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New program addresses cattle care needs identified in survey

Guy Ellis for Progressive Cattleman Published on 24 May 2019

Beef producers that focus on creating a culture of continuous improvement for their business likely know their strengths and weaknesses and are prepared to adapt to challenges that face the cattle industry.

Whether you are a cow-calf rancher, stocker, feeder or beef veterinarian, you play an important role – and responsibility – in ensuring animals receive the very best care. It’s good for the profitability and success of the operation, and it’s simply the right thing to do for the animals.

Assessing the needs of the industry

The Cattle Care and Well-being Survey Report – conducted by Merck Animal Health during the summer of 2018 – provides a pulse on what resources segments of the production chain believe are needed to achieve cattle care and well-being goals. A total of 674 responded to the survey, with 47 percent cow-calf producers, 19 percent veterinarians, 14 percent feedyard operators, 8 percent stocker producers and the remaining represented by small segments such as nutritionists. This cross-section represents the industry well.

The results are insightful, as participants across all segments viewed veterinarians and nutritionists as being the most influential in cattle care guidelines in the industry (see Figure 1).

Biggest influencers for beef cattle care guidelines

This is a strong reminder of the importance of developing a relationship with your veterinarians and why veterinarians need to listen carefully to the needs of beef producers.

When asked to rank a list of training topics that best meet their operation’s needs regarding animal welfare, all segments ranked animal handling and stockmanship as their top need (see Figure 2), followed by identifying and treating sick animals.

Most important animal welfare topic where training is needed

All segments ranked animal identification and verification third except for veterinarians, who ranked vaccination protocols third.

Priorities were also closely aligned among production segments when respondents were asked to rank the most important resource needed to improve their animal care program. All segments ranked written protocols and procedures as their top need (see Figure 3), except for feedyards that ranked written employee animal care commitments as their top need, which was the second-ranked need by other segments.

Most important resources in helping improve your animal care program

Seventy-one percent of respondents indicated they had completed Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) in the past, which is a critical program for the long-term success of the beef industry.

The survey identifies a need to provide the industry with additional training tools and information. It can be challenging for producers to ensure everyone on the operation finds time to complete training, explaining why respondents ranked e-learning as their preferred training method.

The fact that survey participants ranked e-learning as their preferred training method demonstrates how agile beef caretakers have become. They have a desire for knowledge and access to technology to quickly obtain information.

New training materials address producers’ needs

To address beef producers’ information and training needs, Merck Animal Health has launched Cattle Care365. The program includes a series of training modules featuring industry experts, interactive quizzes, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and certificates of completion to document training. These free resources are available online in English and Spanish (Cattle Care365).

The first educational module is led by Tom Portillo, DVM, manager of health and well-being for Friona Industries, and focuses on the top need identified by the survey – how cattle should be properly handled and processed. He outlines the proper protocol for the processing barn, which is the most dangerous spot for workers sorting cattle and handling veterinary-type procedures.

Portillo explains the importance of taking time to teach crew members how each task impacts beef quality assurance and the overall well-being of animals. He also details the measures that should be in place to keep workers safe.

Video training and SOPs work in tandem to make sure everyone has the information they need to do their tasks. When everyone working with cattle has a better understanding of why and how tasks are completed, they will be more confident, which contributes to the success of the business.

When drafting SOPs, work with your veterinarian, as they know your operation and can bring their knowledge about what works on other beef cattle operations. Make sure each step of a task is clearly detailed, which saves time training new employees or when someone steps into another team member’s role.

It’s also important to use positive language when drafting SOPs. When possible, avoid using words like “can’t” and “don’t” when explaining tasks, as these words can trigger a negative reaction. It also sets the stage for a more positive conversation when you review SOPs with employees. Reviewing provides an opportunity to make sure everyone is comfortable with their assignments and helps employees understand expectations.

Doing the right thing

When your operation’s processes are set in place and everyone knows what to expect, you have amplified the culture that stimulates continuous improvement. Doing what is best for the animals helps carry out the BQA promise that consumers receive a high-quality, sustainably produced product. When put into action, utilizing these principles help the industry move further down the road to greater demand opportunities.  end mark

References omitted but are available upon request. Click here to email an editor.

Guy Ellis
  • Guy Ellis

  • Bovine Technical Services Veterinarian
  • Merck Animal Health
  • Email Guy Ellis