural resources, agrees with the value of the program.

He said the Beef Quality Assurance training and certification, which includes livestock handling and animal welfare programs, provides cattle producers the tools they need to raise the safest, highest-quality beef they can while making their operations more efficient and productive.

“The beef cattle industry has embraced the program, and cattlemen  who have been through the certification process have reported improvements in efficiency and increased profitability,” Smith said. “It’s also proven to be a valuable tool for communicating to consumers the safety measures cattlemen take in producing food for consumers’ tables.”

OSU Extension created the new website as part of a wider effort by statewide Beef Quality Assurance programs to move toward a more-uniform nationwide format. In Ohio, that has meant offering producers certification instead of the previous “documentation of attendance,” Smith said.

“Many Ohio cattle producers got their last Beef Quality Assurance certification updates three years ago,” he said. “But those who did, need to know that those certifications expire this year as the certifications are valid for only three years.”

In addition to the online certification program, producers can also contact their local OSU Extension office to see if the office is planning any certification courses. John Grimes, an OSU Extension beef coordinator, will offer a certification webinar in early winter 2014, organizers said.

The Beef Quality Assurance training program includes how to keep records of the producer’s production practices in order to reduce liability, provide quality assurance to consumers and continue to ensure a safe beef supply through strict adherence to residue avoidance practices, Smith said.

“The training also teaches producers to think about their production practices in light of the effect on the quality of the finished product and teaches producers to use technology, common sense, a concern for animal well-being and a consumer-oriented production system,” he said.

The Beef Quality Assurance online assessment can be accessed at http://go.osu.edu/BQA. The site includes study materials and certification quizzes. The online exams are open-book and require a score of 85 percent or higher to pass, with an exam at the end of each chapter.

While it is free to review the materials and access the site, the cost of the exams and the certification is $20 payable via credit or debit card online, Boyles said.

Beef Quality Assurance training and certification records are maintained by the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association.