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GMP animal disease data pilot

Project start date: 01 December 2018
Project end date: 31 May 2021
Publication date: 26 July 2021
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Sheep, Lamb
Relevant regions: National

Summary

The purpose of the Gundagai Meat Processors (GMP) animal disease data pilot study was to demonstrate the value of sharing and utilising disease and defect data along the supply chain to improve productivity and profitability.

The project was part of the red meat pilot trials for the Rural Research & Development of Profit project Health 4 Wealth.

While many meat processing recording systems are already in place, data collection on disease-related carcase and offal condemnations, feedback of this information to producers varies considerably. The Health 4 Wealth project aims to introduce a standardised and comprehensive approach to data collection of disease-related carcase and offal condemnations and feedback to producers. This will allow producers to monitor disease prevalence in their livestock and make informed decisions to maximise yield outcomes.

Objectives

The objectives of the GMP Animal Disease Data Pilot Study project were to:

  • demonstrate that individual and lot-based animal disease and defect data can be effectively and efficiently transferred to producers through existing industry infrastructure such as NLIS and LDL
  • demonstrate that animal disease and defect data can be correlated to an individual animal where individual ID is present
  • determine if the cost of animal disease and defect can be recorded and calculated reliably, and if this information will be valuable as feedback to producers
  • provide animal disease and defect inspection information to producers to assist them in making better informed decisions regarding on-farm practices to improve livestock/carcase performance
  • provide learnings that can be incorporated into the wider ‘Health 4 Wealth’ project
  • provide recommendations that can be incorporated into the NLIS and LDL project plan to develop systems capability in the animal health area if the proof of concept is successful.

Key findings

The first stage of this project was to determine the diseases and defects to focus on within the project. The critical disease and defects observed at GMP include pleurisy, bladder worm, bruising, vaccination lesions, sheep measles, arthritis, and nephritis. To reduce the number of diseases and defects recorded at the offal station and retain rail whilst the Australian Authorised Officers (AAO’s) were learning the system, two diseases and defects were selected for each recording area: nephritis and bladder worm at the offal trays, and pleurisy and arthritis at the retain rail.

An animal disease system data capture system was installed on the slaughter floor. Installation included embedding the Draft Australian National Standard for the Development, Collection and Reporting of Animal Health Data in the on-floor software system and installing hardware to facilitate data capture (i.e. touch screens, number pads, RFID readers linked to a hook tracking system to allow data capture against individual carcases).
AAO’s working at the plant were heavily involved in the decision-making during the installation. Communication with meat inspectors was important to assist in the changes impacting their roles.

Emphasis was placed on ensuring dialogue about the importance of recording disease and defect information, and the system changes that would occur.

AAO’s were trained to use the new system, followed by data collection trials to ensure system changes allowed meat inspectors enough time to collect data, and that their duties were not compromised. This was tested at the gambrel up station, evisceration trays and retain rail. Work instructions were drafted considering the amendments required to ensure AAO duties are not compromised.

A case study to develop a severity scoring system for arthritis was conducted. The scoring system consisted of four categories of arthritis trim (foreshank, hindshank, foreleg and hindleg). The average proportion of carcase loss across all mobs was 4.6% of HSCW, which ranged from 1.1% and 20.4%. This equated to a cost of range from $2.95 for a forequarter shank to $18.08 for a hind quarter leg.

Benefits to industry

  • The project identified many challenges associated with a standardised and comprehensive approach to data collection of disease-related carcase and offal condemnations and feedback from sheep processors to producers. These ranged from IT systems to changes in the process on the slaughter floor to hardware issues.
  • However, the project has presented many opportunities for producers and for GMP. The capture of individual disease and defect information provides more transparency to producers and the ability to link different pieces of information back to individual carcases (such as hot standard carcase weight and Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) information), allowing producers to make informed management decisions on farm in relation to their lambs. For GMP the introduction of a more accurate system will remove the paper-based system currently used by AAO’s for the National Sheep Health Monitoring Project and remove the need to estimate the incidence of disease within lines of lambs.
    As a result of participating in the data pilot GMP reached the conclusion that the aim of the Health 4 Wealth project is sound.
  • A system to record individual carcase disease and defects can be implemented within sheep processing plant, although with challenges.
  • A clear vision of how the data will be distributed and used is extremely important to ensure there is patience and a commitment to ensuring success. An assigned staff member to consistently drive the project is important for success.
  • It is possible to achieve an enhanced feedback system to producers, including cost of disease as this relates to carcase trim and revenue losses.

More information

Contact email: reports@mla.com.au
Primary researcher: Hirino Pty Ltd