Advancing technology and the benefits it can bring to the beef industry was the focus of a series of seminars at Beef Expo.
The use of Video Image Analysis (VIA) and its ability to predict carcase yield could result in a new type of payment scheme for beef producers in the future, said Seth Wareing, ABP’s agriculture manager.
VIA has been used in Northern and Southern Ireland for the last 10 years and APB introduced it to their Perth plant 12 months ago with the intention of rolling it out nationally over the next two or three years.
Mr Wareing explained VIA technology involved 3D scanning of the carcase producing an image which could be classified on a 15-point grid. He said its big advantage was it could identify and predict meat yield from the primal hindquarter cuts.
“The weight of the same cut from different animals of the same size can vary dramatically – up to as much as 10kg – meaning the value of the meat produced by similar weights of carcase also varies greatly.
“This is down to genetics and we need to start to use this information to breed animals which produce more of the high value cuts and reward producers on this basis. We can also use the information to reduce variability within animals, ” said Mr Wareing.
Adrian Ivory, of Strathisla Farms, Perthshire, and chairman of the Scottish Suckler Strategy Group, has been supplying ABP Perth with cattle.
He said: “In my opinion, the EUROP grid is now not fit for purpose and we should move to a VIA 15-point grid.”
The EUROP classification system is currently mandatory in all abattoirs, killing on average more than 75 cattle per week.
Mr Ivory said: “VIA is more consistent – an image of every carcase is taken and stored and is available to the farmer which gives them trust in the system. There will still be a manual grader in place if the machine fails.
“In the future I would like to see producers paid on yield not grade, which would incentivise them to produce more of what the consumer wants to buy.
“I am looking to produce cattle which are long with good fat cover, a wide top but not too big a backside. They need to be fast growing, but not too fast – if they grow too quick they do not lay down fat. There is no need for a massive out of spec carcase and in future producers are likely to be penalised for them. Shoppers habits are changing – they are looking for quality not quantity.
“There are big changes coming and producers must be prepared for the fact to improve their business they need to focus on producing what the customer wants and not what they like to look at. VIA provides valuable feedback to help them do that.
“Processors need to be clear in what they want to reward to encourage producers to plan for the future and be in a better place when change happens.”