Texas beef producers are serious about improving the quality of their product said Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association President John E. Dudley. As evidence, he cited figures from the first full year of the Texas Beef Quality Producer program. More than 1,600 producers attended one of the 14 Level I training sessions held across the state in 2001. Four hundred of those same producers turned out for Beef Quality Assurance certification training during five Level II sessions held in December. TSCRA bears the major responsibility for conducting the TBQP program, in cooperation with Texas Cooperative Extension and the Texas Beef Council. The Texas Veterinary Medical Association provides valuable input. The programs are provided free of charge to producers and are funded partly by TSCRA and partly by checkoff dollars from TBC. “You do not have to be a TSCRA member to attend,” Dudley emphasized. Lionel Chambers, TSCRA’s director of association activities, is excited about the wide spectrum of producers who have attended the training sessions. Chambers shoulders most of the hands-on responsibility for putting on the programs. “We had big, corporate ranches with 12,000 to 13,000 cows; we had some of the larger family-owned ranches with 2,000 to 3,000 cows; and we had lots of producers with 100 to 200 cows. “But what was exciting to me was the large number of smaller operators with 25 to 50 cows. The other exciting thing was the ages represented. There were a lot of young couples in their 30s and a lot of wrinkled old-timers. “All of them were there to learn how to produce a better, safer beef product!” Level I of the Texas Beef Quality Producer program involves an intensive six hours of training related to beef quality, beef safety and the relationships between beef production and the environment. Beef quality topics include all points in the production chain that can influence the health and performance of cattle or the eating quality of beef. These include breeding and genetic selection, utilization of animal health products and practices, cattle handling, nutrition and culling management. Beef safety topics include how to avoid pathogens, foreign materials and antibiotic/chemical residues and how to manage injection sites. Environmental issues are covered because caring for natural resources ensures that cattle production is ecologically and socially sustainable. Topics include forage management, soil fertility, use of pesticides, and disposal of dead animals. Level II provides Texas cow-calf producers and stocker operators with the opportunity to become certified in Beef Quality Assurance. Previous Level I training is required. Level II involves developing a treatment protocol book, a veterinary drug order (VDO) and a quality management plan. Participants must work in advance with their personal veterinarians to develop the treatment protocol and VDO, and the veterinarians must sign statements verifying that they worked with the trainees to create the records. TBQP instructors review the documents and issue a certificate stating that the producer has been trained in Beef Quality Assurance. “Producers who make a commitment to Beef Quality Assurance are improving the quality and safety of beef for the consumer and improving their own market access,” said TSCRA President Dudley. “Other segments of the industry, from feedyards to foodservice, have already adopted similar management principles. These companies are looking to do business with cow-calf producers and stocker operators that utilize the same management philosophy.” Dudley encouraged producers to take advantage of an upcoming Texas Beef Quality Producer program. Level II sessions have been scheduled for March 17 in Fort Worth and April 18 in Yoakum. Level I sessions will be held on April 15 in Midland, April 17 in Brady, April 19 in Yoakum, May 14 in Sulphur Springs, May 15 in Weatherford and June 5 in Canadian. For more information, contact Lionel Chambers at 1 (800) 242-7820. Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association is a 125-year-old trade organization whose 13,200 members manage approximately 2.7 million cattle on 58.9 million acres of range and pasture land, primarily in Texas and Oklahoma.