Change is constant and that is certainly true for the cattle industry. Two of the biggest changes we have recently seen are the implementation of RFID for cattle and the BQA Certification system. Most farmers are already familiar with both, but what do they mean to your operation and how are the two connected?

Beef Quality Assurance (BQA)

The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program is a national program that serves as a commitment that cattlemen and women will adhere to the highest standards of animal care and quality. Participation in BQA certification increases consumer confidence and builds a relationship of trust between cattle producers and consumers that ensure the consumer receives the highest quality meat.

Cattle operations have access to resources, news, and certification through the BQA program. The benefits of BQA certification show that the cattle operation is committed to food safety and quality, improves consumer confidence, increases the sale value of cattle, and improves the economic viability of the cattle operation as better management leads to increased efficiency.

RFID for Cattle

RFID is radio frequency identification. RFID tags for cattle are a requirement, or will be in the future, in many places. We have all heard a lot about contact tracing during the recent COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic. RFID identification tags were originally introduced for cattle traceability to manage foreign disease outbreaks.

RFID tags are identified using readers placed at strategic locations in feedlots, sale barns, cattle handling systems, and other areas. The reader scans the tag and feeds the number into a computer system or software. The numbers are unique and quickly allow the animal to be identified and trace the route it took from the cattle operation to its current location. This allows for quicker disease containment and can dramatically increase health and safety in the event of a foreign disease outbreak.

Cattle producers in many areas were early adopters of RFID tags or piloted other programs for tracing cattle. Those that have used RFID tags found them useful on the ranch or operation as they improved records and workflow. The readers automatically read tags and can connect with record keeping system to save time.

The Connection Between BQA and RFID

BQA certification and RFID for cattle are connected in the cause they are promoting and the safeguards that they build into the cattle industry. Previous animal disease outbreaks and poor cattle handling practices have led to a growing mistrust of our industry among consumers. Although most cattle producers are doing the right thing, a few cattle producers making mistakes harmed the reputation of the entire industry. Both BQA and RFID are tools that we can use as cattle producers to increase the confidence that consumers have in our industry. We need to rebuild those trusting relationships to maintain our operations.

Both systems also benefit producers and can help us be more efficient on our operations. BQA improves management of cattle. It adheres to low-stress cattle handling techniques, increases the efficiency on our operations through better management, and improves the quality of the meat we produce. All of these help the bottom line, and the economic viability of our cattle operations. We also know that we are doing our absolute best to run a cattle operation and that is a feeling we all want.

Similarly, RFID tags can help us as stockmen and women. The tags are used for cattle tracing, but we can also use them to identify our cattle and improve our record keeping. RFID readers can be installed in our cattle handling systems, chutes and other locations and sync with our cattle handling system. Rather than trying to read the small numbers off the ear tag of an animal, we can let the system scan the tag and load it into our record keeping system with no stress for the animal. Time is saved and it further increases safety in the cattle handling system. RFID tags can help us track the health and wellbeing of our herd and address small issues we see with cattle because we can easily identify which animal is having a problem.

Change is constant, and many, including BQA and RFID tags are not necessarily changes that we initiated. Rather than resisting change, we should embrace the potential opportunities and investigate how it can benefit our operation. BQA and RFID provide an opportunity to improve our cattle handling and quality while saving money and being more efficient in the long run. Using BQA and RFID leads to higher quality cattle that are worth more and save time. We can all agree that both of those are benefits worth working towards.


Beef Identification (RFID)
New Official Cattle ID Tags Will Use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
Why Quality Standards in the Cattle Industry are Important

About the Author

Dana Charban, Manager of Content Strategies and Journalist for Arrowquip, catching black cow in Q-Catch 86 Series cattle chute

Dana Charban

As a small town girl from rural Manitoba, Dana Charban grew up around agriculture and farming her en...

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