Michigan beef quality assurance certification 2018

Michigan beef cattle producers that are certified in the Beef Quality Assurance program are realizing financial rewards. Consequently, producers are obtaining certification at unprecedented rates.

Beef cows grazing in a field

Cargill Inc. and Tyson Foods announced in early 2018 their requirements that producers be certified in the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program in order for them to buy cattle starting January 1, 2019. Cargill and Tyson make up a major part of the finished beef cattle harvest capacity in the United States. Producers that eliminate them from the bidding pool are likely to receive severe discounts for their finished cattle.

The BQA program has been instrumental in improving beef quality in the United States since its inception over 35 years ago. However, while producers have learned much of the BQA concepts through an educational process, relatively few producers have actually taken the time and effort to become certified.

 Michigan State University Extension Educators and Specialists conducted 13 Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certification programs in 2018 for 757 beef producers mostly from the state of Michigan and several from four other states. Certified producers will continue to have full market access in private bids and through auction yards. Of the 757 producers, 729 producers indicated they were first time certification compared to 23 recertification.

Each certification session consisted of a two hour presentation using PowerPoint and followed with a 15 question test. Producers needed to obtain 80% correct to achieve certification. Certified producers receive a unique certification number and certificate. Their certification credentials were passed onto sale barns if they so desire. Producers failing the test on first attempt were offered another short presentation and allowed to retake the test. Initial passing rate was at 97% with 100% passing on the second attempt.

 Michigan State University Extension efforts resulted in 757 producers receiving certification through in-person meetings. Of those receiving in-person certification 12.5% were female and 87.5% male, 97% of producers received certification for the first time. Of producers indicating age, 8% were 18-24 years, 12% were 25-34 years, 15% were 35-44 years, 15% were 45-54 years, 26% were 55-64 years, and 24% were 65+ years of age. In addition to in-person certification meetings, 684 producers certified on-line. Of the 684 on-line certifications, 53 certified as stocker/backgrounder, 233 as cow/calf, and 398 as feedlot operations.

Across Michigan, 1,441 beef producers obtained certification in 2018, 757 with in-person meetings and 684 on-line. Since January 1, 2019, reports from Michigan auction yards indicate that producers that are not certified are receiving heavy discounts as compared to cattle being sold by certified producers. Consequently, Michigan producers are finding important economic value to the certification program and more producers will be seeking certification programs in the near future. For more information on becoming certified contact the Michigan BQA state coordinators Frank Wardynski, MSU Ruminant Extension Educator at wardynsk@msu.edu, 906-884-4386 or Dan Buskirk, MSU Beef Extension Specialist at buskirk@msu.edu, 517-432-0400.

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