The recent release of the 2011 National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) conducted by beef industry researchers reconfirms the importance for beef producers to continue to focus on improving recordkeeping methods and tracking. Ninety-five percent (95%) of producers had some level of routine health protocol(s) they followed; yet, results in Phase III of the benchmark study found that only 31.3% of the respondents have their animal health protocols in writing. Producers need to document their efforts via record‐keeping to assure consumers of their hard work (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Use of written records to track withdrawal times

Recordkeeping will document production practices

Phase III of the NBQA audit, consisted of an online and written survey conducted with 3,755 cattlemen between April 2011 and February 2012. The cattlemen represented seedstock operators, commercial cow/calf operators, backgrounders, stocker/yearling producers, feedlot producers, dairymen, and other producers.

The study also measured methods of how cattlemen keep track of withdrawal times. Overall, 78.3% of all industry producers were tracking withdrawal times by utilizing individual animal identification, which was shown to be the most common method of identification for recordkeeping. When identifying only animals in a group that are treated, recordkeeping rates varied from 4.3% in seedstock operations to 22.5% in stocker/yearling operations for an overall average across all industry segments of 11%. Keeping track of withdrawal times by tracking groups of cattle where individuals within the group were treated, took place 9.1% of the time across industry segments.

Researchers were pleased to hear that over two-thirds of producers are using individual animal identification to track health protocols, but researchers continue to emphasize the need for complete recordkeeping protocols and documentation to verify proper production management practices taking place in food animal production. Overall, the NBQA results remind producers to continue to focus on recordkeeping and documentation of practices as consumers seek more understanding and information about the beef they consume, how it is raised, and where it comes from. Researchers believe that if the beef industry can provide this information it will give producers a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Many of the practices measured in the NBQA are part of the industry’s Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program. BQA is designed to train producers on proper production methods and provide tools for producers to be able to track individual and group animal health treatment protocols. Contact the South Dakota Beef Industry Council or your cow/calf field specialist in an SDSU Extension Regional office for more information on how to become BQA certified in South Dakota.

Source: B. Lynn Gordon