Jason K. Ahola, former University of Idaho Extension Beef Specialist now with ColoradoStateUniversity, and Holly A. Foster, independent contractor for the California Beef Council, recently released an executive summary for a Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) pilot project. The BQA program is partially funded by the beef checkoff. The pilot project was conducted in collaboration with the Idaho Beef Council and California Beef Council and evaluated the quality of market dairy cows being sold at auction.

The study summarized in the publication is based on procedures that have been utilized in previous checkoff-funded quality audits and was designed to give dairy producers more information about how their animals are valued within the beef chain when they are sold through auction markets.

“Trickle-down economics is observed daily in the salvage cattle market,” says Gary Smith, Ph.D., Monfort Endowed Chair in Meat Science, ColoradoStateUniversity. “Packer-buyers pay more for animals that will yield more or higher-quality products – and that goes straight to the producers’ bottom line.”

The goal of this project was to provide dairy producers information that was not previously available about the potential value of their market cows and bulls. It also underscores that existing industry recommendations to cull animals in a timely manner are one of the best measures to maintain their value and enhance their carcass quality.

While this study does support the concept that premiums exist in the marketplace for market cows of higher quality, an individual operation’s economic analysis should also be a part of the decision-making process.

The primary obstacle to educating dairy producers about Beef Quality Assurance principles has stemmed from the limited income generated from market dairy cows, and an apparent lack of perceived ability to add value. Ultimately, this research will help to meet consumer demand for high-value beef by improving the quality, consistency and safety of beef products from dairy cows.

“There are premiums to be had for producers who sell high-quality market cows. When every dollar counts, it’s important for producers to remember that six percent of total beef production is attributable to market dairy cows,” says Kevin Good, Senior Market Analyst, CattleFax. “Paying attention to quality issues improves salvage value by making animals more desirable for buyers.”

For more information about this research or the national BQA program, click here. For more information about checkoff-funded programs, go here.