Abattoir camera advice coming soon
From the August 2010 edition of Agriculture Today.
A new camera-based system that records information from visual ear tags during processing offers an alternative to costly electronic ear tags on farm.
The system has been abattoir-trialled for a year with good results.
Adoption of a system that records ear tag information during carcase processing would complete for the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) the final link in lifetime traceability.
Decisions on how that can be achieved are expected within a few months.
Industry & Investment NSW (I&I NSW) will make recommendations after reviewing a report to the Australian Meat Industry Council into various technology options, and individual processors will then be able to choose which tracing system they will adopt.
Abattoir-based traceability linked to the NLIS would benefit producers, processors and authorities.
Regular feedback from processors on carcases that can attract a price premium would be another key flow on benefit for producers.
New Zealand-based company, Systems Control Ltd, I&I NSW, and Countryfresh Australia have developed a system to record and trace individual visual sheep ear tags.
I&I NSW project manager, Brent McLeod, based at the Glen Innes agricultural research and advisory station, says the process begins with the tag being removed from a sheep’s ear, cleaned and photographed by a digital camera.
“The image is then stored in a database, and correlates to the body number on the processing chain,” Mr McLeod said.
“If required, it can be viewed manually.
“The software application linked to the camera attempts to convert the image to an alphanumeric code.
“The Property Identification Code (PIC) number is then determined and stored with the image in the abattoir database along with grading information.”
This breakthrough completes the whole of supply chain traceability picture that some export markets demand, without the need for expensive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags.
The processor can successfully identify carcasses back to the supplier and breeder via NLIS ear tags and National Vendor Declarations.
The processor can use this information to provide feedback to finishers of lambs from multiple PICs.
“Processor can then identify properties where animals are consistently producing higher quality carcases even if mixed lots arrive at the abattoir,” Mr McLeod said.
“The system has many positives for NSW producers, in terms of eliminating the need for costly electronic ear tags on farm.
“It reduces the human error and labour costs of manual tag reading at the point where sheep meat is entering the human food chain.
“Data collection is cost efficient, providing all the benefits of individual carcase identification.
“In terms of cost per head, it really does stack up with a whole of industry benefit, not just to the processor.
“We have been testing this technology for around 12 months, and so far the results have been extremely positive.”
Mr McLeod says the system can also work alongside an RFID system, where vendors want to electronically tag sheep for their own management purposes.
The NLIS traceability system links animals to the properties on which they have run throughout their lives.
A combination of visual ear tags, movement documentation, and a national database collects and stores information about them.
This great season is providing producers red hot opportunities for lambs and mutton, in a sheepmeat industry reliant heavily on high value export markets, to which the NLIS promotes and enhances access.
Lamb in particular is now a high value product, marketed internationally as a premium meat, as opposed to a bulk protein commodity.
Sheepmeat is also considered a premium product on restaurant menus but with high prices come high customer expectations of quality.
Contact Brent McLeod, Glen Innes, (02) 6730 1931, firstname.lastname@example.org