CN August September 2023 Vol. 62 Issue 5


the incidence of all foreign objects in beef, particularly birdshot.“There is no reason for it.” Another finding and an indicator of how drought affects every part of the beef business was the highest percentage of

animal walking easily and normally with no apparent lameness. That is down from 97 percent in 2016 and is attributed to larger cattle and longer time in transport. There was an increase in the number of Yield Grade 4 and 5 fed-cattle carcasses, according to audit results, as well as an increase in the incidence of carcass bruising in both fed cattle and cull cows and bulls. In fact, the 2022 audit showed the highest frequency of carcass bruising, at 52.3 percent, since the audits began. Since heavy carcass weights result from bigger live animals, this issue will likely need to be addressed through facility and trailer design as well as cattle handler training, according to an NBQA fact sheet. Where Do We Go From Here? “I think, No. 1, getting involved with Beef Quality Assurance,” Patterson advises. He believes that’s the path that beef producers will take to continued progress. “Remember back to the early audits where injection-site lesions were such a problem and there were quality issues? Look at what we’ve done with those,” he says.“We’ve improved quality. Carcass

light-muscled cull cows and bulls across all audits for the past 27 years. The 2022 audit found an increase in the percentage of cattle categorized as too thin, according to body condition scores.“Producers should consider market cows and bulls and their eligibility for feeding prior to harvest in order to increase their muscling and finish, thus returning more revenue,” according to an NBQA factsheet. Cull cows and bulls represent a significant part of an operation’s cash flow. Managed and marketed correctly, they can be a profit center. While the 2022 NBQA highlighted a number of areas where the beef business has made positive strides, it also identified some lost opportunities. “Declines in market cow and bull quality such as live animal defects, carcass defects, and the market or sale of animals unfit for consumption leave dollars on the table for cattle producers,” reports an NBQA summary.“In order to capture these lost opportunities for economic return, producers should abide by the ‘Three Ms’ – manage cattle to minimize defects, monitor the health and condition of their cattle, and market their cattle in a timely manner.” Fed Cattle Another takeaway from the 2022 NBQA is the increased use of electronic identification (EID) ear tags in cattle entering the fed cattle marketing chain, Patterson says. That’s another positive. “One thing as an industry we need to continue to work on is traceability.

What I think we all saw, going through COVID in human beings, is not only how fast infectious diseases spread, but how fast regulations follow,” he says.“Let’s get on top of this as an industry and get traceability figured out.” Traceability, however, is only part of the larger picture. Patterson also sees a need to focus on the biosecurity associated with containing a disease outbreak “so that we can be able to thwart having a situation like humans went through with COVID-19,” he says. In fact, cattle health across the board is an issue.“The health of feedlot cattle has got to continue to be a focus,” Patterson says.“Preventative health strategies that set us up for success, continued efforts in research and in practice to improve feedlot health needs to be addressed.” While that has been a focus for a long time, the beef business can’t take its foot off the accelerator “because it continues to be a challenge in the feedlot industry.” The 2022 NBQA showed the highest percentage of Prime and Choice fed- cattle carcasses since the audit began. In the 2022 audit, 76 percent of carcasses hit Prime or Choice, compared with 71 percent in 2016 and 61 percent in 2011. While that can partly be attributed to better genetics, it also was the result of heavier carcass weights. That had a number of drawbacks. “One of the things we saw in this audit is that mobility scores were down some in fed cattle,” Patterson says. According to audit data, nearly 92 percent of cattle received a mobility score of 1, with the

defects continue to go down.” But there’s always room for

improvement.“There’s always going to be a bar somewhere we need to raise,” he says.“You never can say that we have arrived. And I think BQA has been successful in the past in raising those bars and getting above those bars on a lot of issues.” Editor’s Note: For more information on the 2022 NBQA, visit

“There’s always going to be a bar somewhere we need to raise.” – Trey Patterson


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