GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida is helping cattle ranchers beef up their knowledge about keeping cattle healthy — and improving consumer confidence in the process.
More than 650 Florida ranchers and ranch hands have been certified through the state’s Beef Quality Assurance program, either online or by attending a six-hour course, said Matt Hersom, a UF associate professor and extension beef cattle specialist.
A nationwide program, Beef Quality Assurance provides guidelines for beef cattle production and strives to improve all segments of the industry. In Florida, it’s coordinated by UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Hersom gave ranchers an overview of the program earlier this month at a field day at UF’s Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, and will promote it again at the cattle short course offered on the UF campus May 2-4.
Hersom said the program is built on one idea: Producing safe and wholesome beef is essential. The training covers topics including the best ways to administer animal health products, such as vaccinations or antibiotics; and deciding how and when to cull an animal from the herd. Throughout, there’s a big focus on record-keeping.
Keeping accurate, detailed records is second nature for some ranchers, but others need encouragement and training before they’re comfortable with the process, Hersom said.
“We really stress record keeping: If you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen,” he said.
Keeping accurate records can be of great benefit when there is a crisis in the industry, such as meat that is compromised in some fashion, he said.
“Certainly it’s a compliance issue — if you send an animal to market and they trace it back to you, and let’s say that animal had some kind of antibiotic residue, without those records, you can’t say if it did or didn’t happen on your ranch,” he said.
Erik Jacobsen, the general manager for cattle and citrus at Deseret Ranches in St. Cloud, Fla., said new employees hired to work with cattle at the ranch take the online course and periodically attend the training in person.
The ranch spans hundreds of thousands of acres in Central Florida, has 42,000 head of cattle, and is known for its commitment to conservation.
“All of our guys are 100 percent BQA certified,” Jacobsen said. “We just think it’s the right thing to do, so we do it.”
Source: Mickie Anderson