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Open Innovation Invention Solution for Feedlot Dag Prevention and Management

Project start date: 01 September 2014
Project end date: 16 January 2019
Publication date: 29 July 2019
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grainfed cattle
Relevant regions: National
Download Report (3.6 MB)


The value of Australia's cattle industry last year was almost $17 billion (Van Moort et al. 2018), making it the single largest contributor to the annual value of Australian agricultural production. To remain efficient and globally competitive, it is important that the industry's challenges and issues are addressed.

One of the issues faced by the industry is the presence of dags on feedlot cattle. Dags are the build-up of mud and manure on hides, which presents issues for various stakeholders in the value chain. This report summarises a broad exploration of this problem and the solution categories that exist to address and manage the impact from dags.

This study has taken a design-led approach to exploring and examining the impact of dag contamination on the Australian cattle industry and its stakeholders.  The project explored this issue via stakeholder interviews specifically focused on the feedlot and processor sectors of the value chain. A mixed methods approach was employed to provide a balanced assessment of the dag issue through the desirable, feasible, and viable design thinking lenses.  The purpose of the project was to better understand the basic requirements for designing and developing solutions to address the dag problem in the Australian cattle industry.

Information gained from stakeholder interviews and a meta scan of existing knowledge was used to analyse the value chain, to identify tangible and intangible exchanges between key stakeholders. A workshop was subsequently conducted to interpret and validate findings, to identify scenarios, and to focus on solution categories. Additional stakeholder interviews and a site visit were undertaken to validate the findings that support key solution categories.
These investigations identified that the dag problem originates almost exclusively at feedlots and that three key components dictate the severity of the problem: wet weather, geographical location, and cattle type.

Stakeholders in southern Australia, who tend to operate in wetter areas and with long-haired cattle, are more affected than stakeholders in northern regions, who operate in drier areas and mainly with short-haired cattle.

Feedlots have little incentive to deal with the issue of dags. Where they do, it appears to be associated with vertically integrated supply arrangements, and typically involves sophisticated automatic washing facilities. This is more common in the north than in the south and is associated with business strategies seeking to exploit economies of scale.

The cost of dag removal is largely carried by processors and predominantly involves the allocation of extra personnel to remove dags and an increase in water usage. The interview process identified that microbiological contamination of beef products due to dags could have a significant financial and reputational impact on individual stakeholders and the entire Australian cattle industry.
The bottom line effect of dags on processors' revenues (around 0.05%) is approximately double that on feedlotters' revenues (around 0.025%), suggesting that the value of solving the issue is lower than had been expected and that the cost burden is mostly worn by processors. For feedlotters, treating daggy cattle effectively is not as crucial as for processors, given that they can choose a variety of selling alternatives (i.e. saleyards, live exporters, see Figure 4), each one with different cattle cleanliness standards.

The technology search, including a scan of registered intellectual property, demonstrated that dag removal technologies currently consist of either hand tools or automated water and roller-based cattle cleaning machinery. Further, dag prevention technologies are mostly focussed around shed design and construction, or methods that automatically remove dag-forming materials from feedlots and holding pens. Prevention technologies are virtually non-existent and may require significant CAPEX and/or process modifications.

Based on stakeholder views, previous economic studies and our own value chain analysis, it is evident that the impact of the problem is currently subdued by drier conditions and not widespread. The value proposition for any intervention is additionally hampered by the separation of cause and impact between producers and processors.

Despite these challenges the following solution areas were identified for solution sourcing:

Solution Area Key Solution Criteria

Dag Prevention. 

Polymer coating application and formulations. Improved application and formulations of polymer coating applied to hides to prevent or limit dags and to prevent or limit dag contamination.

  • <$1 per treatment
  • Eliminate need for dag removal
  • Speed and ease of application

Efficient & Safe Dag Removal. 

Infrastructure, tools and methods to safely remove dags from cattle without causing animal stress or increasing risks to worker safety and contamination in processing.

  • <$10 per treatment
  • Increased worker safety
  • Reduced animal stress
  • Reduced food contamination risk

Microbe Detection And Decontamination. 

The detection and (potentially) removal of microbes in the meat processing chain arising from sources including dags contamination.

  • Adhere food safety regulations
  • Detect very low-level pathogens
  • Not increase processing costs
  • Not affect product quality

More information

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Primary researcher: Xinova LLC