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USDA Programs Offer Source, Age Verification of Cattle

Posted Oct. 2, 2006

Now that the Japanese market has reopened to U.S. beef, there is increasing demand for source- and age-verified cattle. Source and age verification must be documented and verified through a recognized United States Department of Agriculture program. These programs are the USDA Process Verified Program (PVP) or a USDA Quality System Assessment (QSA).

What Are PVP and QSA?
PVP provides suppliers of agricultural products or services the opportunity to assure customers of their ability to provide consistent, quality products or services. It is limited to programs or portions of programs where specified process-verified points are supported by a documented quality management system. The specified process-verified points are identified by the supplier.

QSA provides suppliers of agricultural products and services the opportunity to assure customers of their ability to provide consistent, quality products or services. It is limited to programs or portions of programs where specified product requirements are supported by a documented quality management system. The specified product requirements may be identified by the supplier or in a USDA Export Verification (EV) Program.

The USDA has established a beef EV program that outlines the specific requirements for each country, including what products may be exported, processing regulations and stipulations for the cattle producing the beef. In Japan's case, a specific age requirement is that cattle must be of 20 or fewer months of age. For most other countries China (Hong Kong), Mexico, Canada the age requirement is 30 or fewer months of age. These EV age regulations must be met by cattle from a USDA PVP that requires age verification or from a USDA QSA that requires age verification.

What does this mean to a cow-calf producer?
To sell calves as source- and age-verified, cow-calf producers will have to provide information to a PVP or QSA. When participating in a PVP, producers must supply the necessary documentation for source and age to be able to sell their calves as "USDA Process Verified." These calves would then be recognized in the industry as being source- and age-verified, and cattle feeders and processors could use this verification to fulfill the requirements of their QSA for export verification. Therefore, PVP-certified cattle for age should meet the documentation requirements for any cattle feeder or packer (i.e., PVP cattle will meet the requirements of multiple QSA programs).

What records does the producer need to keep?

The key to source and age verification is records and documentation. Each operation should have implemented a system that meets at least the following criteria:
Tag all cows and calves with a unique number in your herd.
Keep calving records in something such as the Integrated Resource Management Red Book. This includes dam and calf identification, calving date and sex of calf. At the very least, record the dates the first and last calves were born . Keep records in a safe, readily accessible location.
In most cases, cattle destined for a source- and age-verified program will need to be tagged with an RFID (electronic) eartag.

This is the basic information needed to participate in a PVP or QSA program. In most parts of the country, cattle meeting these requirements are worth more to the buyer and seller. Also, additional information, such as preconditioning protocols, increases the value of your cattle.

Contact the Noble Research Institute at (580) 224-6500 if you have any questions about PVP or QSA programs.

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