MSU-Bozeman News Service

BOZEMAN – An analysis of the Montana Beef Quality Assurance Program indicates that participants make more money when selling their steers and heifers than people who do not participate.

BQA is a beef industry quality program that focuses on producer awareness and educational training. The primary emphasis of BQA education is use of science-based best management practices.

Montana State University Extension Service and the Montana Stockgrowers Association run the Beef Quality Assurance Program, which is one aspect of the Montana Beef Network.

The analysis by MSU economist Gary Brester includes statistics from several sources.

One source was a survey in the fall of 2000 by Sweet Grass County Extension Agent Marc King. He surveyed 400 BQA members and 400 nonmembers.

About 37 percent of members and 17 percent of nonmembers responded to the survey. Brester says that data shows that after accounting for calf sale weights and other factors, Beef Quality Assurance members received about $1.56 more per hundredweight for steers than nonmembers, and about $1.09 per hundredweight more for heifers. That means that producers would make about $897 more for their steers that averaged 575 pounds.

Becoming BQA certified costs $20. Recertification costs $10 and participation at an educational meeting every two years. There is also a $2 cost for each digital ear tag to track calf data or $1 for a standard plastic tag. Though there was a difference in prices received, Brester says there were no statistical differences in BQA members’ and nonmembers’ calf sale weights, sale methods or number of calves marketed.

John Paterson, MSU Extension beef specialist, says another interesting point brought out by Brester’s analysis is that producers can be hurt in the market if they don’t know how their calves usually perform.

BQA participation helps producers determine management strategies that yield specific characteristics.

“Basically, the information says ‘Be careful how you sell your animals.’ Some of you may make more money if you sell steers and heifers on a specific formula grid, but you could get really hurt that way if you don’t know the calf characteristics,” says Paterson. The data show that if cattle don’t fit the characteristics of the grid they are being marketed under, producers might make more money selling on a simple live-weight basis.

A grid is a set of characteristics a certain buyer wants. It can differ from buyer to buyer. When the steers purchased meet these characteristics, they may earn a premium. When cattle don’t match the grid under which they are sold, a penalty may occur.

Brester adds that producers need to have data about their calves’ feedlot and carcass traits to be able to closely match chosen specifications. Whereas, traditionally, a seller might have sold a pen of cattle as a unit, now marketing may be based on individual calf traits.

For more information on BQA and the Montana Beef Network, contact your local MSU Extension agent, MSU Extension Beef specialists John Paterson (406) 994-5562 or Rick Funston (406) 232-8223 or Montana Stockgrowers Association Executive Vice President Steve Pilcher (406) 442-3420.