December 16, 2002
Beef producer certification course enters cyberspace
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Quality assurance certification for beef producers is as close as a few mouse clicks on a home computer.
An Internet-based certification course now is available in both the IQ+BEEF preconditioning and Five State Beef Initiative programs. The course can be found on the IQ+BEEF Web site. The online course fee is $10, or $25 including a resource manual.
IQ+BEEF is the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program for producers in Indiana and its four neighboring states.
Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Kentucky make up the Five State Beef Initiative, a cooperative effort of land-grant universities, state cattlemen's associations, state departments of agriculture, Farm Bureaus and livestock marketing co-ops. Its mission is to increase beef producer profits through a vertically coordinated production, marketing and information sharing system. IQ+BEEF is the Five State Beef Initiative's Web-based educational program.
The online certification course is the same one offered in the traditional face-to-face workshop format. Educational modules include BQA/health, animal genetics, environmental stewardship, animal handling and well-being, beef grades and marketing.
Producers have six months to complete the IQ+BEEF modules once they are enrolled.
"Coursework can be finished in as little as three hours and certification is good for three years," said Phil Reid, distance learning coordinator in Purdue University's Department of Animal Sciences.
"There are six different modules that involve six disciplines, to ensure a better, more wholesome beef product. It's a self-testing program. At the end you will receive certification if you're in one of the five participating states or any future member states. We are also are offering this to other states. Hopefully, it will become a standardized national program."
IQ+BEEF was introduced three years ago, said Matt Claeys, Purdue Cooperative Extension Service beef cattle specialist.
"Initially, IQ+BEEF was a preconditioning program, where certified producers have the opportunity to make about $35 more per head for the calves that they sell in the marketplace," Claeys said. "This online certification helps prepare producers for taking it one step further and obtaining carcass data on the cattle intended for consumer markets through the Five State Beef Initiative."
Many producers would benefit from IQ+BEEF certification, Claeys said.
"A lot of the cattle within this area fit the target for yield grade and quality grade quite well, and should be getting upper-end prices when they are marketed," he said.
More than 900 beef producers and veterinarians in Indiana are certified through IQ+BEEF. Even dairy producers stand to gain from BQA certification, since 25 percent of the meat sold in the United States is dairy beef, Claeys said.
"Anyone who goes through the certification training and follows best management practices can participate, whether they are first-year producers or seasoned veterans who have been producing cattle all their lives," he said.
"We have some certified producers who have only three head of cattle, and we've got others who have 100 or more."
IQ+BEEF certification could make its way into other states, Reid said. Organizers envision producers in 20 states taking the online courses by next summer, he said.
Also, a Web-based IQ+BEEF recertification program is in the works. Recertification is expected to take about one hour. That Internet site should be up and running within a year, Reid said.
The more producers who become certified the stronger the beef industry becomes, Claeys said.
"We need producers to get involved. There's strength in numbers," he said. "When we can collectively work together and put semi-load lots together whether it's feedlot cattle, feeder calves or stockers we're much more likely to obtain a higher price per hundredweight for those cattle.
"One justification for certification is that producers can participate in sales where producers are working together. We would encourage beef cattle producers, regardless of size, to become involved and start working together to make sure that producers are getting the best prices available within the marketplace."
Producers interested in enrolling in the IQ+BEEF certification program can call the toll-free Purdue Extension hotline at (888) 398-4636 (1-888-EXT-INFO) or visit the IQ+BEEF Web site. Producers taking the courses online will receive instructions by e-mail on accessing the course modules and be assigned a username and password.
Writer: Steve Leer, (765) 494-8415, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Phil Reid, (765) 496-7370, email@example.com
Matt Claeys, (765) 494-4834, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, email@example.com; http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/AgComm/public/agnews/