Feds to back beef producers, packers for IT upgrades

Cattle producers, feedlots and packers are up for federal funding to help keep their information technology (IT) systems BIXS-compatible.

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz on Thursday budgeted $5.3 million from the AgriFlexibility fund for the project, to be spearheaded by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), as part of a larger $8.16 million funding announcement.

BIXS, the Beef InfoXchange System, is billed as an information exchange system allowing the “seamless transfer” of animal and carcass data from producer to processor.

The AgriFlexibility funding to help producers and packers to update their IT is expected to lead to “improved management decisions, thereby improving production efficiencies (and) reducing costs,” the government said Thursday.

“BIXS has the potential to provide incredible value to the long-term competitiveness of the Canadian cattle industry. With this funding, we look forward to proceeding with the program in a comprehensive way,” CCA president Travis Toews said in the federal release.

Developers of BIXS have previously claimed the only limit to the system’s potential as a mine of production information will be its users’ imagination.

Feedlots, for example, are expected to be able to provide in and out dates for animals, so cow-calf producers will be able to identify their best animals.

And it’s expected packers would be able to scan carcasses for quality traits using a digital scanning camera, then upload the data to BIXS where the original cow-calf producer could view it and compare it with the national average.

Ritz on Thursday also pledged $2.5 million from the Agri-Innovations program for the second phase of the Beef Cluster, a research brain trust connecting industry, academic and government experts.

The cluster’s continued research is expected to focus on competitiveness and profitability for beef producers by “reducing production costs, increasing feed efficiency and decreasing the impact of animal health issues.”

An initial round of funding for the Beef Cluster was announced in March last year, including $6 million from the federal Agri-Innovations program, about $1.2 million from the CCA and almost $464,000 from “provincial government partners.”

“(T)his investment in Phase II will help make sure the latest research benefits producers,” CCA’s Toews said Thursday.

Lastly, Ritz announced $364,000 for enhancement of the CCA’s “Quality Starts Here-Verified Beef Production” (QSH-VBP) on-farm food safety systems initiative, by way of the Canadian Integrated Food Safety Initiative (CIFSI).

QSH-VBP has expanded from a general education program to an auditable on-farm food safety program with optional producer validation.

CIFSI backs organizations to develop national, government-recognized on-farm and/or post-farm HACCP or HACCP-based food safety systems.

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