DISEASE-related carcase and offal condemnation information will soon be in the hands of the producer as trials into a national data collection program for meat processing plants begin across the country.
A nine month trial in at least 15 beef, sheep, pork and goat processors is set to begin as part of the Health4Wealth project, aimed at developing new disease data collection systems for the meat industry.
In these plants, meat inspectors will record disease defects they find at post mortem inspection, including liver fluke and hydatid, which is forwarded to the producer.
By providing detailed data back to the farm-gate it is hoped disease prevalence in livestock can be better controlled and maximise yield at the processing stage.
According to a presentation by the National Meat Industry Training Advisory Council (MINTRAC), the beef industry’s five biggest disease defects of abscess, bruising, hydatid, liver fluke and pneumonia cost producers and processors at least $139 million while the 13 most prevalent sheep diseases cost $113 million.
New Zealand processors have been providing disease data to clients since 1965, but MINTRAC senior project officer Clive Richardson said improved technology had only now enabled Australian processors to make the major shift to health data capture more comfortably.
He said inspectors would need to be given additional training to standardise disease references and data collection streamlined with touch screens or voice recognition to make it a success.
“These diseases have been known about for generations but we still find flocks impacted,” he said.
“The number of flocks that have these conditions are relatively low but if they do have it, the percentage of the livestock that will have it will be high.
“A lot of the time you might not know that you have got these diseases until the beast is slaughtered.
“The animal health data will enable producers to address these diseases and improve carcase weights at slaughter.”
Mr Richardson said the data collection would equally benefit the processors through the improved carcases resulting from better husbandry.
He said production supervisors often already knew what disease were prevalent in regions or property identification codes (PIC) were prevalent for condemning, but the information often didn’t leave the slaughter floor.
“The benefit you (the processor) get in sharing the information is an increase in yield for the same labour and improved quality carcase,” he said.
Meat and Livestock Australia’s Livestock Data Link has been raised as a potential database for the information, which will enable producers to access their animal health data onlina with their NLIS account.
There is also the potential to build “hotspot maps” representing the number of disease defects recorded from cattle or sheep in the region.
MLA’s Demi Lollback said feedback from producers had indicated the information would make a big difference to disease treatment and prevention.
“They also realise that by treating and preventing some of those conditions that it could also actually have a major impact on the production of these animals, which could mean 20 to 50 kilograms extra with a carcase weight as well as the fact that the processor can collect that offal and pack it fit for human consumption,” she said.
The project is expected to be finalised in September next year.
Animal Medicines Australia executive director Ben Stapley said with better access to health data, further production increases for the meat industry were possible.
“We already know that on average animal health products increase production by 13% in the pig industry and by an average of 10.6pc across other major livestock industries,” he said.
“If producers can access data about the specific disease threats relevant to their particular production system they can use health treatments and controls in a targeted way, which for example could help to prevent driving resistance to parasiticides.
“When farmers have better access to health data for their livestock, they can then use this data to improve animal health, improve animal welfare and increase production.”