A Year in Review for Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance, 2022
Another year has come and gone for the Nebraska Beef Quality Assurance program, and while it was a year of successes for the program as a whole, there is still plenty of work to be done. As I sit here writing this thinking back on all the accomplishments we have achieved this year, I am happy to brag about where the program currently is and where it is going in the future.
For those that do not know, since 2009, the National Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Award recognizes outstanding beef and dairy producers, marketers, and educators that best demonstrate animal care and handling principles as part of the day-to-day activities on their respective operations. A common trait among all contest entrants must be a strong desire to continually improve BQA or BQA Transportation (BQAT) on their operations while encouraging others to implement the education programs. National BQA award entrants are typically nominated by state BQA coordinators and are selected by a committee of representatives from universities, state beef councils and affiliated groups.
Five National BQA Awards (Beef Cow-Calf, Feedyard, Dairy, Marketer, and Educator) are funded in part by the Beef Checkoff program with additional financial support provided by Cargill Meat Solutions. Nebraska producers, operators, and educators have been honored with this award four times in the past. In 2022, we added two more.
Marketer of the Year
The beef industry would not be able to market cattle without transporters. Therefore, it was a great honor for National BQA to award W & J Carpenter Inc., based in Arapahoe, Nebraska, as the 2022 BQA Marketer recipient. This is the first year a transporter has received this honor.
W & J Carpenter was founded in 1991 by Ward and Jill Carpenter to fill a need for quality, reliable and responsible transportation of cattle. Today, the Carpenter team transports more than half a million cattle per year. The company prides itself on attention to detail in all aspects, from hiring knowledgeable employees to continued education and training related to proper animal handling and transportation. Ultimately, W & J Carpenter strives to provide safe transportation to cattle and enhance the public's perception of animal handling and quality.
In 2007, Ward Carpenter knew the cattle had outgrown the equipment. "Producers had really been focusing on genetics, and the cattle went from a 1250-pound steer to now having the genetic potential to be a 1500-pound steer,” he said. With cattle now having the potential to outgrow many commercial livestock trailers still on the road today, there is potential to significantly impact animal welfare and product quality which could lead to a loss of financial return due to the carcass trim from bruising. As genetics progressed and cattle were able to have a heavier finish, W & J Carpenter knew they needed to create equipment that adequately supported the cattle they were hauling. “You have to adapt, and using commercial cattle trailers they designed 50 years ago was not working, so we as a company chose to evolve and change for the betterment of the industry,” Colby Carpenter said.
W & J Carpenter led the charge and changed the design of their commercial trailers to ensure animal welfare and product quality.
Today, W & J Carpenter also requires all employees to be Beef Quality Assurance Transportation (BQAT) certified before handling cattle and hosts continuing education events for their employees to better their skills when handling livestock.
Ultimately, W & J Carpenter hopes to enhance the public’s perception of the beef industry and how cattle are transported. “As livestock haulers, we are moving billboards for the beef industry, and that’s something we take pride in,” Colby said. “We want people to know that we are out here taking care of the cattle we are transporting.”
Educator of the Year
Dr. Deb VanOverbeke, assistant dean for academic programs at Oklahoma State University’s Ferguson College of Agriculture, has committed most of her career to the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program and played significant roles in many firsts for BQA.
Originating from a small family feedlot and diversified crop operation near Ashland, NE, Dr. VanOverbeke has always had a passion and dedication to the cattle industry. She has taken an active part in the BQA program for more than 20 years, serving as the first Nebraska BQA state coordinator. In this role, she would travel more than 1000 miles per week, conducting the first “Train the Trainer” sessions in the U.S., educating veterinarians and extension agents on BQA and information from the first BQA producer manual. She also hosted many of the first BQA producer trainings in Nebraska. Therefore, it was a great honor for National BQA to award Dr. Deb VanOverbeke, as the 2022 BQA Educator of the Year recipient.
Over her career, Dr. VanOverbeke has also been a part of the 2005, 2011 and 2016 National Beef Quality Audits, making her one of the primary investigators in these audits. Dr. VanOverbeke’s research was instrumental in advancing BQA guidelines for producers.
BQA & BQAT Certification Report (Numbers as of 10/28/2022)
At the time of writing this article, there are still 65 days left in 2022 for BQA certifications to be issued.
Currently, there are 6,458 people in Nebraska that hold valid BQA certifications.
So far in 2022, Nebraska BQA has hosted more than 25 in-person BQA certification trainings that were strategically located in order to have an in-person training within 60-miles of every producer within the state. To date, Nebraska BQA has issued 1,866 BQA certifications. Of those, 1,291 certifications were issued through in-person BQA trainings conducted by a certified Nebraska BQA trainer, and 575 certifications were issued through the completion of the BQA online modules.
So, what do these numbers mean? Currently, Nebraska BQA has certified more producers in 2022 than what have expired. Projected numbers indicate that Nebraska BQA may end the year with an additional 440 producers BQA certified when compared to the number of producers who had certifications expiring. Growth of the industry adopted quality assurance program is great news that industry stakeholders can share with beef consumers.
Join your fellow producers and help the industry by becoming BQA certified and adopting/implementing BQA practices on your operation today! The BQA program is offered through in-person and online training. To become BQA certified in-person, contact your veterinarian, a Nebraska Beef Extension Educator in your area, or find an in-person BQA training happening near you by visiting bqa.unl.edu. If you know an operation (Beef Cow-Calf, Feedyard, Dairy, Marketer) or educator in the state of Nebraska you’d like to nominate or would like to have your own operation nominated for a National BQA Award, let us know! Contact Nebraska BQA at firstname.lastname@example.org today!
Interviews with the authors of BeefWatch newsletter articles become available throughout the month of publication and are accessible at https://go.unl.edu/podcast.