Cattlemen have long recognized the need to properly care for their livestock.
Sound animal husbandry practices – based on research and decades of practical experience – are known to impact the well-being of cattle, individual animal health and herd productivity.
Cattle are produced using a variety of management systems, in very diverse environmental and geographic locations in the United States.
As such, there is not one specific set of production practices that can be recommended for all cattle producers to implement. Personal experience, training, and professional judgment are key factors in providing proper animal care.
The consumer wants assurance
When consumers were asked what they would like to know from farmers about food production that they currently did not know, 68 percent said they wanted to know what farmers were doing to ensure animal care.
University of California researchers asked shoppers to evaluate five potential food label claims, and “humane” was the most often top-ranked choice.
In a survey from The Ohio State University, 59 percent of Ohioans said they would be willing to pay more for meat, poultry, or dairy labeled as coming from humanely treated animals.
Among those, 43 percent said they would pay 10 percent more, and 12 percent said they would pay 25 percent more if they were assured of humane animal treatment.
Women account for 93 percent of U.S. food purchases and feel a strong emotional attachment to beef.
One emotional response that resonates with women is the fact that most beef comes from family farms, and that farmers’ care about their animals.
The three emotional pillars that female shoppers want from beef include: 1) the assurance that family ranchers care about their animals and beef quality; 2) that oversight from USDA and FDA assures that today’s beef is safer than ever and; 3) the shopper wants control over food-purchasing decisions.
Who do consumers trust for humane treatment of farm animals?
Janice Swanson from Michigan State University in a presentation at the 2010 Montana Nutrition Conference said that consumers trust people who resemble themselves most, followed by advocacy groups, farmers/producers, federal regulatory agencies, grocery stores, restaurants and lastly food companies and processors.
Consumers assign to farmers and advocacy groups more responsibility for the humane treatment of farm animals than to any other group.
An animal’s welfare, whether on a farm, in transit, at an auction market or at a place of slaughter should be considered in terms of the ‘five freedoms” which include: 1) freedom from hunger and thirst; 2) freedom from discomfort; 3) freedom from pain, injury or disease; 4) freedom to express normal behavior and; 5) freedom from fear and distress.
Producer code of cattle care
Beef cattle producers take pride in their responsibility to provide proper care to cattle on their farms and ranches. The following are general recommendations for producers to consider in raising and handling cattle.
• Provide adequate food, water and care to protect the health and well-being of animals.
• Provide disease prevention practices to protect herd health, including access to veterinary care.
• Provide facilities that allow safe, humane, and efficient movement and/or restraint of livestock.
• Use humane methods to euthanize sick or injured livestock and dispose of them properly.
• Provide personnel with training to properly handle and care for cattle.
• Make timely observations of livestock to ensure basic needs are being met.
• Provide transportation that avoids undue stress caused by overcrowding, excess time in transit, or improper handling during loading and unloading.
• Keep updated on advancements and changes in the industry to make decisions based on sound production practices and consideration to animal well-being
Persons who willfully mistreat animals will not be tolerated.
How do I get started?:
The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) cow-calf assessment
The BQA cow-calf assessment is an on-site educational tool that allows for assessing and benchmarking key indicators of animal care and well-being as well as operational conditions.
The cow-calf assessment focuses on three main areas – animals, records and best management practices (BMP), and facilities and equipment.
The cow-calf assessment may be utilized as a self-assessment or conducted by a third-party assessor.
The real key, regardless of who conducts the assessment, is that the assessment be repeated on a periodic basis so that comparisons may be made, trends observed, and management actions be taken to maximize animal care and well-being and operational efficiency.
The cow-calf assessment consists of multiple assessment points grouped into three “tiers”, tiers are most easily defined by management level and effort. This assessment is about continuous improvement. However, it can help identify items and create benchmark points that may need to be improved including animal handling, facility/equipment maintenance, and recordkeeping/BMPs among other items.
Repeating the assessment on a regular basis can help an operation identify trends and take appropriate management action as necessary.
The three-tiered system allows the cow-calf producer to master the points in tier one, and move on to the next management level by adding tier two then tier three components to their assessment schedule.
We plan to provide you with different templates that you can use to document best management and BQA practices for your ranch. If you have questions, give me a call at 406.994.5562.