What producers need to know: Packers, consumers demand BQA certification

SDSU Extension
Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — As of Jan. 1, 2019 one of the nation’s largest processors of U.S. beef, Tyson Foods, will require that all beef they purchase is sourced from Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certified producers. Additionally, by Jan. 1, 2020, all cattle transporters hauling to Tyson Foods’ harvest facilities will need BQA Transportation (BQAT) certification.

“Consumers care about how the food they eat is raised and this impacts their purchasing decisions,” said Heidi Carroll, SDSU Extension livestock stewardship associate and the new South Dakota BQA coordinator.

Tyson Foods, which processes 25 percent of all U.S. beef, is following the lead of their foodservice customers. Carroll explained that some retail outlets and restaurants, like Wendy’s, will only buy beef sourced from BQA certified farms and ranches.

Although livestock producers raise their livestock in a responsible, humane way that may meet BQA standards, without the certification, Carroll said livestock producers could miss out on marketing opportunities. Below, she outlines the necessary steps livestock producers need to take to become certified or re-certified in these quality assurance programs.

Changes to BQA certification in S.D.

If a livestock operation is currently BQA certified, they need to know that when their certification expires, the certification process has changed.

“It’s no longer as simple as filling out a renewal form,” Carroll said.

To recertify, or to certify, all livestock producers need to take a BQA class online or in person. These changes to the South Dakota BQA Program took effect this year (March 1, 2018) as program management transitioned to SDSU Extension.

Other changes and updates include:

• SDSU Extension will manage the South Dakota BQA program and a BQA Advisory Board will provide program guidance as needed.

• The Level 2 Critical Management Plan is no longer required for South Dakota BQA certification.

• Feedyards may choose to complete a BQA feedyard assessment as one step to become eligible for listing on the national Feedyard Assessment Database.

• All BQA certifications will be issued by the National Beef Quality Assurance program. No separate South Dakota certificates or numbers will be issued.

• A South Dakota BQA trainer program will be implemented. Veterinarians practicing in South Dakota and SDSU Extension professionals on the beef and dairy teams are eligible to become South Dakota BQA trainers.

• The BQA Transportation (BQAT) certification is available online.

• According to the National BQA and National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) programs, dairies participating in FARM are “BQA equivalent.” However, no National BQA certification number will be assigned to the dairy’s herdsman, manager, or owner without directly contacting the South Dakota BQA coordinator and providing a copy of the current FARM Animal Care Evaluation Report. Only one person per dairy will receive a BQA certification. Other employees are encouraged to complete one of the other BQA or Dairy Animal Care & Quality Assurance (DACQA) training options available.

“Producers should be aware that limited in-person trainings will be offered in South Dakota for either BQA or BQA Transportation (BQAT) certifications,” Carroll said. “The best option is to complete the online course.”

Cost of certification

Each of the certifications (BQA, BQAT, DACQA, and BQA trainer) and the on-farm assessment programs (National Feedyard Assessment Database, and FARM Evaluation) are valid for three years.

All online certification courses (BQA, BQAT, and DACQA) are available at no cost and can be completed at the producer’s convenience, 24/7 at

In-person certification courses (BQA and BQAT) have a fee of $50 per person. Discounts are available for operations certifying multiple individuals.

Veterinarians interested in becoming a South Dakota BQA trainer should contact Carroll at The trainer certification fee is $25. Trainer certification courses will be available later during the summer of 2018.

Feedyards that desire to be listed on the National Feedyard Assessment Database need to complete several steps and work with the South Dakota BQA Coordinator to finish the submission process. Feedyards will need to complete a BQA Feedyard Assessment, or equivalent assessment, once every three years as one of the criteria. These assessments may be self-assessed by a feedyard staff member at no cost, or the feedyard can ask Carroll to conduct the assessment for a fee of $150 per site.

Dairies that want to have a FARM Animal Care Evaluation completed can either work with their processor or contact Carroll. Most processors and co-ops are conducting FARM Evaluations for their members. Carroll is also available for $150 per site.

To check your individual certification status or with questions on any quality assurance programs, Carroll can be contacted at

Producers interested in completing a BQA Feedyard Assessment or FARM Animal Care Evaluation can also contact Carroll directly to schedule a site visit.