About the BQA program How to become BQA certified

Beef Quality Assurance

Beef Quality Assurance is a pre-harvest supply chain management concept that ensures domestic and international beef consumers enjoy ready access to a safe, wholesome and healthy beef supply.

Beef Quality Assurance programs provide systematic information to U.S. beef producers and beef consumers of how common sense husbandry techniques can be coupled with accepted scientific knowledge to raise cattle under optimum management and environmental conditions. BQA guidelines are designed to make certain all beef consumers can take pride in what they purchase – and can trust and have confidence in the entire beef industry.

BQA program participants recognize that maintaining consumer confidence requires a commitment to quality beef production at every level - not just at the feedlot or packing plant, but within every segment of the cattle industry. Nearly every state in the U.S. has an active BQA program. Funding for these efforts ranges from state-derived Beef Checkoff money to national Beef Checkoff support through the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. State-based activities are often enhanced through locally derived private and public grants.

State BQA programs are voluntary, locally led and administered through organizations such as state beef councils, Land Grant Universities and state cattle associations. BQA is not a “government” program. BQA links all beef producers with livestock production specialists, veterinarians, nutritionists, marketers and food purveyors interested in maintaining and improving the quality of cattle and the beef they produce.

While state BQA programs chart their own direction, program assistance and national leadership is provided by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. NCBA’s producer education committee continually updates a set of recommended national BQA guidelines from which states can base their BQA programs. BQA principles are based on good management practices (GMP) that are standard operation procedures (SOP) designed to meet the United States food production system's needs. There are two levels of BQA programming: 1) education and training; 2) and verification and documentation of animal husbandry practices.

National Cattlemen's Beef Association's
Beef Quality Assurance ~ National Guidelines ~


  • Maintain records of any pesticide/herbicide use on pasture or crops that could potentially lead to violative residues in grazing cattle or feedlot cattle.
  • Adequate quality control program(s) are in place for incoming feedstuffs. Program(s) should be designed to eliminate contamination from molds, mycotoxins or chemicals of incoming feed ingredients. Supplier assurance of feed ingredient quality is recommended.
  • Suspect feedstuffs should be analyzed prior to use.
  • Ruminant-derived protein sources cannot be fed per FDA regulations.
  • Feeding by-products ingredients should be supported with sound science.

Feed Additives and Medications:

  • Only FDA approved medicated feed additives will be used in rations.
  • Medicated feed additives will be used in accordance with the FDA Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) regulation.
  • Follow 'Judicious Antibiotic Use Guidelines'.
  • Extra-label use of feed additives is illegal and strictly prohibited.
  • To avoid violative residues --- withdrawal times must be strictly adhered to.
  • Where applicable, complete records must be kept when formulating or feeding medicated feed rations.
  • Records are to be kept a minimum of two years.
  • Operator will assure that all additives are withdrawn at the proper time to avoid violative residues.

Processing/Treatment and Records

  • Following all FDA/USDA/EPA guidelines for product(s) utilized.
  • All products are to be used per label directions.
  • Extra-label drug use shall be kept to a minimum, and uses only when prescribed by a veterinarian working under a Valid Veterinary Client Patient Relationship (VCPR).
  • Strict adherence to extended withdrawal periods (as determined by the veterinarian within the context of a valid VCPR) shall be employed.
  • Treatment records will be maintained with the following recorded:
    1. Individual animal or group identification
    2. Date treated
    3. Product administrated and manufacture's lot/serial number
    4. Dosage used
    5. Route and location of administration
    6. Earliest date animal will have cleared withdrawal period.
  • When cattle are processed as a group, all cattle within the group shall be identified as such, and the following information recorded:
    1. Group or lot identification
    2. Date treated
    3. Product administered and manufacturer's lot/serial number.
    4. Dosage used.
    5. Route and location of administration.
    6. Earliest date animal will have cleared withdrawal period.
  • All cattle (fed and non-fed) shipped to slaughter will be checked by appropriate personnel to assure that animals that have been treated meet or exceed label or prescription withdrawal times for all animal health products administrated.
  • All processing and treatment records should be transferred with the cattle to next production level. Prospective buyers must be informed of any cattle that have not met withdrawal times.

Injectable Animal Health Products:

  • Products labeled for subcutaneous (SQ) administration should be administered SQ in the neck region (ahead of the shoulders).
  • All products labeled for intra-muscular (IM) use shall be given in the neck region only (no exceptions, regardless of age).
  • All products cause tissue damage when injected IM. Therefore all IM use should be avoided if possible.
  • Products cleared for SQ, IV or oral administration are recommended.
  • Products with low dosage rates are recommended and proper spacing should be followed.
  • No more than 10 cc of product is administered per IM injection site.

Care and Husbandry Practices:

  • Follow the ‘Quality Assurance Herd Health Plan’ that conforms to good veterinary and husbandry practices.
  • All cattle will be handled / transported in such a fashion to minimize stress, injury and/or bruising.
  • Facilities (fences, corrals, load-outs, etc.) should be inspected regularly to ensure proper care and ease of handling.
  • Strive to keep feed and water handling equipment clean.
  • Provide appropriate nutritional and feedstuffs management.
  • Strive to maintain an environment appropriate to the production setting.
  • Bio-security should be evaluated.
  • Records should be kept for a minimum of 2years (3 for Restricted Use Pesticides)

"A Producers Guide for Judicious Use of Antimicrobials in Cattle"

    1. Prevent Problems: Emphasize appropriate husbandry and hygiene, routine health examinations, and vaccinations.
    2. Select and Use Antibiotics Carefully: Consult with your veterinarian on the selection and use of antibiotics. Have a valid reason to use an antibiotic. Therapeutic alternatives should be considered prior to using antimicrobial therapy.
    3. Avoid Using Antibiotics Important In Human Medicine As First Line Therapy: Avoid using as the first antibiotic those medications that are important to treating strategic human or animal infections.
    4. Use the Laboratory to Help You Select Antibiotics: Cultures and susceptibility test results should be used to aid in the selection of antimicrobials, whenever possible.
    5. Avoid Using Broad Spectrum: Use narrow spectrum antimicrobials, whenever possible. Combination antibiotic therapy is discouraged.
    6. Avoid Inappropriate Antibiotic Use: Confine therapeutic antimicrobial use to proven clinical indications, avoiding inappropriate uses such as for viral infections without bacterial complication.
    7. Treatment Programs Should Reflect Best Use Principles: Regimens for therapeutic antimicrobial use should be optimized using current pharmacological information and principles.
    8. Treat the Fewest Number of Animals Possible: Limit antibiotic use to sick or at risk animals.
    9. Treat for the Recommended Time Period: To minimize the potential for bacteria to become resistant to antimicrobials.
    10. Avoid Environmental Contamination with Antibiotics: Steps should be taken to minimize antimicrobials reaching the environment through spillage, contaminated ground run off or aerosolization.
    11. Keep Records of Antibiotic Use: Accurate records of treatment and outcome should be used to evaluate therapeutic regimens and always follow proper withdrawal times.
    12. Follow Label Directions: Follow label instructions and never use antibiotics other than as labeled without a valid veterinary prescription
    13. Extralabel Antibiotic Use Must follow FDA Regulations: Prescriptions, including extra label use of medications must meet the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act (AMDUCA) amendments to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and its regulations. This includes having a valid Veterinary-Client-Relationship.
    14. Subtherapeutic Antibiotic Use Is Discouraged: Antibiotic use should be limited to prevent or control disease and should not be used if the principle intent is to improve performance.

‘Quality Assurance Herd Health Plan’ Minimum Guidelines

For all cattle and production segments

  • Provide appropriate nutritional feedstuffs.
  • Handle cattle to minimize stress and bruising.
  • All injections should be administered in front of the shoulder.
  • Control external and internal parasites.
  • Individually identify any animals treated to ensure proper withdrawal time.
  • Make records available to the next production sector.
  • Always read and follow label directions.
  • Keep records of all products administered including: product used, serial number, amount administered, route of administration and withdrawal time.

Heifers and purchased breeding stock entering the herd

  • Vaccinate for viral and clostridial diseases in front of the shoulder just under the skin (Subcutaneous, Sub-Q).

Cow Herd

  • Annually booster vaccinations in front of the shoulder just under the skin (Subcutaneous, Sub-Q).
  • Consult with your veterinarian for additional health procedures appropriate to your area.

At Pre-weaning, Weaning and/or Back-Grounding

  • Vaccinate for viral and clostridial diseases in front of the shoulder just under the skin (Subcutaneous , Sub-Q).
  • If implanting, administer implants properly in a sanitary manner
  • Perform all surgeries such as dehorning and castration in a humane manner.
  • Consult with your veterinarian for additional health procedures appropriate to your area.
  • Keep records of all products administered including: product used, serial number, amount administered, route of administration and withdrawal time.
  • Wean cattle (45 days recommended) to ensure cattle health and producer return on health management investment.

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