Beef may be “what's for dinner,” but that's because producers growing cattle are putting a good product on the market for consumers to enjoy.

Mississippi's beef cattle had a production value of about $190 million in 2003, and most of that is from small operations. To support the industry in the state, the Mississippi State University Extension Service created an educational certification program for beef cattle producers and veterinarians.

Terry Engelken, MSU College of Veterinary Medicine beef production medicine specialist, heads the Beef Quality Assurance Certification Program. “This program emphasizes guidelines that will help producers avoid quality defects in their product,” Engelken said.

The program is a cooperative effort between MSU's Extension Service, College of Veterinary Medicine and Department of Animal and Dairy Science; Mississippi Cattlemen's Association; Mississippi Farm Bureau; and the Mississippi Veterinary Medical Association.

Quality defects reduce the selling price of cattle, lowering the profits a producer receives for each head of cattle. The quality assurance program is intended to train producers in ways to improve their production processes on the farm to avoid these discounts.

“Poor animal handling and poorly designed facilities will lead to an increase in lame cattle and bruising, and lower prices,” Engelken said.

The program encourages producers to treat physical defects promptly, and castrate and dehorn calves before market to avoid a discount at sale. Program participants are taught the importance of record-keeping, following label recommendations and dosages on medications and vaccinations, and providing an economical nutrition program.

To complete the Beef Quality Assurance Certification Program, producers must attend a training session, pass an open-book test and agree to a series of best management practices designed to improve the quality of their cattle. Those who complete the training are given a numbered certificate attesting to their level of training and commitment to improved beef cattle production.


Bonnie Coblentz writes for Mississippi State University Ag Communications.