Quality Assurance Assessments in Feedyards

Beef Cattle Institute Technical Bulletin
bci-logo
          Title: Quality Assurance Assessments in Feedyards

          Authors: T.R. Barnhardt, D.U. Thomson, S.P. Terrell, D.J. Rezac, D. Frese, S.J. Bartle, C.D. Reinhardt

          Tech. Bul. No:  2014-1             Full Report:  Bovine Practitioner 48:81

 

Objectives:  To assess the extent of implementation of the BQA standards within the feedyard segment of the Kansas beef industry, identify production practices that exceed BQA standards and any potential areas needing improvement.

Study Description:  An assessment tool, the Beef Quality Assurance feedyard assessment, was used to objectively evaluate key areas of beef cattle production such as animal handling, antibiotic residue avoidance, cattle comfort, and food safety.

Results: Best Management Practices (BMP) documentation for all management protocols were kept by 19 of the 56 feedyards assessed.  Assessment of cattle handling practices showed that 78.6% of feedyards performed within the requirements of an acceptable rating, with an electric prod being used on only 4.0% of the cattle during processing.  Eighty-three percend of all feedyards were considered acceptable with regards to stocking rate, feed bunks, water tanks, and mud scores.

The Bottom Line: Implementation of this assessment will help to improve management of cattle and food safety in cattle feeding operations.

Introduction

Increased pressure from consumers and retailers have prompted the development and utilization of standards and audits in many food production systems.  The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program was established by the National Catttlemen’s Beef Association in 1987.  The program is aimed at providing producers with a set of guidelines for production, developed by experts in the industry.  The BQA goals are to assure beef product quality and safety as well as proper animal care.

While the beef cattle industry has put significant effort toward defining standards of care and best management practices, little has been done to evaluate the implementation of these standards through subsequent use of assessment or auditing tools.  The objectives of this study were to 1) assess the extent of implementation of the BQA standards within the feedyard segement of the Kansas beef industry, and 2) identify production practices that exceed BQA standards and any potential areas needing improvement.

Materials and Methods

Fifty-six commercial cattle feedyards in Kansas volunteered to participate in the study.  One-day assessments were scheduled with the management of the feedyard, and all assessments were conducted by a veterinarian or Kansas State University personnel trained in BQA and to conduct the assessment.

Capacity groups of “small” and “large” feedyards were established.  Feedyards with a one-time capacity of 20,000 animals or greater were placed in the large category, while feedyards with a capacity of less than 20,000 animals were placed in the small category.

Because a major concern of consumers is animal abuse and neglect, a primary observation made throughout the assessment was to insure that no animals were being abused or neglected.  The assessor did this by observing cattle in the home pens, hospital pens, various processing facilities, alleyways, and shipping/receiving areas.

At each feedyard, processing and animal handling practices were observed for 100 head of cattle undergoing routing processing.  The assessor scored and recorded BQA cattle handling criteria for each animal, which included electric prod use, falling, tripping, vocalization, jumping or running upon exiting the chute, and improper restraint.  Standards have been established by the BQA assessment within each category which define the maximum allowable proportion of animals observed during handling.  If the proportion of qualifying animals within a category exceeds the standard, the feedyard is not considered acceptable in that area of assessment.  Standards are as follows:  use of electric prod <10%; falling <2%; tripping <10%; vocalizing <5%; jumping or running while exiting the chute <25%; improper restraint during processing = 0%.  Any feedyards with an excess of the maximum allowable percentages during cattle handling were categorized as not acceptable performance for this portion of the assessment.

Ten pens in various locations around the feedyard were selected by the assessor at each feedyard for scoring of pen conditions.  The assessor observed and recorded pen mud scores, animal stocking density, water tank maintenance, and feed bunk maintenance for each selected pen.  Pen floor evaluation was determined by a mud score that was defined as cattle having a dry area in which to lie down and absence of mud more than four inches above the fetlock.  Animal stocking density was defined as cattle having sufficient room to lie down, stand up, and move around without being impeded by other animals.  Clean water tanks were identified as tanks having no manure or buildup of algae growth (tanks that only had sediment were considered clean).  Clean feed bunks were recorded as bunks with fresh feed available to cattle and no moldy, sour, or packed feed remaining in the bunk.  The maximum allowable percentage of unacceptable conditions for each item were established as 30% for unacceptable mud scores, pen stocking density, water tank maintenance, and feed bunk maintenance.  If the observed pens scored over 30% in any category, they were considered to be at an unsatisfactory level for the entire portion of the pen observation assessment.

Best Management Practices (BMP) are outlined in the feedyard assessment and must exist in written, up-to-date documentation, and employees must be trained to perform specific tasks.  The presence of documentation for 18 BMP categories was evaluated on the day of the assessment.  The categories included in the assessment outlined specific management for residue avoidance and withdrawal compliance, employee training, pen maintenance, euthanasia, handling of non-ambulatory cattle, animal health, biosecurity, disposal of carcasses, medication storage and use, broken needles, medicated feeds, feed quality, cattle processing, cattle shipping, emergency action plan, feed delivery, feeding of non-ruminant protein supplements, and a veterinary-client-patient relationship.  If documentation for a specific BMP was not available or updated to include current protocols followed at the yard, the deficiency was recorded and the manager was encouraged to implement standards set forth by the assessment.  If any single BMP was missing or not updated, the feedyard scored unsatisfactory in the BMP portion of the assessment.

Results were recorded by the assessor and then pertinent observations were discussed with the feedyard management immediately following the assessment.  Each manager received a copy of the assessment, and additional materials intended to aid in correcting the specific deficits that were noted during the assessment.  Data was compiled and recorded in an electronic database using Microsoft Excel.

Results and Discussion

Thirty-eight of the 56 feedyards assessed fell into the “large” group.  There were 18 “small” feedyards.  The range of capacities in the “small” group was 2,500-17,500 animals, while the range in the “large” group was 20,000-135,000 animals.

No animal abuse or neglect was observed at any time during the assessment process at an participating feedyard.

Overall outcomes measured for cattle handling at participating feedyards scored within the maximum acceptable standards in the assessment (Table 1).  The only measurement that did not score below the maximum acceptable percent was improperly caught and restrained animals (if not corrected prior to conducting processing procedures), which is considered a zero-tolerance observation.  Thirteen calves at seven different feedyards were improperly caught and restrained, and not adjusted prior to processing.  When all six measurements of cattle handling are combined (electric prod use, falling, tripping, vocalizing, jumping and improper restraint), 79% of the feedyards were considered satisfactory.

Feedyards, on average within size category, scored satisfactory in each individual category of pen conditions according to the standard established by the assessment (Table 2).  Water tank scores were the lowest value recorded during pen observations, but were still above the minimum standard of 70% required to be satisfactory.  When all four measurements of pen conditions were combined (feed bunks, water tanks, animal stocking density, and mud scores), 83% of the feedyards were considered completely satisfactory.

Nineteen of 56 (33.9%) of the participating feedyards were able to produce documented BMPs for all 18 requested categories.  One reason stated (in both groups) for this inadequacy was the need for personnel devotion to the paper work involved with the assessment, especially the BMP portion.  Template BMPS are provided in the assessment and were subsequently provided to all managers.

Eleven (19.6%) of the feedyards passed the assessment with acceptable observations in all subcategories of documentations of BMPs, cattle handling, and pen observations (Figure 1).  Ten of these feedyards fall into the “large” capacity group, with one representing the “small” capacity group.

The feedyards participating in this study account for a one-time capacity of 1,985,500 cattle, or 83.8% of the total cattle feeding capacity in Kansas.  The results show that this assessment allows for documentation of those normal practices of care which exceed and objective standard, and those which may warrant improvement within operations.  Secondly, results show the successful implementation of this particular assessment in the commercial cattle feeding industry.  By implementing the assessment, BQA practices can be benchmarked.  The goal of this study was to assess the extent of implementation of the BQA standards within the feedyard segment of the Kansas beef industry, and to identify normal production practices that exceed BQA standards, and any potential areas of non-compliance and areas needing improvement.  With the results of this work, the BQA objectives can be tailored to address the areas needing improvement, and to help implement that improvement.

Table 1.  Cattle handling observations recorded for each feedyard enrolled in the assessment as an average percentage by capacity group and then across all yards. At each yard, 100 head of cattle were observed during processing and the total observed in each category was divided by 100 and then reported as an average for the capacity group.

Category Small Feedyards2 Large Feedyards3 Across all yards4 Maximum Acceptable 1
Driving aides 6.7 2.7 4.0 10.0
Falling 0.1 0.3 0.2 2.0
Tripping 1.7 1.9 1.8 10.0
Vocalizing 1.1 0.8 0.9 5.0
Jumping 5.8 5.9 5.9 25.0
Miscatch 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.0

1Maximum acceptable percentage of observations made in each category is listed in this column. If a feedyard did not surpass these percentages, it was considered satisfactory for this portion of the assessment. These percentages are taken from the assessment.

2Small feedyards are those with less than 20,000 animal capacity (n=18).

3Large feedyards are those with 20,000 or greater animal capacity (n=38).

4All feedyards combined for reporting purposes (n=56).

Table 2. Pen observations were recorded for each feedyard enrolled in the assessment as an average percentage in each capacity group and then combined for across all yards. At each yard, 10 random pens were selected for assessment. If the observations for stocking rate, mud score, water tanks and feed bunks were considered acceptable, the total number of unacceptable observations was divided by 10 and then reported as an average for each group. Reported in this table is the average of the scores for each feedyard within each category: small feedyards, large feedyards and combined across all yards.

Category Small Feedyards2 Large Feedyards3 Across all yards4 Maximum Acceptable1
Stocking rate 0.1 0.0 0.0 3.0
Mud score 0.2 0.2 0.2 3.0
Water tank 1.8 1.6 1.7 3.0
Feed bunk 0.1 0.0 0.0 3.0

1Maximum acceptable percentage of observations made in each category is listed in this column. If a feedyard did not surpass these percentages, it was considered satisfactory for this portion of the assessment. These percentages are taken from the assessment.

2Small feedyards are those with less than 20,000 animal capacity (n=18).

3Large feedyards are those with 20,000 or greater animal capacity (n=38).

4All feedyards combined for reporting purposes (n=56).

Figure 1.  Feedyards that scored satisfactory in the categories of cattle handling, pen management and Best Management Practices (BMPs) are reported in this figure. If a feedyard was considered satisfactory in a portion of the assessment it is recorded in that category. For the feedyards that were able to score satisfactory in all 3 categories of the assessment, they were considered for the overall category of satisfactory ratings. The feedyards are broken out into capacity groups for reporting purposes.

chart