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Our Views

Our Views Columns

Date: 5/21/2015

Title: A Call-to-Action on Transportation

The Cattle Transportation Symposium, an effort led by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, with support from the Beef Checkoff-funded Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program and Colorado State University, was held May 14th and 15th in Fort Collins, Colo.  The event brought together all sectors of the beef industry to discuss and evaluate current transportation issues in the beef industry, with a focus on potential research areas and solutions for the future of cattle transport in the United States.  Nearly 100 attendees were on hand to hear from industry leaders, transportation experts, and to participate in hands-on demonstrations involving trailer design and safety during the two day symposium.    

From cow-calf producers and auction markets to packers and retailers, speakers presented on the challenges that each sector faces regarding cattle transport. All shared a commitment to continuously improve their practices to increase the well-being of cattle and the quality of the product for consumers. Dr. Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein, a world renowned beef cattle welfare research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Dr. Clyde Lane, 2014 BQA Educator of the Year and Professor Emeritus at University of Tennessee, shared their perspectives on reducing cattle stress and the principles of proper stock trailer inspection and loading of cattle in a session that focused on cow-calf and dairy producers.

Auction market leaders and the Livestock Marketing Association presented on the challenges of being the “middle man” where shipping of cattle happens coming and going.  Kristen Parman, Vice President of Member Services for LMA shared the current educational and training programs that are available for auction markets and Larry Schnell, owner of Livestock Marketing Exchange in North Dakota shared the expectations of a marketer with regards to the cattle that are shipped to market and moved on to buyers.  Representatives from JBS Carriers and Out West Trucking provided insight into the logistics of cattle hauling in compromising situations from severe weather to “downer” cattle and other emergencies. 

Beef packers, JBS and Cargill, were on hand to describe the increasingly scrutinized environment that they work in around cattle transportation and provide a call to action for the industry to continue to offer training and develop a more robust certification system for livestock transporters.  Mike Siemens of Cargill put it clearly, “we need a Cattle Transportation Quality Assurance program that is verifiable and works for producers and transporters to ensure customers that animals are well cared for from pasture to plate.”

Day two included interactive breakout sessions that allowed attendees to view various fed cattle trailer designs which were on display and do a stock trailer inspection for themselves.  The symposium ended with attendees sharing thoughts on next steps for cattle transportation, with the agreement that “the pieces are in place, they just need tweaking and a certification component,” shared one participant. 

Things are already moving forward with a white paper being developed from the presentations and perspectives shared at the symposium. A working group was also been appointed by the BQA Advisory Board to assess current programs and move forward with updating of training with a certification provision for cattle transportation.