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Awarded for quality animal care

By Staff | Feb 9, 2010

SPENCER – Morris Larson, general manager of Spencer Livestock Sales, was not trying to win any awards, but this area beef producer and livestock operator has recently drawn attention by winning the Iowa Beef Industry Council’s, 2010 Beef Quality Assurance Award.

“My interests lie in running a safe operation for livestock, employees and visitors to the sale barn,” Larson said. “Public perception is important as well.”

The award winner must be a BQA-certified beef producer who is committed to raising cattle in a safe, caring manner.

He noted the many changes he’s seen in the industry through the years – one of the biggest being attacks from animal rights groups.

“Beef producers out there are working so hard to raise quality animals in this country,” Larson said. “As I travel throughout the area looking at people’s herds I see producers who are out there battling the elements to make sure their animals are well taken care of.

“These are the things the general public doesn’t see” and “this can be discouraging for producers.”

An estimated 90 percent of U.S. beef is raised under the Beef Quality Assurance Program, he said, which was developed with guidance from leading animal health and well-being experts and outlines essential elements for quality cattle care.

All of Larson’s 18 employees are BQA certified. He has also hosted an annual BQA certification meeting for the past five years.

“We use ranch handling techniques that involve not rushing the animals. Slower is faster,” he said. “We do not use prods or whips. We find flags work best to get the animals attention. We want to keep them calm and secure.”

Though he seldom sees animals that are in poor condition brought into to the sale barn, Larson said there are criteria an animal must meet in order to be sold at his business.

“The biggest thing is the ability for them to walk on four legs. If they can’t walk off the truck they shouldn’t have been brought here,” he said. Other animals turned away are those with advanced cancer eye or seeping abscesses.

“I’d rather sell 100 quality cattle than 1,000 unthrifty ones,” Larson said.

Livestock sales are held each Tuesday with special feeder cattle sales being held one Wednesday a month. For a listing of sales you can find them at www.spencerlivestock.com.

Spencer Livestock Sales is located just north of the junctions of U.S. highways 71 and 18 in north Spencer.

“Larson’s dedication to the investment in BQA for employees and beef producers will continue as will his commitment to making sure the general public has a positive perception of livestock handling practices,” said Dennis DeWitt, Iowa State University Extension livestock field specialist. “Morris is committed to the BQA program and strives to provide his own livestock, as well as the livestock at Spencer Livestock Sales, with the best care possible.”

A common trait among all contest entrants is a strong desire to continually improve BQA on their operations while encouraging others to implement the program.

Judges for the BQA award considered, among other attributes, adherence to “on-site” BQA principles, leadership activities and the sustainability of the business as a whole.

The Iowa BQA program is funded by the Beef Checkoff Program.

Contact Robyn Kruger by e-mail at rangerob@hickorytech.net.

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