Mickel leads day-long beef quality assurance tour
By TAMARA SCULLY
FLEMINGTON — Bob Mickel, Hunterdon County livestock agent and New Jersey Beef Council representative, led approximately two dozen participants on a day-long bus tour, which incorporated Beef Quality Assurance re-certification.
Educational demonstrations, both hands-on and by video, were combined with farmer-led tours of two BQA-certified production beef facilities in southeastern Pennsylvania.
The New Jersey Beef Industry Council BQA Tour was held on April 21, with approximately two dozen participants.
Participants watched several educational videos about best BQA practices and procedures, and participated in live chute side demonstrations.
Producers were able to keep their BQA certification up-to-date, while the tours provided an opportunity to see two very different large-scale livestock operations, talk directly to the farmers, and learn how best management practices impact every aspect of the operations.
According to Mickel, there are approximately 175 BQA-certified producers in New Jersey.
Many are small operations, with a handful of cattle. The larger beef cow operations in the state tend to have about 100 head.
A mix of farmers — from lifelong production-scale farmers to new, small farmers with a few head — were represented on the trip.
Both beef producers as well as dairies are eligible for BQA certification.
The BQA program was designed to “improve the quality of the muscle and the meat products that come out of the meat and dairy industry,” Mickel said.
The program has become standardized in the past three years, he said, with “the same protocols and procedures” being used nationwide.
One major emphasis is on minimizing injection-site tissue damage through training and education.
Animal welfare, public perception of meat and dairy production and practices, food safety and environmental stewardship practices are also emphasized.
The tour bus, equipped with video screens, was put to good use.
Coming and going, tour participants watched these educational videos as a part of the re-certification requirements.
BQA training videos educated producers on the best management practices for a variety of situations.
Educational videos on moving cattle emphasized humane handling practices, and featured renowned livestock behavioral expert Temple Grandin, who shared her expertise on keeping the animals calm and safe during handling.
Other video topics included waste management, veterinary care, record keeping, preventing animal injury, proper inoculation techniques, sterilization of syringes, handling of injured or downed cattle, and euthanasia.
The video series included profiles of award-winning BQA-certified farms across the United States.
The operations — from large cow/calf operations on 150,000 acres of land to feedlot operations — were recognized for animal welfare and conservation stewardship practices. Masonic Village Farms, a tour destination, was featured.
Nichole Hockenbury and Dr. David Wolfgang, both from the Pennsylvania Beef Council, were on hand to provide chute side training and education to participants.
Held at the Masonic Village Farm’s calving facility in Elizabethtown, Pa., a demonstration on proper injection technique was given, along with a hands-on component, questions and answer session and necropsy demonstration.
Use “the smallest gauge and the smallest needle that will be effective for what you are doing,” Wolfgang said.
The size of the animal, the properties of the injectable materials, and the choice of sub-cuticle or intramuscular use will help to determine the appropriate needle.
The objective is to deliver the injection with as little pain to the animal and trauma to the injection site as possible, while maintaining effectiveness.
Hockenbury demonstrated the proper injection site location and vertical injection technique, which is preferred over a side-to-side injection, on one of the farm’s cows.
Participants were then invited to locate the injection site: On the neck area of the cow, in front of the shoulder, below the nuchal ligament, and above the cervical vertebrae.
This area is known as the “injection triangle,” and using it avoids damaging valuable hind end meat, while providing a safe, effective and humane area for vaccination.
Using proper injection site techniques can prevent broken needles, accidental needle sticks and tissue damage.
Many injections can cause tissue irritation, Dr. Wolfgang said. IM injections cause more trauma than SQ, and more discomfort to the animal. He emphasized that injection site injury causes permanent scarring and results in discarded meat.
Participants were shown samples of carcass with tissue damage due to injections.
Large areas of scarring and damage which are not useable as meat and must be removed from the food supply, reducing carcass value and causing waste, were evident.
Dr. Wolfgang cautioned that blemished meat is targeted for surveillance, and will be checked for medication residues.
This is primarily an issue in cull dairy cows, he said.
Using medications off-label, or extra-label by giving more medication than the dosing instructions indicate, is illegal without a prescription.
For example, giving 30 cc of penicillin per 100 pounds is standard for a sick animal, but is in excess of the labeled 10 cc per 100 pounds of dosage.
This is an industry concern, he said.
The timetable for residue remaining in the tissue is increased with higher dosages, and many producers do not realize this, resulting in residues being found in the meat.
Along with the continuing education and training, the group enjoyed a light lunch at the Masonic Village Visitor’s Center.
They were also treated to a self-guided tour of the formal gardens, the historic buildings and the museum collections, which included antique farm implements, Masonic artifacts and ledgers and photos from the history of the Village, established a century ago.
Masonic Village farmers, Frank Stoltzfus and Stephen McMahon, led the farm tour. The bus departed for Nissley Brothers Feedlots before returning to New Jersey.