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VQA -- Virginia Quality Assured Feeder Cattle

Livestock Update, August 1998

Bill R. McKinnon, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech

As the fall feeder cattle marketing season approaches, use of the VQA -- Virginia Quality Assured feeder cattle program deserves study. The VQA tag certification program got off to a strong start in its first year last fall. Approximately 2900 feeder cattle were marketed through the program and brought an additional $4.08 per cwt. over other VCA in-barn graded sales.

The VQA program fits those feeder cattle producers who believe in making a value-added product. Virginia Quality Assured feeder cattle can be certified at four graduated levels. The Gold Tag or "health program assured" level calls for the cattle to have been vaccinated against 7 strain clostridial (blackleg), IBR, BVD, PI3, and Pasteurella within a defined period before the time of sale. In addition to sudden death protection (clostridial), the vaccination program seeks to protect the cattle from respiratory disease. The second level of certification, Gold Tag with a "W" mandates that in addition to the above vaccination program, the cattle have been weaned at least 30 days and feed and water trough broke.

The next tier of VQA certification addresses the genetics of the feeder cattle. The Purple Tag calves must have the above Gold Tag vaccination program as well as have been sired by bulls with superior growth genetics. To qualify for the Purple Tag, the calf's sire must have a yearling weight EPD which is above breed average for the year in which the bull was born. The exceptions to this level are Charolais, Gelbvieh, and Simmental which must have yearling weight EPDs in the top 70% of the breed. The Purple Tag cattle provide the buyer with cattle that have both superior health and genetic backgrounds. The final level of VQA certification is the Purple Tag with a "W." These cattle pass the Purple Tag criteria for health and genetics and have additionally been weaned at least 30 days.

Additional guidelines call for all vaccinations to be given in the neck area, a minimum sale weight of 400 pounds, all calves to be castrated and healed, no horns, heifers guaranteed open, and the seller must attend a beef quality assurance educational meeting and have owned the cattle at least 60 days. A vaccination processing map and certification form must also accompany the cattle to the buyer. One additional guideline that has made the VQA program attractive to buyers is that a trained third party must certify that the prescribed vaccinations have been given and/or the calves' sire qualifies for Purple Tag designation. There are more than 125 trained certifiers around the state -- primarily veterinarians and Extension agents. More information regarding the program guidelines are contained in a VQA brochure available from the Virginia Cattlemen's Association and the local Cooperative Extension office.

The VQA cattle may be marketed by a number of means. It will to the seller's advantage to use a marketing method that recognizes and segregates VQA cattle. A good number of the VQA cattle sold in the fall of 1997 were single or multiple owner load lots offered through VCA telo-auction field sales. There was also a single in-barn all VQA sale held at Blackstone. Additionally, some producers with larger groups of relatively uniform cattle made arrangements with local market operators to sell their VQA cattle as a separate lot during graded sales. The Fredericksburg Sept. 30 sale and the Oct. 27 sale in Harrisonburg are planned to be VQA sales this fall. More information on these sales can be obtained through the local markets or Extension office.

Provisions are being made for those producers with groups of 20 or so calves who are not located near a VQA sale and might want to be part of a commingled telo-auction load lot of cattle. The dates of Sept. 14 and Nov. 30 have been targeted as dates for telo-auctions of commingled VQA loads. Producers with 20 or so relatively uniform calves considering the VQA option should contact the Virginia Cattlemen's Association, local Extension office, or the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services so that load lots might be constructed.

The Virginia Quality Assured feeder cattle program gives Virginians one more feeder cattle marketing option. The program seeks to improve the health and genetics of Virginia feeder cattle and reward the producers of those value added cattle.

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