Quality Assurance in Animal Production
Adults working in commercial agriculture are often required to maintain a quality assurance certification. For example, Pork Quality Assurance Plus aids pork producers in maintaining best practices for food safety. Another example is the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program.
While youth in 4-H learn many aspects of animal care and animal science, there are also opportunities for them to learn about quality assurance in animal production and to become certified.
Youth and Quality Assurance
Some state 4-H programs require quality assurance certifications for youth before they may exhibit animals at shows or county fairs. Some do not, but still encourage youth to learn more about best management practices for animal production in order to benefit themselves and the quality of their animals. There are several ways for youth to receive this training – some 4-H programs offer an in-house program, and others partner with outside organizations.
One example of an outside organization that 4-H programs can partner with is the Youth for the Quality Care of Animals certification program (YQCA) . This is a multi-species quality assurance certification for youth ages 8-21. YQCA includes information for youth showing pigs, beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep, goats, market rabbits, and poultry.
For YQCA specifically, youth can earn this certification online while working independently or participate in an instructor led training (if a state agreement is in place). Ask your local 4-H program which options are best for your club or 4-Her.
Quality Assurance and 4-H Project Mastery
One of the 4-H Essential Elements is Mastery, meaning:
In order to develop self-confidence youth need to feel and believe they are capable, and they must experience success at solving problems and meeting challenges. Youth need a breadth and depth of topics that allow them to pursue their own interests. Introduce youth to expert knowledge and guide them toward their own sense of mastery and accomplishment.
Quality Assurance programs are intended to ensure the safety and well-being of animals produced by youth and adults. The certification programs help youth and adults address issues throughout the process of raising their animals that can impact their overall care and the quality of products that they produce for consumers. Introducing youth to these concepts and processes immerses them deeper in their 4-H project and familiarizes them with industry standards that may be helpful to them in future careers.
Youth Quality Assurance programs such as YQCA teach 4-Hers the standards of quality animal care and are another excellent opportunity for our members to develop confidence and expertise within their project, putting the 4-H Essential Element of Mastery into practice.
By Laura Eppinger, Salem County 4-H Agent, Rutgers Cooperative Extension