Recently I have had the chance to speak at a couple of field days in both Temora and Holbrook on the topic of electronic data capture and record keeping in a beef cattle operation. This is a topic I am very passionate about; having been heavily involved in the introductory days of the cattle National Livestock Identification System (NLIS); I could see that the system had a lot more to offer than just as a traceability system for our industry.
We know that NLIS is an extremely important system for our industry, in terms of traceability, biosecurity and maintaining market access. I can also tell you first hand that our Australian NLIS system is world class – and we are defiantly leaders in this field; but many other countries have taken our lead and have also adopted electronic traceability systems.
So what is the opportunity?
NLIS provides us with ‘individual’ and ‘electronic’ identification of our animals; this to me presents 2 revolutions; which take us away from traditional practices. Historically and generally speaking many beef producers manage their animals as a group and it’s also been the norm to see any records on animals recorded by pencil in the agent notepad which lives in the top pocket. And by the way, how many times has that notepad gone through the wash, been misplaced or simply not at your fingertips when you need the information which is in it??
Since the introduction of NLIS back in about 2004, many companies have jumped on board and invested in developing a range of technologies to allow producers to adopt the practice of individual electronic data capture. For example scales do not just weigh animals anymore – but allow you to also record extra information about that animal, such as health treatments, pedigree information or general comments.
Let’s face it, we are all operating in a pretty competitive and challenging environment, we deal with seasonal and marketing challenges on a regular basis. So I believe that through better use of individual records on animals you can be better informed and in a position to make more informed and timely decisions on your animals to help improve your outcome and bottom line.
During one of the field days I participated in, it was great to actually visit a couple of properties where this technology has been adopted. We visited 2 very different systems, one being an intensive stud operation and the other a significant scale commercial operation, both producers had adopted different systems, by piecing together different components of technology, and at the same time they both had different driving reasons to do so. But importantly it was all electronic and decisions were being made on individual animals.
Many of the benefits that they had highlighted to the group were also significant, in terms of huge time saving, better reaching target market specifications, better feed utilisation, culling out the non-performers; and increasing the overall quality of the herd and the list goes on. It really was an inspiration to see producers so passionate about their achievements in this area, and so willing to share with everyone.
So why I am sharing this little rant with you…… because I like to see people succeed and improve in what they are doing, and I think to remain sustainable we should all have a focus on how we can do things better, and I think that this is a glaring opportunity for beef producers.