Beef Quality Corner
Livestock Update, February 2000
Bill R. McKinnon, Extension Animal Scientist, Marketing, Virginia Tech
In its third year, the Virginia Quality Assured feeder cattle program continues to be a successful alternative in offering buyers a certified value-added product. Over 3000 head of VQA certified feeder cattle were sold during 1999 at a distinct price advantage.
The Virginia Quality Assured feeder cattle program was initiated by the Virginia Cattlemen's Association for those feeder cattle owners who believe in producing a value-added product. The value added is in the form of an improved health program and can additionally include improved genetics for growth. The VQA program has four levels of certification: Gold tag, Gold tag with "W," Purple tag, and Purple tag with "W."
The VQA tagged feeder cattle were marketed through several different methods during the year. Many of the cattle were sold in commingled load lots through telo-auctions or in board sales during graded sales. The Buckingham and Amelia cattlemen's associations both marketed several loads of cattle comprised of multiple owners' cattle. Other smaller groups of one-owner cattle were sold as special lots during graded feeder cattle sales. Both the Fredericksburg and Dublin feeder cattle associations held special VQA graded sales. The Dublin association made minor changes in their "Backgrounded Calf" sale to afford all the cattle VQA certification. The Dublin association also plans on conducting a purple tag VQA sale in the fall of 2000.
Gold tag Vaccinated against 7 strains of clostridial, IBR, BVD, PI3, BRSV and Pasteurella. Castrated, dehorned and healed. Heifers guaranteed open.
Gold tag with "W" Same health program as Gold tag with the calves weaned at least 30 days and drinking from a water trough and eating from a feed bunk.
Purple tag Same health program as Gold tag. Calves sired by bulls which meet minimum requirements for yearling weight EPD. Breed of sire identified on the tag.
Purple tag with "W" Same health and genetic requirements as the Purple tag with the calves weaned at least 30 days and drinking from a water trough and eating from a feed bunk.
The roughly 3100 head of VQA feeder cattle sold in 1999 ranged from 3-weights to a few 9-weights. Approximately 75% of the VQA cattle ranged from 500 to 700 pounds. When compared to similar weights, breeds, and grades of cattle in other special graded sales held the same week, the 1999 VQA cattle brought a premium of $2 per hundredweight. The 1999 premium for VQA cattle was down from the first two years' prices and may have been the result of the distributed marketing season last fall. Estimates to process cattle to qualify them for VQA certification run about $6.50 per head including labor.
Three Year History VQA Feeder Cattle
Special Graded Sales
|500-599 lb.||+ $3.90||400-499 lb.||+ $3.21|
|600-699 lb.||+ $3.79||500-599 lb.||+ $3.12|
|700-799 lb.||+ $0.99||600-699 lb.||+ $2.81|
Before producers go to the effort to VQA-certify calves, thought should be given to the marketing method for the cattle. Simply showing up at sale with a load of VQA tagged calves without previous contact with market operator is likely to lead to disappointment. Additionally, experience has shown that a VQA tag will tend not to help the sale price of inferior quality cattle.
The Virginia Quality Assured feeder cattle program is less than three years old. The reputation of VQA cattle is now being established with potential buyers. The buyer feedback to this point has been basically excellent. Effort is being devoted to specifically follow up with buyers of VQA cattle to insure the program is truly generating value-added feeder cattle.