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BUL 925

BQA — Record Keeping

Shannon K. Williams

Beef Quality Assurance
Key Points

  • Individual animal identification is the first step in accurate record keeping.
  • Treatment, feed, group processing, and restricted use pesticide records need to be kept for three years from sale or transfer of animals that have been treated.
  • Veterinary Feed Directive records and nonrestricted–use pesticide records need to be maintained for two years.
  • Accurate records are a producer’s only defense when there is a residue allegation.
  • Residue violations occur when a producer has violated the withdrawal time, which is the amount of time required for the animal to metabolize the drug and reduce the concentration level to the approved, safe level.

Keeping records is an integral part of any cattle operation and Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program. Records are a producer’s only defense if any of their cattle are found with a residue violation. Records also demonstrate responsible use of products and show that drug withdrawal times have been met and can safely transfer ownership or sell the cattle.

The beginning of any accurate record-keeping method is individual animal identification. A producer must be able to verify which animal was treated by reviewing the records and then being able to identify that animal within the herd. Some important considerations for animal identification are

  • Identification needs to be semi-permanent, meaning it needs to last longer than the withdrawal time.
  • Duplicates are eliminated.

The important part is not how records are kept, but that it is done—and done consistently. Record-keeping methods can include BQA treatment forms, a computer record-keeping program such as a spreadsheet (Figure 1), Integrated Resource Management (IRM) pocketbooks (Figure 2), calendars, and notebooks.

Spreadsheet for treatment records
Figure 1. Example of a spreadsheet page for treatment records for cattle. Each cow should have its own treatment record.
IRM pocketbook
Figure 2. IRM pocketbook.

The type of information that needs to be recorded depends on the management action. Management type also determines how long those records need to be maintained (Table 1), but for simplicity, the Idaho BQA program recommends that all records be kept for three years.

Table 1. How long to keep animal health records.
Type of Record Years to Keep
Treatment Records 3
Feed Records 3
Chemical Records — restricted use 3
Chemical Records — nonrestricted use 2
Veterinary Feed Directive Records 2

Treatment Records

Health treatment records are the most vital record to keep. The only accurate way to determine that compliance has been met is to know exactly what was given, the dosage, the location of injection, and when it was given. Health treatment records must be kept for three years from date of transfer or sale of cattle. Health treatment records need to include:

  • The animal treated
  • What indicated treatment
  • Date of treatment
  • Product administered
  • Product lot/serial number
  • Dosage given
  • Route of administration
  • Person administering
  • Earliest date withdrawal time is met

Feed Records

When purchasing feeds, it is important to maintain a record of those feeds for three years from the date of transfer or sale of an animal that consumed the feed. When purchasing feed, it is good practice to have an invoice that includes:

  • Date of purchase
  • Amount of feed purchased
  • Lot/batch number
  • Signatures of who delivered and who received feed

Chemical Records

Responsible use of pesticides requires that records are kept. Idaho state law requires that records be kept for three years for restricted-use pesticides. Records that meet state requirements also meet BQA requirements. BQA guidelines also require records of general-use pesticides. Chemical-use records need to include:

  • Product name and EPA number
  • Amount of pesticide applied
  • Location of application, size of treated area and crop
  • Date of application
  • Name of applicator and license number if licensed
  • Grazing restrictions and date when those restrictions are met

Group Processing Records

For routine vaccinations, worming, and insecticide applications, a group cattle–processing record can be utilized. These records should be kept for three years. Group records should include:

  • Description of cattle group
  • Date product was administered
  • Dosage administered
  • Product administered, including lot and serial number
  • Route of administration
  • Withdrawal time and earliest date met

Veterinary Feed Directive Records

The veterinary feed directive (VFD) requires that there be a veterinarian–client–patient relationship for the use of VFD drugs or combination VFD drug in or on animal feed. A written statement from the veterinarian must be obtained to purchase them. An electronic transmission of the VFD is acceptable to the feed company, a verbal transmission is not. On this statement, a date of expiration will be listed. This defines the period of time that a producer may utilize a VFD feed. A duration of use will also be indicated. Duration of use determines the length of time that an animal can consume the VFD feed. VFD records are required to be kept for three years and need to include:

  • Copy of the written VFD
  • Description of group of animals fed
  • Date(s) of administration
  • Amount administered
  • Condition identified for administration


Keeping accurate records on a consistent basis is important to maintain BQA and a healthy herd and to protect a beef operation from litigation regarding drug residue. Each operation’s record-keeping system will be unique. Regardless of the system used, it is important to keep and maintain those records for three years.

About the Author

Shannon K. Williams—University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Extension Educator, Lemhi County

The Idaho Beef Quality Assurance Program is a partnership between University of Idaho Extension and Idaho Beef Council.

The BQA Mission
To maximize consumer confidence and acceptance of beef by focusing the produer’s attention to daily production practices that influence the safety, wholesomeness and quality of beef and beef products.

BQA Certification
Idaho Beef Quality AssuranceCertification requirements can be achieved by participating in a training session and completing the BQA quiz and personal contract. Certification is valid for three years. Learn more about BQA certification in Idaho, here:

Issued in furtherance of cooperative extension work in agriculture and home economics, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Barbara Petty, Director of University of Idaho Extension, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho 83844. The University of Idaho has a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, age, disability or status as a Vietnam-era veteran.

University of Idaho Extension


Physical Address:
E. J. Iddings Agricultural Science Laboratory, Room 10
606 S Rayburn St

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2332
Moscow, ID 83844-2332

Phone: 208-885-7982

Fax: 208-885-9046



Barbara Petty