Smart tool set to bring bigger profits to beef producers

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A cutting-edge predictive tool developed by a multi-institutional research team enables livestock producers to forecast carcass weight and composition with impressive accuracy, boosting their chances of meeting market specifications and maximising their returns.

Beef specs calculator.
Now there's a tool for calculating the key specs of your beef before you get it to market.
Meat and Livestock Association website.

Currently, non-compliance with market specifications reduces beef carcass value significantly – by an average of between $34 and $67 per carcass. By reducing the chances of non-compliance, the new BeefSpecs tool is set to boost profitability across the beef industry.

“This tool is a great example of the fantastic work by the Department of Primary Industries to really help farmers meet market specification in their beef,” said Minister fr Primary Industries Niall Blair, on launching the BeefSpecs tool in Glen Innes on 24 September 2015.

Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall concurred. “It’s a wonderful use of practical technology help farmers increase profitability, minimise losses and plan for the future,” he said: “This technology is a great example of the skills we have up in the Northern Tablelands, and fantastic news for our local beef producers.”

According to its creators, the BeefSpecs drafting tool was developed to help beef producers identify animals suited to different markets accurately. It was launched as a simple fat-muscle calculator in 2010 and has been refined and improved significantly in the five years since.

BeefSpecs uses input data on an array of live animal characteristics, along with estimated daily growth rates, to predict those animals that will comply with likely carcass or live animal specifications. “The tool also allows producers to refine management scenarios or to identify different markets in order to maximise the number of animals that comply with the designated specifications,” say BeefSpecs' creators in their latest demonstration video. “Future developments will include the potential to quantify the economic impact of improved compliance; and the inclusion of retail beef yields as a predicted carcass component.”

The tool is a work in progress, the result of an ongoing collaborative effort by researchers from New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (DPI) in partnership with University of New England (UNE) scientists and experts from Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA). Development of the tool’s cutting-edge 3-D image technology was assisted by highly skilled Local Land Services staff with expertise in cattle assessment.

Various other bodies, including Queensland’s then Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEPI), the University of California Davis and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meat Animal Research Center have also contributed to its development.

Beef cattle grazing.
The BeefSpecs tool will help cattle farmers calculate their beef's muscle and fat content more accurately, boosting profits at market.
Carl Davies, CSIRO

The latest version of the BeefSpecs tool combines the predictive powers of models of animal growth and body composition with empty body-weight changes at all stages, from birth to maturity, to determine probable fat specifications. It draws on a variety of measurements along with ground-breaking 3-D camera technology to determine the fat and muscle specs of beef cattle at all stages of development with impressive accuracy. The cameras also provide a reliable estimate of cattle's muscle score.

The resulting data is entered into the BeefSpecs calculator tool, which crunches the numbers to predict the best market options for a particular beast, thus improving compliance rates and potential returns per kilogram of beef produced.

To learn more about the tool, visit the official Beefspecs site.

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