BQA Best Management Practices: Feed additives and medications for the cow-calf producer

Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) has Best Management Practices (BMP’s) for each segment of the industry, an example would be: cow-calf, or feedlot. This article will focus on the BMP’s specific to feed additives and medications for the cow-calf producer.

In my last Michigan State University Extension article entitled What is BQA and why should I consider certification,  the focus was on defining BQA and describing how it should be relevant to beef producers. In this article, the goal is to break BQA down into BMP’s and describe it in more detail, the section for this article is feed additives and medications for the cow-calf producer. 

A quick review of the BQA guidelines show that they exist to help producers to ensure a high quality end product that meets or exceeds expectations every time. The cow-calf producers main product is weaned calves, and culled breeding stock. The calves need to be of the quality that will meet or exceed the requirements of the next segment of the industry, whether that is directly to the feedlot, or the stocker operation. The term “quality” for those calves would mean that they consistently hit the mark in terms of animal performance, health, carcass characteristics, and food safety in terms of medications and feed additives. Culled breeding stock must also meet the requirements of the processors of market cows and market bulls in terms of health and food safety, plus carcass characteristics for quality. Written records were mentioned in the last part, and they are extremely important when following BQA guidelines and these records become even more valuable when they are passed along to the next segment of the industry with the cattle. It is important to keep in mind that quality goes well beyond food safety, encompassing performance, health, carcass characteristics, and consumer eating satisfaction. 

The national guidelines for feed additives and medications state that beef producers should:

  • Use only FDA approved medicated feed additives in rations
  • Use medicated feed additives in accordance with the FDA current Good Manufacturing Practices
  • Follow judicious antibiotic use guidelines
  • Extra label use of feed additives is illegal and strictly prohibited
  • Strictly adhere to medication withdrawal times to avoid a violative residue
  • Where applicable, keep complete records when formulating or feeding medicated feed rations
  • Records are to be kept a minimum of two years, or longer as required by laws or regulations
  • Assure that all additives are withdrawn at the proper time to avoid a violative residue

There are many faucets to Beef Quality Assurance, it is imperative that each beef producer takes the time to learn what is there for the particular segment of the industry that they are involved in. Once they have identified those, they then need to take the steps necessary to becoming certified. The certification process has been made very convenient by having all of the modules available in an online format. Producers can also attend an in-person meeting if one is available in their area. For more information on BQA, visit the MSU Beef Team website, or contact one of the Michigan State University Extension Beef Educators in your area. Beef Producers are also welcome to contact me directly at

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