“As a dairy producer, you’re a beef producer too, and a direct link to the food chain. Market cows are responsible for 18 percent of total ground beef production per year, enough to provide more than 28 quarter-pound burgers for every man, woman and child in the United States every year,” said Richard Wallace, senior veterinarian at Zoetis.
According to the Beef Checkoff, milk production and efficiency constantly improve as the result of enhanced animal care, superior genetics, improved management practices and better nutrition.
Dairy producers can take some fairly straightforward steps to assure that a cow’s maximum value will be realized.
The Beef Checkoff offers a few suggestions for dairy producers to improve beef quality.
• When moving cattle, reduce the use of electric prods and other aggressive driving aids.
• To minimize injuries due to slippage, improve footing in loading ramps, alleys and pens.
• When transporting cattle, separate by gender to avoid injury or bruising.
• Administer animal-health products in accordance with Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) standards using the neck as the preferred site of administration and do so subcutaneously when the label allows.
• Follow guidelines for animal care and handling.
• Market cattle before they become too thin or lame for transport.
• Maintain record-keeping systems to verify best management practices and reduce or eliminate potential for liability related to issues of food safety.
• Optimize the value of market cows and bulls by managing and marketing them in ways that add value.
• Ensure the safety of beef and dairy products.
• Cows and bulls must be free of chemical pathogenic and physical hazards when they enter the marketing chain.
• Continuously monitor herd health. Intervene early when there are issues.
• Prevent quality defects, bruises, injection-site lesions, improperly placed brands, dark cutters or emaciated cattle are preventable.
“Our management practices and the assistance from Dairy-Beef Quality Assurance educational resources assist us in marketing only cull cows that are safe and of the highest quality possible for the food chain,” said Colorado dairy producer, Jim Docheff.
What else can you do for yourself and the industry? The Beef Checkoff suggests the following.
• Being proactive to ensure the safety and integrity of beef and dairy products. Consumer confidence is one of the most important issues facing dairy producers.
• Monitoring herd health and marketing cull cattle in a timely manner.
• Preventing quality defects. Producers should have a quality assurance program in place and use best handling practices to reduce the incidence of quality defects.
• Optimizing the value of your market cows and bulls. Dairy producers can do this by feeding them for a short period prior to marketing to increase weight and improve their body conditioning and carcass characteristics.
During the past 25 years, quality assurance programs have been developed and improved to ensure both dairy and beef cattle are produced and managed in a manner that will end in a safe product for consumers. Dairy Animal Care and Quality Assurance (DACQA) is an extension of Beef Quality Assurance (BQA).
Some final suggestions to remember, as stated by the Dairy BQA Manual include the following.
• Give injections in the proper location with proper techniques.
• Read and follow meat withdrawal times on product labels.
• Monitor body condition and consider a feeding program for cull animals prior to marketing to improve poor body condition.
• Reduce potential for bruises by dehorning, correcting deficiencies in facilities and transportation equipment and using proper cattle handling techniques.
• Limit hide damage with parasite control and permanent identification instead of branding.
For more information about Dairy Animal Care Quality Assurance, visit www.bqa.org/CMDocs/bqa/DairyBQAManual.pdf.