Feedback plan targets animal well-being

15 Mar, 2017 10:00 PM
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By SHAN GOODWIN

THE organic sector of Australia's beef industry has come up with an innovative plan to analyse slaughter data on carcase downgrades and feed that back to producers to allow for more tailored biosecurity plans.

The world-first project will boost cattle health and welfare and deliver productivity gains to graziers by reducing diseases and parasites.

It will flow through to the processor by way of reducing losses to condemned products.

Producer-owned organic beef marketing company OBE, which has about 30 suppliers in Queensland and South Australia, has teamed up with Meat and Livestock Australia Donor Company to create what is being called a slaughter data feedback loop.

OBE has engaged leading farm biosecurity veterinarian Sarah-Jane Wilson to analyse existing data collected by processors on carcase downgrades caused by parasites, disease or husbandry.

The information from that analysis will be accessed by suppliers and Dr Wilson will work directly with producers to look at what changes can be made to reduce the incidence of downgrades.

It may be a simple husbandry change, a modification to biosecurity management or perhaps the adding of another step that makes a big difference to the enterprise, according to said OBE's organic general manager Dalene Wray.

The project puts into action the concept of data sharing to deliver industry-wide benefits.

She said plenty of information was collected at slaughter that could tell producers how they were performing, but much of it was not being well used.

The feedback loop idea was born out of OBE's internal sustainability program when attention was turned to where waste occurred within the business.

"We were already working with Dr Wilson on improving biosecurity in our value chain and knew the information was there," Ms Wray said.

"This is about getting it back to producers to allow them to make informed decisions.

"At the moment, they may not know a disease is present in their herd, as it is only evident post-slaughter in offal."

Producers may also be aware parasites were present but not realise the losses involved and how they could make improvements.

Ms Wray said there was potential to make valuable productivity improvements, particularly in fertility.

"It may be fertility issues due to disease were being blamed on something else, such as wild dogs," she said.

Dr Wilson said organic livestock production posed unique management challenges and this project was a first for utilising data already being collected on organic livestock to tailor manage solutions.

"OBE has been instrumental in finding opportunities to provide better outcomes for their producers to enhance productivity and maintain sustainability,'' she said.

"It's an exciting avenue to be pursuing."

Ms Wray said it was common sense and the hope was the project would be "imitated quickly".

"We are a small, lean and agile company," she said.

"We can trial these types of ideas quickly and get that information out to the wider industry.

"To facilitate innovations in our industry we need to accept that as individuals we may get only a secondary benefit.

"This is an example of that."

Ms Wray said the well-being of animals was very important to OBE.

"Our customers have people walking into their shops every day asking for evidence animals are well cared for - this is another way to guarantee that," she said.

MLA Donor Company chief executive officer Christine Pitt said there was significant opportunity across the red meat value chain to increase the sharing and utilisation of data.

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Shan Goodwin

Shan Goodwin

is the national beef writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media.

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