A new partnership announced this week could raise the profile and popularity of the Canadian cattle ID and information exchange system.
Beef InfoXchange System (BIXS), founded by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) declared Dec. 8 it is transferring ownership to a new privately held company, of which the initial shareholders are the CCA and ViewTrak, an Edmonton-based technology and traceability company.
“We’re very pleased ViewTrak has recognized the value of this system and we’re very pleased to enter into a partnership and the formation of a new endeavour to take BIXS to the next level,” said Rob McNabb, general manager of the Canadian Cattlemen Association.
This won’t be ViewTrak’s first brush with livestock information technology. The company produced a pork-grading tool for China and is a partner in the Canadian Lamb Co-operative grading program. It also developed a web-based software program, for the Department of Agriculture in South Dakota, that allows participating producers to market specific claims about the quality of their beef.
BIXS 2.0, the second attempt to establish a system that will transfer data between producers and processors, was quietly announced at the end of March after its predecessor was put on hiatus.
The program records information including radio-frequency ID tags, including birth dates, grading data, weight at feedlot, slaughter date and hot carcass weight. The original database was given $8 million from the federal government, with the condition that it become self-sustaining.
While its predecessor did not garner enough interest from producers, McNabb hopes that will change now that the kinks have been ironed out of the system.
“In this last year a significant effort has been undertaken to streamline and make the system more user friendly and more benefits driven to each member,” he said.
To date, less than 1,000 operations are registered — representing nearly three million detailed carcass records and 3.4 million animal birthdate records, making it the largest database of its kind in Canada. McNabb hopes those numbers will grow substantially; he is aiming to recruit at least 50 per cent of the cattle in the system in the next few years.
Processing companies, including Loblaws and McDonald’s, will soon sell sustainable beef and so are increasingly interested in an animal’s history of health and care. BIXS addresses this need.
“The timing is perfect to act now and there’s no time to lose,” said Hubert Lau, executive vice-president of ViewTrak. He thinks this system will improve quality standards and perhaps even pique interest internationally.
“It is a way to circle the wagons,” said Lau, “to enhance competitiveness in the industry and create best practices that will allow the Canadian cattle industry and Canadian beef to dominate world markets.
“With combined efforts I believe we can dominate the world markets, bring together great minds and create amazing outcomes. If we don’t, another country will.”