Animal health company sponsoring free beef quality certifications through October

How cattle are raised greatly affects the quality of beef produced, and K-State now offers training for those wishing to enter the beef industry to become certified beef quality assurance agents. (Brook Morris | The Collegian)

Through Oct. 31, beef producers can become Beef Quality Assurance certified for free, thanks to a sponsorship from Boehringer Ingelheim, a St. Joseph, Missouri-based animal health company, and a partnership with K-State’s Beef Cattle Institute.

K-State’s Beef Cattle Institute is one of the program’s premiere outreach organizations. The cost of the comprehensive Beef Quality Assurance training without the coupon code is $25 for 28 modules.

Olson said students are required to complete the comprehensive training package, which includes 28 modules covering topics including animal welfare, food safety and personal responsibility.

KC Olson, professor of range beef cattle nutrition and management, said it is important to him as a teacher to offer Beef Quality Assurance training to his students.

“We are training the future citizens of the beef industry to be responsible. Students develop expertise and can add a big gold star to their resume (upon completion of the program),” Olson said.

The institute was created to address issues the beef industry faces through education, research and outreach. These issues are accomplished through the institutes’ Animal Care Training website, where producers can learn about current animal health and welfare practices. Proper animal care helps improve animal welfare, increases the quality of beef products and helps eliminate defects while ensuring the safety and wholesomeness of beef. Boehringer Ingelheim is working with the institute to help spread knowledge of the program training by sponsoring the certification for free until Oct. 31.

Some students at K-State have already had the opportunity to become Beef Quality Assurance certified free of charge through the ASI 515 Beef Science course.

“This requires students to complete at least 4-5 hours of self-study outside of class,” Olson said. “They are also required to pass each module with at least an 80 percent on each module and must retake the exam if that requirement isn’t met.”

Olson said this is not a lightweight aspect of the class and takes time and effort for the student to become certified. He also said this program adds credibility to K-State’s undergraduate program, and shows how serious they are about producing well-qualified students and well-qualified members of the industry.

Barb Downey, owner-operator of Downey Ranch in Wamego, Kansas, said the certification is an important part of being a producer.

“Anything that benefits the quality of the product benefits the producer and the consumer,” Downey said.

Downey said it is important to understand proper handling techniques to ensure consumers never have a bad beef eating experience. Downey said she and her husband are certified, and both of her daughters became certified when they were in middle school.

“With more people becoming concerned about where their food comes from, getting BQA certified is a tool to show the consumer that the industry is working assertively to ensure a quality product,” Downey said. “Anybody who does anything with beef cattle should take the opportunity to become (Beef Quality Assurance) certified.”

At the professional level, Nels Lindberg, senior partner and veterinarian at Animal Medical Center in Great Bend, Kansas, said the trainings help improve the consumer image of beef animal welfare.

“I’m a firm believer in education and anytime there is an opportunity to further educate team members, the better off the whole operation will be,” Lindberg said.”The people and the animals all benefit from continued education.”

Lindberg said this program sheds a positive light on K-State and the College of Veterinary Medicine. He said he’s a supporter of the institute and the positive image it provides K-State.

“Any sort of player in the beef industry, whether they are a veterinarian or a producer, is well aware of the (Beef Cattle Institute) and the things it does for our industry,” he said. “The training modules improve the K-State image and profile in the industry as well as the public eye.”

At the core of the beef industry, Jose Valles, a feedyard consultant for Valles Livestock Consulting Inc., said the assurance certification sets guidelines for the industry.

“It’s not something that the feedlot is requiring,” Valles said. “It is an industry-wide set guideline that helps workers at the feedlot level to create a basic set of instructions of what they should practice and what they can build on.”

Valles said a FarmCheck audit has been put in place by Tyson requiring any producers supplying them to be Beef Quality Assurance certified. FarmCheck is meant to ensure responsible treatment of farm animals. He said this will encourage other packing plants to follow suit and require it also.

The Beef Cattle Institute offers face-to-face assurance training at numerous locations around Kansas. Last year alone over 900 producers completed the training at local auction markets.