Market Cow and Bull Quality Module Overview

The New York State Cattle Health Assurance Program (NYSCHAP) is a voluntary herd health program for cattle producers with the main objectives of 1) Improving herd health, productivity and profitability; 2) assure food safety, public health and consumer confidence in animal agriculture. NYSCHAP supports beef and dairy operations to identify disease and management risks and bottlenecks, establish goals and implement a commonsense herd plan that is within the farm's resources. The herd plan will help the farm follow strategies to maximize their management for the health and wellbeing of their herd and maximize their product safety and quality.

Through this objective, NYSCHAP supports the Beef Quality Assurance Program in Beef and Dairy operations. Although dairy farmers do not produce beef as their main product, 20 percent of total beef and 30 percent of ground beef in the United States is produced from dairy cattle. It is imperative that dairy producers use appropriate management practices to ensure the quality of the beef they produce. Assuring the quality of market cows and bulls is essential to provide consumers with nutritious, wholesome and safe beef to eat.

Key Areas of Market Cow and Beef Quality

Food Safety and antibiotic residues

Food safety has become the most important factor to those that purchase beef. Antibiotic residues continue to be seen mostly in cull dairy cows and these residues lead to condemnation of the carcass due to potential harm to the public. Antibiotic residues are identified at the meat packing plants where all cattle are visually inspected for physical condition and animals that show signs of illness, lameness, disabilities, mastitis or other signs of being treated are subject to residue testing. After slaughter, all carcasses are inspected for pathologies including active inflammatory conditions, metritis, cellulitis and injection site lesions. Suspect carcasses are held for further inspection and residue testing.

Drug residues result from extra-label use of drugs or from marketing animals for slaughter prior to the withdrawal period indicated by the product or veterinarian directions. Please refer to our Food Safety and Drug Residue Avoidance Module for more details on proper drug management and tools to help better manage and avoid drug residues.

Appropriate timing for culling to reduce BCS, Muscle conditioning

Body condition of beef and dairy cows has been improving since 2007 with the highest level of improvement in dairy cows. This reflects improvement in more timely culling of dairy cows. This also has decreased the number of defects found at the processing facility such as lameness, low body condition or debilitated animals. It is important for producers to market animals before health or welfare conditions deteriorate to assure cattle well-being and product integrity.


Visually appraise cattle for condition score before transporting; feed cows in poor condition for a short time to increase their ability to handle the stress of transport; make culling decisions early enough to avoid excessive condition loss.


25% of dairy cull cows compared to 14% of beef cows have some level of lameness when arriving at slaughter facilities. Since 2007, there has been a 3.3 percentage point increase in sound beef cows and a 24.6 percentage point increase in sound dairy cows. Despite the improvement in these numbers, it is important for producers to be mindful of the advantage to culling cows before lameness is observed whenever possible. Please refer to our NYSCHAP module on Foot Health/Lameness for more information on contributing factors for lameness on the dairy.


Bruising is still an area for improvement based on the 2016 audit. More than half of cow carcasses had at least one bruise which leads to trim loss and increased labor costs at the processing plant. Most bruising on cows were found on the round or sirloin and bulls had more bruising on the brisket, plate and flank regions. Bruising is often a result of handling practices and facility design that cattle experience 24 hours prior to harvest. Thin animals are more susceptible to bruising than those in good condition.


Dehorn calves when they are young; handle and transport live cattle properly with as little stress and crowding as possible; check all areas where cattle are housed for protruding nails, bolts, broken boards, pipes and other objects that can cause bruises.

Humane Animal Treatment – on farm and transport

Cattle provide farmers with their livelihood. In return, farmers need to treat animals with care and respect. Humane animal treatment is a very important issue to farmers, packing plants and the general public. Please refer to our NYSCHAP Cattle Care Module for further best management practices.

NYSCHAP encourages all beef and dairy producers to participate in the Beef Quality Assurance program, a program to protect consumer confidence in our beef supply and to return more profits to producers. NYSCHAP supports BQA through collaborative education and resources. Also, NYSCHAP farm reviews can be used to meet recertification requirements.

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