The Humane Caregiver, Part 3: Auditing Humane Care…

Those of you that followed the Feed Yard Foodie blog throughout the summer will remember that I am not much of a TV watcher (My husband’s new entertainment center is now two months old, and I still have no idea how to turn it on…)  However, even I (the non-TV watcher) have heard of the Nike commercial “Just Do It”.  While I am a “go getter” myself who believes in action rather than excuses, I do believe that Nike forgot a word…The expression should be “Just Do It Right!”

It is human nature to get busy and be tempted to “cut corners”.   This can be devastating when you spend your days caring for prey animals whose well-being and natural makeup revolve around perceiving details. 

When you care for cattle that will be harvested for human food consumption, there is no room for sloppy work, and no room for excuses as to why a task was not performed correctly.

 My motto is “Take the time it takes to do it right”, and I live my life in accordance to those words.  It is imperative to the humane care and well-being of my animals. 

The Beef Quality Assurance Feed Yard Assessment is a tool that I use at my feed yard to ensure that my crew and I “take the time it takes to do it right” as we care for our cattle and raise beef.  I use it as a third party audit because I believe that people are more likely to do the right thing if they know that they will be held accountable for their actions.

The oldest pre-harvest cattle (beef) farmer education program, the Beef Quality Assurance program is the “gold standard” for humane cattle care and beef safety.  The educational and auditing materials were written by veterinarians, cattle farmers like myself, and professional animal welfare consultants.  It is, in my opinion, the animal welfare (humane care) and food safety audit that should be universally used for all those involved in cattle care and beef production.  It is also, in my opinion, the program that should give you confidence in the beef that you purchase at the grocery store to feed to your family.

Let’s take a look at the main components of the BQA Feed Yard Assessment…

*Willful Abuse and Neglect of any animal is UNACCEPTABLE.  It is NEVER acceptable to abuse or neglect an animal.  It is my duty as an animal caregiver to ensure that my animals have an appropriate amount of high quality feed and access to clean water.  It is also my duty as an animal caregiver to ensure that my animals are handled appropriately to minimize pain, injury, or suffering.

Here I am taking the temperature of a calf I thought looked sick when I checked the animals in his home pen...

*Beef Safety as it pertains to antibiotic use in cattle… Shipping cattle to harvest that have not passed the FDA designated withdrawal time following treatment with an antibiotic is ILLEGAL. Every antibiotic must be evaluated and approved by the FDA prior to being used to treat disease in cattle, and as a part of that approval process is given what is known as a “withdrawal time”.  A withdrawal time is the number of days that an animal must wait prior to harvest after a treatment with an antibiotic—this ensures that no antibiotic residue is present in the animal when it is harvested.

I am required to have audit able records and protocols relating to the use of antibiotics at my cattle feed yard.  This both leads to a proper level of care for my animals and ensures that the beef that you buy in the grocery store is free from antibiotic residues.

I am preparing to treat this sick calf with an antibiotic injection in his neck. After treating him, I am required to keep him at the feed yard for a set numbers of days to ensure that he does not leave my farm until all of the antibiotic has passed through his system. I am glad to report that this calf has regained good health and is now doing well.

*General best management practices for cattle care…This includes protocols for employee training, pen surface maintenance (quality of the living circumstances in the home pen), euthanasia of sick or non-ambulatory animals, holistic herd health, biosecurity, medication receiving and storage, feed quality and delivery records, cattle receiving and processing, cattle shipping, Emergency Action Plan, and the validation of a Client/Patient relationship with a qualified consulting veterinarian.

*Cattle handling and structural facility quality…  As a part of the assessing process, the cattle handling crew and physical facility are audited while 100 animals are vaccinated and processed.  This is done to ensure humane handling, and freedom from unnecessary discomfort, pain, injury, fear or distress for the animals.

My loading and unloading facility is also checked routinely to ensure that it is in good repair...

*Proper maintenance of cattle living space as well as maintenance of machinery used to provide care for the cattle.  Are the cattle comfortable in the home pen?  Is there enough room for the animals to display normal bovine behavior?  Are the cattle feed bunks, feed trucks, and water sources clean?

Cattle resting comfortably in the home pen.

Verification of proper humane cattle care and beef safety using the Beef Quality Assurance Feed Yard Assessment requires a yearly third party audit.  If you are interested in more detailed information on the program, you can visit http://www.bqa.org/assessments.aspx to view the full assessment.

Hopefully I have given you an inside look into the audit able components that I use to ensure that I am a humane caregiver to my cattle while also ensuring that my cattle produce safe and healthy beef for me to feed to my family and you to feed to yours.  I use this Beef Quality Assurance humane care assessment because I feel that it is the most comprehensive one available that addresses animal welfare in a practical manner and through the eyes of a calf.  It also contains a tremendous food safety element to ensure that my animals are healthy and produce healthy beef.

It ensures that I “Just Do It Right” every single day…

4 Comments

Filed under Animal Welfare, Foodie Work!, General

4 responses to “The Humane Caregiver, Part 3: Auditing Humane Care…

  1. Sue Fan Ferguson

    Anne,
    I think what you are doing to further the humane treatment of all cattle is great–keep up the good work! SF

  2. This is such an important topic. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Pingback: Women in Ag: Anne Burkholder, Nebraska’s Feedyard Foodie

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