Farm Talk

November 7, 2012

BCI: Research, education & outreach

by Brandi Buzzard

Parsons, Kansas — The Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University is a program that is devoted to improving the beef industry through education, research, and outreach with stakeholders and producers. Founded in 2007, the BCI strives to tackle the pertinent issues and challenges that the beef industry faces by collaborating with industry partners and academia.

The BCI’s research programs produce some of the most innovative data in the beef industry today. Students employed by the BCI are exposed to industry problems and then develop advanced solutions and alternatives. One such research study is the Harvest Audit Program (HAP) which is currently in the final stages of data analysis. The Harvest Audit Program is an exciting new diagnostic tool for cattle producers that will provide information on health and performance factors pivotal to proper management of animal health, cattle care and beef quality.

“This new approach to animal health and well-being monitoring allows cattle feeders and packers to work together to better understand the impact of feeder cattle health and nutrition on cattle performance, carcass characteristics and profitability in real time,” says Dan Thomson, DVM, Ph.D., Director of the Beef Cattle Institute. “This program also bridges the gap between the cattle feeding and harvest segments of the beef industry, and by working together, they can solve challenges faced by our industry today.”

The Harvest Audit Program began in the summer of 2011 with a team of faculty, graduate students and veterinary students from the BCI. The initial phases of the project included developing and implementing procedures for gathering information on multiple gross pathology lesions at slaughter within a commercial packing plant. To date, the team has gathered data on more than 20,0000 head of cattle.

“HAP is an advanced diagnostic tool,” says Frank Prouty, Ph.D., Director, Outcomes Research, Pfizer Animal Health. “It is allowing us to measure what is happening to cattle pre-harvest and how that affects cattle health and performance as well as animal defects and carcass characteristics observed at the plant. Helping decrease animal defects can increase a cattleman’s return on investment and improve the quality of the end product. Right now, the line of measurement ends with animal performance data and carcass characteristics. With HAP, we have the opportunity to increase the overall knowledge base, measure additional factors, tie it back to how those cattle perform, and potentially from this process change how cattle are managed in the future. This is an exciting opportunity for the entire industry.”

Educational Advancement

The BCI also promotes continuing education for producers, veterinarians, industry stakeholders, and academics with online learning modules via the Animal Care Training Website ( The modules, which address topics such as Dairy Animal Care and Quality Assurance, Humane Equine Management and the highly popular Beef Quality Assurance, can be completed at the convenience of the user and are a low-cost, effective way of staying up-to-date on food safety, animal welfare and environmental stewardship procedures and guidelines. The training modules provide certification to individuals who complete a series of quizzes after watching short, informative videos. At the completion of the program, a certificate is provided and can be printed immediately for verification. Currently, 35 states and Puerto Rico have partnered with the BCI and Animal Care Training to make it possible for individuals in those states to earn their BQA certification online. More than 11,000 people have registered through Animal Care Training in one of the various programs since the Website was launched in 2009.

New to the online offerings of the Animal Care Training Website is the Youth Animal Care Training program. This program was developed for youth who are high school age and younger and focuses on topics such as beef quality assurance, beef industry food safety, youth equine management, and youth dairy animal care and quality assurance.

All of these modules are free of charge for kids and are being utilized by high schools and youth programs around the nation. Many 4-H clubs in Kansas have required their members to complete the training in order to be eligible to show at fairs and competitions. The BCI has also targeted high school agriculture programs and FFA chapters in order to expose more youth to better livestock management and food safety practices. Since the youth program’s launch in February, more than 400 youth have registered. Youth modules can be accessed by visiting

Beef Industry Outreach

While it is convenient to fulfill BQA requirements online through Animal Care Training, some producers and veterinarians prefer to participate in face-to-face training at organized meetings. The BCI meets the needs of such individuals by coordinating regional BQA certification meetings throughout the state of Kansas. The BCI, through a partnership with the Kansas Beef Council, conducted six training sessions during August and September throughout the state with stops in Lacrosse, Garden City, Salina, St. Marys, Hill City and Parsons.

The sessions, which were led by Dr. Dan Thomson, provided participants with up-to-date information about standards and technologies in order to improve management in the cow-calf, stocker and feedlot industries. Animal husbandry best management practices, downed animal care and humane euthanasia were also addressed in addition to a cattle necropsy demonstration. During the regional meetings, more than 675 individuals were Beef Quality Assurance certified. The versatility of the Beef Cattle Institute provides producers from across the nation the ability to stay updated with beef industry technology, trends and information.

If you have questions about the Beef Cattle Institute, feel free to visit their Website, or call 785-532-4844.£