Pilot study into enhancing producer feedback

Pilot study into enhancing producer feedback

08 December 2020

Gundagai Meat Processors (GMP) has undertaken a pilot study to develop a new trim severity scoring system for arthritis to estimate producer revenue losses and provide enhanced feedback.

The long-term aim is to enable individual carcase information related to disease and defects to be shared with producers, through Livestock Data Link (LDL) rather than mob-based feedback.

Describing the variation in costs associated with disease on an individual basis, arthritis was used as a case study to demonstrate the use of retain rail trim information for feedback systems.

How the scoring system was developed

Recruited to undertake the project as part of her thesis at Charles Sturt University, Honours student Paige Mazoudier, developed a trim severity scoring system for arthritis by quantifying carcase loss, the components that were trimmed (i.e. shank or leg) and the position on the carcase (i.e. forequarter or hindquarter, left or right).

From mid-February 2019 to early July 2019, data was collected in five week-long blocks, recording carcase components removed due to arthritis for 217 of the 42,164 lamb carcases observed.

Carcase losses were highly correlated to individual trim components which was used to derive an arthritis severity scoring system: score 1— any forequarter shank; 2 – any hind quarter shank; 3 – any forequarter leg; and 4 – any hind quarter leg.

The estimated carcase losses ranged from 1.6% to 10.0% of hot standard carcase weight (HSCW), which equated to 0.37kg to 2.31kg trimmed.

At an Over-The-Hooks carcase price of $7.83/kg and an average HSCW of 23.13kg, producer revenue losses per carcase ranged from $2.95 to $18.08.

Revenue losses drive change

GMP Client Research Advisor, Michelle Henry, said current producer feedback doesn’t always correspond into actions on farm to reduce disease and defect.

“However, understanding revenue losses due to disease provides a financial incentive to drive change, to reduce risk of disease and improve productivity,” Dr Henry said.

“Recording on an individual basis would allow us to provide producers with more accurate DEXA feedback to inform disease and defect on farm, such as identifying if a single carcase has several diseases associated with it.

“If an individual carcase has been heavily trimmed and is of lesser weight due to disease and defect, then we want to be able to be transparent with the producer and provide that accurate feedback.”

Further investigations are required to include the removal of multiple limbs in the arthritis severity scoring system, and the financial impact of multiple diseases.

While the location of inspection and recording should be taken into consideration for each disease, real-time recording on an individual carcase basis is more accurate than mob-based estimates of disease prevalence.

Individual feedback

“Currently, the information we provide through Livestock Data Link (LDL) is part of the National Sheep Health Monitoring Project and is mob-based,” Dr Henry said.

“Our aim is to try to record disease on an individual basis and add an appropriate scoring system to different diseases to improve transparency back to producers.”

Processing plants require assistance to adapt technologies and systems for the recording and provision of health feedback to producers. 

Producers should seek support and talk to an animal health professional regarding their feedback to facilitate understanding and assist change to reduce risk of disease and improve productivity.

“This will improve the quality of lamb product entering the supply chain, maximise enterprise profitability, and maintain export market access through compliance with product integrity standards,” Dr Henry said.

“When this project is finalised, the aim is to share accurate feedback through individual carcase information related to disease and defect with producers through LDL.”

While the project is still in the trial phase, GMP will be working with meat inspectors in the near future to record individual carcase information in more detail.

For more information on the pilot study, contact Michelle Henry via mhenry@gmpgundagai.com.au .