Stress Is Expensive
By Victoria G Myers, DTN/Progressive Farmer
The Beef Quality Assurance program today is a nationally recognized tool U.S. cattlemen rely on not only for food safety and prudent antibiotic-use guidelines but, increasingly, as a measure of their dedication to animal welfare.
Low-stress handling is a key element in the BQA certification and assessment process. Veterinarian Dan Thomson, a professor at Kansas State University's Beef Cattle Institute, is a past BQA Educator of the Year. He says the program continues to grow and evolve and, today, is a cornerstone for all segments of the beef industry.
While there are many aspects of BQA, for the cow/calf producer, a select few are especially critical. Not only are they important to animal welfare, but, over time, they add to an operation's profitability. Stressed cattle lose more weight in transport, and they bring less money at auction.
Thomson believes one area, in particular, deserves extra attention when it comes to reducing stress, and it ties into that new BQA transportation certification. More cow/calf producers, he notes, need to have facilities to properly and safely load animals onto trailers.
"Estimates are around 50% of the stress cattle are exposed to occurs at the time they are loaded and unloaded from trailers. I see this as our biggest issue today," he says. "It's just so critical to make sure we have proper facilities to load and work cattle."
In many cases, he adds, a dual-use system will work for producers. This includes a bud box or tub. Cattle can exit through these to a squeeze chute or to a ramp. There is the added benefit of this being something producers can use for processing and medical treatments, as well as to ease pressure at loading time.
THE VALUE OF TIME ...
LOW-STRESS POINTERS ...