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Knowledge is king

22 April 2016

For South Gippsland cattle producers Tracy and Scott Buijs, Livestock Data Link (LDL) has unlocked a rich information source that’s helping fine-tune their fattening and breeding operations. LDL is an online carcase feedback system, helping producers improve their compliance to market specifications.

The Buijs’ finish predominantly Angus and Hereford cattle for JBS Southern, targeting the Meat Standards Australia (MSA) market. All of their cattle are grassfed and supplemented with hay and silage produced on-farm.

Since undertaking an LDL workshop, Tracy has embraced the system. She found it helped "put the pieces of the puzzle together" while giving her full confidence to use the system to its potential and examine the feedback from their processor.

“Once you start jumping into programs like this, you see there’s a lot more information right in front of you,” Tracy said.

“It really unlocked the mysteries of the grid system and has given us a more in-depth analysis of elements such as eating quality.

“Knowledge is king and it’s all there for producers to embrace.”

Tracy now analyses results and carcase performance in terms of compliance and then looks to solutions for on-farm adoption.

“For example, when I sold some bullocks, I was able to see where they were on a grid and to go from there and click on various options and find out why I had perhaps not realised the full potential of particular animals," she said.

“It gives you a very straightforward understanding and pinpoints what perhaps you should be doing."

Tracy and Scott find LDL helpful before the cattle even leave for the processor.

“We’ve got scales here and the cattle are weighed every two or three months, depending on our workload, but we’re able to monitor them a little bit better and any that perhaps don’t fit what we’re trying to achieve, we can direct them through the saleyards now," Tracy said.

Industry view

It has taken more than 12 months for JBS Southern to roll out LDL via workshops and supplier support, but according to JBS Farm Assurance and Supply Chain Manager for the Great Southern Program, Mark Inglis, the benefits are being measured in improved compliance.

"As an example -  overall compliance including MSA beef compliance at JBS  - was 66% four years ago and last year it was 88%. I put that down to standardising the data going back to producers in a format which means something," Mark said.

"In the past three or four months we've had under 7% non-compliance and as low as 3.4% non- compliance for grassfed cattle being graded for MSA.

"It has helped us to create grids which actually have meaning and can give direction to suppliers in terms of using genetics and management to influence areas where they may not have been compliant before."

LDL, according to Mark, has also helped JBS understand the exact measurements affecting compliance - rather than just using "meaningless numbers" - and to educate their buyers on the characteristics of animals more likely to reach compliance.

"The sort of animal buyers assumed would be ideal was often lean and muscular, when actually an animal with a bit more fat coverage grades really well for MSA."

Making more from meeting specs

MLA Integrated Industry Systems Manager Jo Quigley said research commissioned by MLA in 2011-12 identified that the Australian beef industry loses an estimated $51 million per annum by producing cattle that do not meet market specifications.

“An additional $64 million per annum is lost through carcase condemns, and between $12m to $49m is lost due to offal and meat condemns,” she said.

“An enhanced value chain feedback system like LDL has the potential to unlock this unrealised value and remove value chain wastage by providing appropriate messaging with regard to what the market is actually seeking.”

LDL is an online carcase feedback system, helping producers improve their compliance to market specifications. It links slaughter data from the National Livestock Identification System and the MSA databases with tools, benchmarking reports and a library of helpful information to help producers improve market compliance.

More information:

LDL  Verity Gilbertson, MLA E: 

Tracy and Scott Buijs E: 

JBS Southern: