Ranchers who wondered why they bothered to put RFID tags in their calves’ ears every spring will soon find out the reason.
After extensive beta-testing by computer-savvy ranchers this summer, the online record-keeping system called the BIXS, or Beef InfoXchange System, will be ready for launch for the cow-calf sector by September of this year, according to Larry Thomas, national co-ordinator for the CCA’s Canadian Beef Advantage program.
“The countdown to the BIXS launch has begun,” said Thomas, in a presentation on the new system at the semiannual CCA convention in Calgary last week.
In the first stage of the launch, due to begin in September, some 6,000 users are expected to use the platform to input data on 60,000 head of cattle.
Along with the early adopters will be program partners such as members of the Beef Breeds Council, participants in the Pfizer Gold program, and the Canadian Angus Association, which will submit the contents of their databases into the system the instant it goes live.
“We’ll monitor the performance and make adjustments as we move forward,” said Thomas. “We could easily see within a matter of weeks over 100,000 cattle come on to the program.”
In a demonstration at the CCA semi-annual convention, Thomas showed how a user could customize the data entry interface for recording as much or as little information as they desire. That could include vaccinations, brand, implants or growth hormones, castration, dehorning, or other treatments given to the animal.
The rollout will come in stages so that kinks can be worked out before it is opened up to the ranching public.
“If you’re on high speed, we recommend giving it a whirl.”
Lack of high-speed Internet access in rural areas is a problem, said Thomas. However, infrastructure is being built at a faster pace, and options such as wireless high-speed Internet are becoming more common.
Those stuck on dial-up who wish to get their cattle on the BIXS will be able to order or download the necessary paper forms from the CCA, fill them out, and use a third party, such as a relative, to input their data online.
The second phase, called BIXS 2, is touted as an information exchange system that will eventually include all elements of the value chain, from the cow-calf producer to the feedlot operator and the packers. The developers of BIXS claim that the only limit to its future potential as a gold mine of production information will be the users’ imagination.
Feedlots will be able to provide in and out dates for animals, so that cow-calf producers will be able to identify their best animals.
Packers will be able to scan carcasses for quality traits using a digital scanning camera that works in a way similar to an MRI in a hospital, then upload the data to BIXS where it can be accessed by the original cow-calf producer and compared with the national average.
Currently, Cargill and XL have scanners paid for with federal government funding already installed, and within a year portable units will be in place at other smaller packing plants across the country.
Data from the devices, which will go beyond grade information, to include carcass yield, rib-eye area, marbling score and more, will be streamed back to the BIXS program so that the cow-calf operator who registered the RFID tag entry can access it.
“That’s what this is all about. How can we take this and finally use it for something good?” said Thomas. “Producers will finally get to know what kind of beef they are producing.”
“Ifyou’reonhigh speed,werecommend givingitawhirl.”
– LARRY THOMAS