Producers were honored with the checkoff's annual national Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) and Dairy Beef Quality Assurance (DBQA) awards, created to recognize outstanding beef and dairy producers from across the country who incorporate BQA principles as part of the day-to-day activities on their operations. In addition, an individual also was recognized with the BQA Marketer Award, while another individual received the BQA Educator Award.
2014 winners were: Mike and Anne Wirtz, TZ Cattle Company of Brenham, TX (beef); Keith York, Merry-Water Farms of Lake Geneva, WI (dairy); Dell King, King Livestock Company, Inc., of Hopkinsville, KY (Marketer of the Year); and Dr. Clyde Lane, University of Tennessee (Educator of the Year).
TZ Cattle Company, owned by Mike and Anne Wirtz, is an integrated cow-calf operation. The base herd is purebred Santa Gertrudis. The commercial herd is Santa Gertrudis x Hereford and Santa Gertrudis x Angus.
Calves are pre-conditioned using a modified Vac-45 program, raised on grass to 800 pounds, then sent to the feedlot. Calves are sold on the grid or contracted on a natural program. All are age, process, and source verified. Some have gone to Japan or South Korea. Sometimes, weather forces us to sell early in pre-conditioned stocker sales.
High-quality beef begins with breeding and genetics. Angus and Hereford are utilized in a terminal cross to produce high quality carcasses.
Santa Gertrudis is necessary in our climate and its hybrid vigor adds to growth and carcass value. The BOA program, when done properly, enhances the carcass value due to low sickness and no blemishes in the beef itself. Safe handling techniques reduce stress, help gain, and reduce bruising. This helps to produce a quality product to ensure consumer demand due to an excellent dining experience.
"The National Beef Quality Assurance program began in 1986 to counter drug residue and carcass blemishes. As a practicing large animal veterinarian and producer, I felt we must be at the forefront. Since we did a lot of herd work for our clients, we had the opportunity to teach our veterinary associates (4), lay staff (12), and our clients about BOA and why they should use BOA recommended practices," Mike says.
Mike adds, "We started by training staff on our own animals about handling, vaccinations, product labels, and vaccine handling. At the clinic and the ranch, we have good facilities. We follow label directions on medications and protect vaccines from the elements. Any transportation is in clean, uncrowded trailers. All hot-shots have been retired. What is unique? Through my practice, I have trained, or at least exposed, many veterinarians, clients, and fellow ranchers to the benefits of BOA."
Merry-Water farms is a family farm that began in 1950 with Keith's parents Walter and Mary York. He is the 3rd generation on the farm. It began as a 40-cow dairy with a variety of other livestock and other animals typical for a farm in the 1950s. Today, the dairy farm has 1,350 cows with 1,250 replacement heifers and 200 young steers.
They farm 650 acres of land and purchase the rest of their feed from neighboring farmers. Keith raises all replacement heifers until they are bred. After they are determined pregnant, two neighbors custom raise until 45 days before they calve. The dairy sells bull calves at different ages depending on capacity of the facilities (they have room for 150-250 head depending on size).
"The well-being of our animals is one of the top priorities for our farm," Keith says. "If we take care of our animals they will take care of us. This is a common saying that is stated by many farms but it is a basic truth that all farmers know to be the golden rule of farming. Our animals need to be comfortable and stress free to be as productive as possible."
All employees are trained in moving cattle without causing stress. This is done by training on the farm or at presentations or classes that go over best handling techniques. Merry-Water Farms has made a huge investment in facilities with the main purpose of making the cows more comfortable and productive.
When it comes to sustainability of his operation, Keith says, "Sustainable is defined in many ways but I view it as a 3-legged stool with the three legs being care for the environment, economically sustainable and socially responsible. I know that in order for a livestock farm to continue the key is the animal well-being of its livestock. The care of our animals results in the animals being productive which results in efficiency in production which results in economic advantage. Ethically we should and the consumer wants us to take the best care of the animals that we can."
King Livestock Company is family-owned and operated and was founded by Dell in 1967 and is in its 45th year of operation. His wife Nancy travels and works with him in their daily operation. Chuck King, his son, is general manager of the order buying company and the transportation company.
While facing many of these producers in the southeast, weekly, by either viewing or loading their cattle Dell has been able to encourage many of them to become BOA-certified therefore making more value-added cattle available to the cattle industry.
Dell helped develop the BOA Master Cattle Transporter Guide by working in the development group, meeting with other cattle trucking companies, appearing in transportation videos instructing proper loading techniques and also he developed a loading card for the truck drivers to use in distributing cattle properly onto the cattle trailers.
One nominator says of Dell: "He does what he says and says what he does. He truly practices what he preaches and is 'Committed To Excellence' as stated in his company's name and logo. The beef cattle industry should be proud of an individual that has served this industry so well for so many years. As this industry has changed so much in the last 20 years, Dell King has not. He is the only cattle buyer that consistently comes and appraises most of the load-lot cattle we have to sell, and is the only buyer that is there on load out day to sort the cattle and load the trucks. He handles the cattle with the patience and care, and he does the same with people. This is what makes Dell who he is."
Dr. Clyde Lane has served as the Tennessee BQA Coordinator since 1999. He was responsible for implementing the Tennessee BOA Program, which has trained 18,000 individuals since the year 2000. He has worked on a regional basis to develop regional BQA training materials.
He developed vaccine and antibiotic bags used to transport vaccines and antibiotics from point of purchase to the farm. These bags protect vaccines and provided BOA information to individuals that may or may not have known about with BOA.
Dr. Lane conducted research that showed refrigerators in retail outlets are doing a poor job of maintaining the proper temperature for vaccine storage. He is working with vaccine makers to devise a program to address this problem.
Dr. Lane has been very active on the national level. He served on the committee to develop the National BOA Guidelines, presented to guidelines and guided their passage by the State Coordinators.
Dr. Lane, along with Dr. Jim Turner, designed, filmed, and edited (as well as completing segments) in the Transporting Cattle the BOA Way" video, which discusses transporting cattle in stock trailers. He is serving on a committee to develop National guidelines for the handling of livestock in motor vehicle accidents.
He served as host for the Regional Stockmanship and Steward Program and the National marketing conference programs in Tennessee. He has used utilized BOA materials in college classes and included them in newsletters and web based video programs.
One nominator says of Dr. Lane: "Dr. Lane's enthusiasm for the BOA program plus his involvement in the program has resulted in his ability to get large numbers of producers to apply Beef Quality Assurance practices. In 2005 Dr. Lane worked with the Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture to have BOA training as a requirement to qualify for the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program. This is a cost share program on genetics, handling equipment, and feeding equipment. To date producers have qualified for $60 million in assistance."
Watch videos of each producer BQA award winner on the BQA YouTube page.
For more information about the beef checkoff or BQA program, visit www.bqa.org, www.dbqa.org or www.MyBeefCheckoff.com.