Whether it’s a rancher hauling a few cows to the sale barn or a commercial trucker loading a semi with “fats” for the packer, drivers play a vital role in beef quality assurance and animal welfare. That’s the motivation behind NCBA’s Transportation Quality Assurance program, says Ryan Ruppert, the organization’s senior director for Beef Quality Assurance.

Ruppert says that while NCBA has provided training and information on cattle-transport practices since 2006, the program continues to evolve. NCBA now offers an online training and certification program for ranchers or commercial drivers.

Ruppert notes that documenting participation in such a program, as with the BQA program overall, has become increasingly valuable in addressing concerns of retailers and consumers. Some small packing plants, he adds, now require certification through the program for drivers to deliver cattle to their facilities.

The program covers a variety of topics related to cattle transport, including:

• Cattle-handling guidelines and diagrams
• Checklists for loading/unloading
• Checklists for hot/cold weather factors
• Checklists for fi t/injured/weak cattle
• Checklist for traveling
• Loading suggestions and worksheets
• Biosecurity and emergency action plans

Participants who complete the course receive a certificate and a certification number, with the certification lasting three years.

Ruppert says critical skills for anyone hauling cattle include first being able to determine whether cattle are fit for transport, to ensure animal welfare and avoid regulatory challenges when crossing state lines or unloading cattle at their destination. Recognizing the importance of animal-handling skills overall, NCBA enlisted the help of experts such as Temple Grandin in developing the training modules. For more information, visit bqa.org.