LDL identifies non-compliers and reasons why

31 March 2016

An electronic carcase feedback system that allows producers to single out sheep and cattle that don’t meet market specifications and act on that data is demonstrating its value.  

Livestock Data Link (LDL) was launched by MLA in May 2015 and links processing data from the National Livestock Identification System and Meat Standards Australia databases with analytical tools, benchmarking reports and the Solutions to Feedback library.

So far 211 producers have signed up.

Processor perspective

Processor JBS Southern was one of the early adopters of LDL, rolling out the system to suppliers of its Farm Assured producer group.

It has taken more than 12 months for JBS Southern to implement 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 every step of the process.

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

"Suppliers always know which animals are the tail end and when they see via LDL why they weren't compliant it gives them information they can act on," Mark said.

"Those producers then have the power to act on that information via their management or use of genetics to improve areas of non compliance."

The flow-on effects from improved compliance are numerous, according to Mark.

"We have deadlines for containers to be filled with meat for export. If we don't have high levels of compliance, our chances of filling that container by the deadline are impacted, meaning we have to wear the cost of a half filled container and an unhappy customer," he said.

"It is in our best interest, and the industry's, to make sure that container is filled every time with 100% compliant beef or lamb."

Producer perspective

Lucindale, South Australia, lamb and cattle producers, Elke and Peter Hocking, are JBS Farm Assured suppliers who have used LDL to focus on the performance of their prime lamb operation.

“One of the biggest advantages of LDL is that it helps producers make meaningful decisions and changes based on the feedback it provides in order to become more compliant and, ultimately, increase profitability” Elke said.

“We still get carcase weight data and fat scores, but rather than on a mob basis, I can download all of the individual data.  

“You can plot compliance specifications for fat and weight against the grid you sold on and also put in different grids to see whether your animals might have been better suited to different markets”.

Elke said the feedback includes an estimate of lean meat yield, which producers haven't been able to access since 2008 when VIAscan was operating.

“We’ve been using Australian Sheep Breeding Values for the past 15 years and our genetic selection has been focused on increasing muscle and growth to produce fast growing lambs with better carcase lean meat yields,” she said.   

“With LDL, producers can go in and have a look at what influences lean meat yield, carcase weight and fat scores, and you can start making management decisions on that basis.

“Whilst there is currently no payment based on lean meat yield, LDL provides a platform for future measurements as they come on line.”

The Hockings turn-off about 2,500 lambs a year and will join about 1,900 ewes this year.

Their flock is a self-replacing Border Leicester/Merino cross, crossed back to White Suffolk.

Elke said not only does the system show why an animal might not have met its specifications, but provides links to a library of tools to help improve future performance.

“If you hover your computer mouse over the data of the non-compliant animals it will let you see the library of solutions and links to all the fantastic tools MLA has,” Elke said.

“Another advantage of LDL compared to normal feedback sheets is the convenience factor.

“You’re often too busy to look at feedback during the lamb marketing season.

“We sold most of our lambs in October/November last year but didn’t go back in and access the data until early this year.

“With LDL, you just log in to the database, pull up the period you know you killed in and all the data is just sitting there for you. This means you can also benchmark your lambs over different years and seasons and also benchmark your lambs against other producers in the same region."

Elke has a Masters in Meat Science and delivers Lifetime Ewe Management courses and said there is growing demand from producers for more carcase measurements. 

“I’ve got a passion to see the development of value-based trading, particularly in the prime lamb enterprise, and as producers, Peter and I have always been interested in utilising best practice within our production system.”

Supply chain benefits

MLA Manager Integrated Industry Systems Jo Quigley said research was undertaken in 2013-14 to identify the potential benefits of the LDL program for the Australian lamb Industry.

It was conducted across two major markets (domestic supermarkets and Middle East export) and indicated that the potential cost of non-compliance for the Australian lamb industry could range upwards from $8.4 million a year or approximately 0.61% of total farm-gate value of slaughter lambs (annual slaughter value estimated at $1.4 billion using ABARES data).

“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," she said.

More information: LDL program Verity Gilbertson, MLA E: vgilbertson@mla.com.au, Elke Hocking  E: elkehocking@gmail.com,  JBS Australia: www.jbssa.com.au

LDL Solutions to Feedback

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