Beef Quality Assurance During the Fall Run

Beef Quality Assurance During the Fall Run

Cattle loadout
Research has shown that stress from shipping can have an impact on calves’ immunity and prolong the amount of time calves are off feed following shipping. Photo credit Troy Walz.

It seems the year is just flying by with fall already upon us, which means it is about time for the “Fall Run”. Millions of cattle are being transported across the U.S. over many miles. A past Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) survey indicated that feeder calves traveling to Texas or Nebraska feedyards traveled 468 ± 415 miles.

Because we live in the age of “everyone has a camera in their hand”, it is important for producers and livestock haulers to remember that during this time, our bumper-pull trailers, gooseneck trailers, or cattle pots are giant billboards for the cattle industry. As cattle industry representatives, we must always be aware that our actions during cattle transport could be scrutinized. Additionally, the condition of the cattle we are transporting could also come under scrutiny and should also be considered.

Because transportation can be a stressful period for cattle, it is important that we do everything we can to limit the stress on animals being transported. If we don’t, we may see negative impacts on cattle welfare and performance due to stress. Research has shown that stress from shipping can have an impact on calves’ immunity and prolong the amount of time calves are off feed following shipping.
There are several pre-shipping suggestions that have been made as a result of previous research. These include:

  • Cattle are fed and watered within five hours prior to being loaded if the trip length is over 12 hours
  • Cattle being loaded for trips longer than four hours should be fed within 24 hours prior to loading
  • Cattle should have access to water at all times prior to loading
  • Cattle should be handled as little as possible and as gently as possible prior to transport
  • Cattle should receive a minimum of five hours of rest following 48 hours of transport1
  • Cattle should be in good health and fit for transport
    • Do NOT transport non-ambulatory cattle
    • Do NOT transport cattle showing signs of sickness or actively sick
    • Do NOT transport cattle with a Body Condition Score less than or equal to 2
    • Cattle with a Mobility Score of 3 are considered “compromised” and should be handled and transported with special provisions
    • Do NOT transport cattle with a Mobility Score of 4

The National Beef Quality Assurance Transportation (BQAT) program works hard to ensure cattle producers and haulers are well aware of the industry standards and expectations when it comes to cattle transport. This program covers best management practices of several different topics for those transporting cattle, including Principles of Stockmanship, the importance of biosecurity, evaluation of fitness for transport, pre-trip planning and loading, considerations during travel, unloading, and risk and emergency management. Because the cattle industry sees the importance and value of the BQAT program, many major packers require BQAT certification for anyone delivering cattle to their plants.

It is easy to get BQAT certified. The recommendation of the Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance (NEBQA) program is to get certified in-person. If you attend an in-person NEBQA event, you will achieve your BQA and BQAT certification all at one meeting. This will reduce the time commitment it requires if you need both and choose to certify online. More information on in-person events can be found online at Additionally, certified NEBQA trainers across the state of Nebraska can also be found online.  

While we recommend attending an in-person meeting, we understand that sometimes it just isn’t feasible to leave the operation. Therefore, those wishing to become certified can do so online. By going to, you can certify in either the BQA or BQAT programs. Each program requires about 2 – 3 hours of time to complete.

If you have any questions about Nebraska’s BQA program or the BQA program in general, feel free to contact Nebraska BQA at any time (Email: or call: 308.633.0158).

1This article was written deriving information from Schwartzkopf-Genswein K., J. Ahola, L. Edwards-Callaway, D. Hale, and J. Paterson. 2015. Symposia: Transportation issues impacting cattle well-being and considerations for the future. 


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