Journal of the NACAA
ISSN 2158-9429
Volume 11, Issue 2 - December, 2018


Learning the Importance of Livestock Quality Assurance Through Hands-on Training

Small, M. , Extension Educator, University Of Idaho
Findlay, R., Extension Educator, University of Idaho
Nash, S., Regional Youth Development Educator, University of Idaho


While youth are raising an animal for a livestock project they are in need of educational opportunities to learn more about the livestock industry they are a part of. These youth will become adult consumers, some also continuing to be producers, and need to have an understanding of the importance of quality assurance to the livestock industry as a whole. Providing information on this topic as an experience with hands on activities helps youth connect their role when raising livestock animals for the fair and for consumption. Quality assurance workshops were held to help youth learn the importance of their responsibility in ensuring they’ve raised an animal to be a quality product for consumers.

Keywords: Quality Assurance, management practices, livestock animal products


On an annual basis thousands of Idaho youth participate in 4-H livestock projects, raising animals that will ultimately be harvested and consumed for food. The National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) reports that nearly one percent of the animals produced in the United States entering the food chain are marketed through youth livestock program auction sales (Fasset, et al., 2005). Though this number may seem to be a minor amount in contrast to industry food products entering the market, it is significant enough to cause public concern should wholesomeness be compromised, ultimately jeopardizing consumer confidence in the entire livestock industry as a whole. It is highly important for youth livestock producers to be held to the same quality assurance standards as large-scale livestock producers and to help them be aware of their role in the livestock-food production industry. Quality assurance is defined as the insurance of a desired level of quality in a product, by means of attention to every stage of the process of production (, n.d.). It is essentially a guarantee to consumers that a product will be safe and taste good, and it is one that is desired and worked towards by the national livestock industry. Most food safety and quality assurance efforts are focused on large-scale livestock producers, but it is recognized that outreach programs should also target small producers such as 4-H and FFA participants.

Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) is a nationally coordinated, state implemented program that provides systematic information to U.S. beef producers as well as consumers of how common sense livestock practices can be paired with accepted scientific knowledge to raise cattle in optimum management and environmental conditions. Guidelines set forth by BQA were designed to ensure consumers can trust and have confidence in the entire beef industry. BQA promotes the idea that when better quality beef reaches the supermarket, consumers are more confident in the beef they are buying, which then increases beef consumption. In the late 1970s Beef Safety Assurance, the precursor to BQA, started with the goal of assuring beef was free of volatile chemical residues. BQA programming began with funding from state Beef Check-off programs in the early 1990s. Aside from helping producers capture more value in the market, BQA aims to reflect a positive public image and instill consumer confidence in the beef industry (National Beef Quality Assurance, n.d.). This is more important now than ever due to increased public attention on animal welfare. Similar to BQA, Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) was designed and introduced in 1986 to help hog farmers and their employees use best practices to promote food safety (National Pork Checkoff, n.d.). The program was modeled after the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point programs used by food manufacturers to ensure the safety of food products but customized for on-farm use (US Food and Drug Agency, n.d.). The sheep industry has developed and implemented a similar program, Sheep Safety and Quality Assurance (National Sheep Industry Association, n.d.). Since the inception of these programs the livestock industry has experienced success in greatly decreasing violative tissue residues, injection site lesions, and carcass bruising while increasing high quality products (Fassett et al., 2005).

Many of the educational materials used in these programs were designed specifically for adult audiences making them difficult to use with youth audiences, so a goal developed within states and eventually at a national level, to develop age appropriate quality assurance training programs for youth. Following collaboration between states previously offering multi-species youth quality assurance programs, the National Pork Board, and representatives from other national livestock groups, the Youth for the Quality Care of Animals (YQCA) program was developed (Youth for the Quality Care of Animals, n.d.). The YQCA program is designed as an annual online education and certification program focused on food safety, animal well-being, and character awareness for those exhibiting livestock animals. Launched in March 2017, YQCA adopted the goals of the program ensuring safety and well-being of animals produced by youth for showing and for 4-H and FFA projects, ensuring a safe food supply to consumers, and enhancing the future of the livestock industry by educating youth and helping them become more informed producers, consumers, and members of the agriculture and food industry. With educating youth about Quality Assurance as a primary goal, a University of Idaho Extension Educator implemented a hands-on training for area youth. This training was geared to help the young people engage in actual quality assurance practices to give them a better understanding of how to apply it to their own animal production practices.


Materials and Methods

In the winter of 2017 livestock education workshops were organized in an Idaho county to teach livestock quality assurance information to youth participating in livestock 4-H projects. Youth were notified of the educational opportunity through the county Extension newsletter, email, and social media. The workshops were organized and presented by species; 158 youth participated in the workshops. Two individual and one co-species workshops were held to keep the groups more manageable for the hands-on activities. Prior to hosting the education workshops, Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval was sought to conduct pre- and post-testing of the youth participating. This assessment would measure immediate increase of knowledge. The outline of what would be taught and how it would be presented along with the assessment tool were submitted. Since the assessment didn’t require the youth to share any identifying information, IRB was granted.

To help deliver this training and cover in-depth subject matter of quality assurance, experiences and hands-on activities were incorporated throughout the entire training. For example, to understand the importance of appropriate livestock handling and housing, the group was placed in a room too small for the number of participants. The room was also filled with trash such as broken boards, bailing twine, garbage, weeds, etc. (Figure 1). After taking the pre-test the group was allowed to go to a much cleaner, more spacious room for the actual training where they were offered dirty water and moldy banana bread (Figure 2). This demonstrated the importance of animals being provided clean water and fresh, quality feed in a comfortable space.


Figure 1. Teaching room at Leader’s Forum filled with common barnyard trash and not enough chairs for audience


Figure 2. Water brought in from unclean livestock trough and only beverage offered to participants.


Participants then took part in quality assurance discussions to learn what quality assurance meant and what he/she as a livestock producer can do to ensure a quality consumer product. During the discussion youth learned handling animals roughly or in a stressful manner would also result in carcass defects, which results in product loss and impacts how much money the animal is worth. Youth were then asked to reflect back on the crowded, dirty room. This helped youth connect that it is important for livestock animals to be provided appropriate housing.

To learn how a negative management practice of giving improper vaccinations can affect end product quality, youth were able to watch as a chicken breast that had been injected with red food coloring prior to being cooked was cut into one inch slices to determine how much meat had been ruined by the injection. This helped youth understand how an improper intramuscular injection can ruin meat which then has to be thrown away because it is not acceptable to the consumer. The youth practiced giving subcutaneous and intramuscular injections to bananas to learn how to give each type correctly. This provided youth the chance to learn the difference between subcutaneous and intramuscular injections, how to load a syringe with vaccine, how to read a medication label to learn about withdrawal time and the value of keeping vaccination records.

Youth learned the importance of product quality and consumer confidence in an activity where they got to eat cupcakes with too much salt, had been filled with chili powder, had red food-dye spots, or had been injected with mustard to illustrate a negative eating experience.

These activities were geared to help youth understand their role in ensuring product quality. By putting youth through all of these hands-on activities they were able to gain some understanding of the importance of raising youth livestock in a consumer acceptable manner.

Local livestock producers participated in the educational workshop to talk about management practices used on the farm and ranch. This gave the youth the opportunity to understand what everyday livestock producers do to ensure the animals they raise become high quality consumer products. This illustrated that quality assurance is an entire livestock industry effort.

At the conclusion of the guest speaker presentation, the assessment was re-administered to the youth as well as a few additional follow up questions to determine if the youth felt they would change any of their management practices because of the workshop. Several months after the completion of the educational workshop the post-test was re-administered to 54 youth to see how well participants had retained the information long term.

This workshop was also recreated as a statewide training workshop for volunteers, with additional instruction on how to recreate the workshop on their own with the youth they work with throughout the year who participate in livestock projects (Figure 3).


Figure 3. Leaders from throughout state participate in chicken cutting demonstration, learning how to re-create the activity in their own clubs.


Pre- and post- test results were evaluated using analysis of variance with a spit-plot design. The treatments consisted of the nine test questions and the splits consisted of the participant’s age. Replications were drawn from the species groupings. Mean separation was calculated using the least significant difference (LSD) method.



Quantitative results from the assessment tool revealed the quality assurance workshop improved participants' knowledge of what quality assurance means, consequences of improper management practices, how to administer the different types of injections in different ways, and the importance of ensuring a quality product for consumers. Overall, the participants' scores following the training improved by 20%. These improvements in knowledge were long lasting as is evidenced in the high scores of the follow up survey (Figure 4).


Figure 4. Overall mean of test results before the training (Pre; n=158), immediately following (Post; n=158), and several months later (Follow; n=54).


There were no significant differences in percentage increase of test scores between age groups (Figure 5). Since we used a split-plot design we could evaluate the interaction between test questions and participant age.  We found no interaction effect between questions and age groups. This is interpreted that all age groups understood and reacted to the test questions in a similar manner.


Figure 5. Test score increases were not significantly different among age groups. Age groups consisted of juniors (8-10 years old), intermediates (11-13 years), seniors (14-18 years) and adults (over 18 years).


There were statistically significant differences between test questions (Figure 6). For example; question number 4 covered the importance of clean fresh water. Most participants had a good understanding of this concept prior to the training and therefore the percentage score increase was lower. Question number 3, “Who is quality assurance important to?” had the highest percentage score increase. This is due to the lack of previous knowledge or experience in that area of quality assurance.


Figure 6. Test score increases differed significantly among test questions. 


The assessment questions were designed to be answered with fully written answers, circling the correct answer, true or false, and multiple choice. Qualitative results were determined when participants were also asked questions about whether or not any of their management practices would change as a result of this workshop. While some participants already were practicing quality assurance most youth responses from those questions indicated:

  • Many youth would take care of their animals differently following what they had learned from the workshop.
  • Participants would provide their animals more housing space and keep that space free of debris, provide better quality feed, clean water troughs more often (most popular response), handle their animals in a calmer manner, ensure animal is up to date on vaccines and keep better records of medications given.
  • Some youth felt more confident they could administer an injection to their animal, while all adults already felt confident in administering injections to an animal.
  • Participants from the statewide volunteer training looked forward to implementing some of these hands on techniques within their own 4-H livestock clubs, such as giving injections to bananas, setting up an uncomfortable room, and sharing the importance of Quality Assurance.

These questions were re-asked in the follow up assessment to inquire what participants actually did differently in management of their animals as well as how they felt about it. While some response indicated there was no change in behavior some participants indicated:

  • They cleaned their animal’s water trough more often, cleaned the housing space more frequently, and paid better attention to the quality of their animal’s feed.
  • Some were required to give their animal an injection or help their parent do it and felt it went well.
  • “One other thing I did was clean my steer’s feed tub and trough, making sure there wasn’t any dirt or debris.”
  • “We had to give my pig a shot, it went well. The pig did give me and my family trouble but we managed to give it a shot.”
  • “I studied my feed rations more thoroughly.”
  •  “I feel we did many Quality Assurance practices already, however I feel we are even more conscientious about continuing to do these things. When my boys went to their cousin’s house and saw the animal’s water they were livid! They dumped out the water and cleaned the bucket and then put fresh water in. They gave their cousins an earful.”

Whether the meaning of quality assurance and the management steps were new to participants or a familiar topic, the assessment along with observation demonstrates the value of learning about the topic or being reminded of its importance through the hands-on educational workshop.



Livestock projects continue to be the most popular projects for youth in Idaho. Providing educational opportunities on industry livestock practices helps ensure that all livestock products entering the food supply are wholesome and of high quality. Youth improved their knowledge of quality assurance as demonstrated in the evaluation results, and equally important, youth had fun while learning. This demonstrates the success of the program, youth learned an important component of the livestock industry, retained that knowledge, and enjoyed the hands-on learning experience. To continue supporting this message, the youth that participated in the Quality Assurance education workshop had the opportunity to participate in a workshop in winter of 2018, with focus shifting to meat grading and eating quality. This workshop tied back to how certain management practices affect quality grade of meat while also helping youth understand palatability and United States Department of Agriculture meat grading. Potential programming in the future will include: farm and ranch tours for youth to see firsthand how the livestock and food supply chain begins, and touring harvesting facilities to better understand the additional steps following the sale of livestock project animals.



Dictionary. (n.d). 

Fassett, J.L., Nold, R.A. & Rockwell, S.K. (2005). Assuring Youth Raise Livestock for Food Produce a Quality Product. Journal of Extension [On-line], 43 (1) Article 1RIB7. Available at:

US Food and Drug Agency (FDA). (n.d.) Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point

National Beef Quality Assurance. (n.d.)

National Pork Checkoff. (n.d.)

National American Sheep Association. (n.d.)

Youth for the Quality Care of Animals. (n.d.)



The success of these workshops was achieved in great part with the support and hard work of the University of Idaho, Bingham County Extension staff.