Information Sharing Project Shows Potential Value for Canadian Beef Producers

CANADA - A recent Canadian project to share information from beef carcass data revealed that cattle from an elite breeding programmes were worth $219 a head more than average cattle, writes Angela Lovell.
calendar icon 10 May 2016
clock icon 3 minute read

The elite calves were bred by Calgary based Beefbooster, a company which uses production data and advanced genomics technology to select and breed genetically superior, hybrid bulls.

McDonald’s Canada partly funded the Information Sharing Initiative as part of its Sustainable Beef Pilot programme.

Other partners on the project were Beefbooster, researchers from the University of Alberta’s Livestock Gentec centre, and BIXS, the Internet-based, national beef supply database. The aim of the project was to evaluate whether sharing this data could have value to cow/calf producers and the Canadian beef industry.

Researchers analysed almost two million records from packing plants entered into BIXS from 2012 to 2014 as part of a previous project sponsored by the Federal Government.

They then cross-referenced the records with a proprietary set of data linking individual RFIDs (Radio Frequency Identification Tags) from Beefbooster cattle to their sires and dams.

More producers need to participate

“The project proved that if we spent more time collecting the information, and analysing it, we would find things within it that would make a difference on the ranch,” said Beefbooster Chief Executive Officer, Jennifer Stewart-Smith.

“At Beefbooster we already use this kind of data and technology in our breeding selection, and I think we have demonstrated that there is value in using this information to produce cattle.”

BIXS captures and exchanges data linked to individual animals’ unique RFID tag number including seedstock, cow-calf and feedlot production, health, genetic and performance data. Participating packing plants also provide detailed individual carcass data.

The intent of BIXS is to provide communication across the supply chain from producers to feedlots and packers, and provide cattle producers with market intelligence about the quality of their beef to assist their production and marketing efforts. In reality, there has not been enough uptake in the industry to make BIXS the useful tool it could be.

“We have a tool that has huge potential to give producers information so they can make better breeding and marketing decisions, but the cow-calf producers have to participate,” said Ms Stewart-Smith. “If we had all the information we needed in BIXS we have proven that we can use it and it can have a lot of value to us.”

Harvesting younger calves has benefits

The project also found that calves harvested before 19 months of age had a higher carcass value than those slaughtered at 24 months.

As well, cattle harvested at 18 months instead of 24 months reduced the greenhouse gas intensity of beef production by 1.2 tonnes of CO2 per animal.

Although far from a definitive study, the project did demonstrate the potential usefulness of BIXS as tool to provide significant value to the Canadian beef industry, and may serve as a catalyst for future information sharing opportunities along the beef value chain.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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