Agency In The Forefront Of High-Tech Changes

Livestock inspection in Alberta is going high tech. The move from handwritten brand log books to a system relying on leading-edge databases and high-tech livestock-movement tools is being pushed by Livestock Identification Services Ltd. (LIS), the non-profit organization in charge of livestock inspection in Alberta.

The goal is to optimize costs, improve the “tool kit” for inspectors, and enhance service to producers, said chief operating officer David Moss.

“The path the industry is on right now, from a sustainability standpoint, appears to be downward,” he said. “We can keep downsizing or we can change. We need to leverage every marketing tool, every piece of technology (often from outside the industry) and every good idea to keep this industry viable.”

He said a new website will be launched in the next few weeks that will make better use of the agency’s cattle-movement database, the largest of its kind in Canada. It will give individual producers access to a wide variety of real-time statistics and calculations that will assist them in procurement and marketing decisions. The website redevelopment has been undertaken with grants, not producer fees, Moss noted.

E-MANIFEST

A second major transformation in the works is the development of an electronic livestock manifest. Producers can continue using handwritten manifests, but Moss said he expects the majority of producers and cattle handlers will prefer electronic forms. Not only will an electronic manifest enhance accuracy, it will provide up-to-the- minute record keeping and instantaneously update all necessary parties. And unlike paper copies, it can’t be lost and is more environmentally friendly.

The e-manifest will also eliminate entry duplication. Producers, truckers and auction marts will only have to complete their portion of the manifest, which will save not only time but improve accuracy.

They will also improve traceability. Currently, the Premises Identification (PID) system uses a producer’s home quarter location and any linked premises the producer has added to his or her client account. For example, animals belonging to a producer in Cochrane who forgot to link other premises would currently be identified as coming from Cochrane, even if those particular animals were summer grazed in Hanna.

With the new system, an inspector will be able to show a producer a satellite photo of his area (through Google Earth) on an iPhone. The producer will then be able to point to the exact field the animals came from, and the exact location where they are going to. Touching the screen with the two locations will link the movement event to the producer’s manifest. The GPS location will then be communicated back to Alberta Agriculture’s Premises Identification (PID) database to locate the nearest PID to this physical GPS location.

LIS expects to test electronic manifests at finishing feedlots in January 2011 and implement a full roll-out across the industry sometime in early summer next year.

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