Farmer Continuing Ed: What a BQA certification means for your beef
Farmers learn a lot of what they do from experience, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a certain level of training involved. In fact, many farmers participate in continuing education courses or certifications throughout their careers to improve their methodology and the quality of the food they grow.
Food companies are listening to their customers who want responsibly raised products. Some are even starting to require farmers to get certain certifications before they will buy their product. Other farmers choose to participate in continuous education simply because they take pride in what they do and want to stay up-to-date on best practices for their farms and animals.
I am a Beef Quality Assurance Coordinator. That means I train and certify Illinois beef farmers on the fundamentals of raising beef as well as the latest research. I have always believed in doing things the right way. I grew up on a family farm in Blue Mound, IL and pursued more knowledge and experience in agriculture through my Masters degree from the University of Illinois. My personal passion for animal agriculture and educational background set me up for a job training beef farmers on best practices.
What is Beef Quality Assurance?
Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) is a continuing education opportunity for farmers who raise cattle. BQA reinforces the basic fundamentals of producing a safe, wholesome beef product while introducing new research results and farming techniques. The goal is to help farmers and ranchers continuously improve their farms and the way they raise cattle.
What do farmers learn?
A certification is good for three years and new information is continually being incorporated into the BQA curriculum. New research is a big piece of BQA. We want to share the fundamentals of animal care, but also the latest and greatest information.
During the certification class, farmers learn:
- Proper animal handling and care – from herd health to managing animal stress
- Creating a safe animal environment – housing and safe handling equipment
- Rules and regulations for antibiotic use – to ensure judicious use of all medications
- Biosecurity measures – to minimize risk of illness spreading between animals
- Proper record keeping and traceability – for transparency within the food system
To date, nearly 4,500 farmers are BQA certified in Illinois and we continue to certify and recertify more farmers each year. I see great value in the BQA program and enjoy sharing it with beef farmers who are passionate like me. With proper handling, cattle are less stressed, healthier, and performing well. This is great for the cattle and the farmer’s work environment is far more enjoyable.
At the end of the day, helping farmers become BQA certified means we are providing consumers with safe, high-quality beef that was raised responsibly.
U of I Extension Beef Cattle Educator