Lead by Hallmark Veterinary & Compliance Services, the OPTIBEEF scheme aims to enhance returns for beef producers while helping processors become more efficient.
Hallmark will be working with Scotbeef; SRUC; Innovent Technology Limited; National Physical Laboratory; Harbro; Hectare Agritech and Ritchie Ltd. and Agri-EPI Centre to deliver the OPTIBEEF project over the next three years.
It is hoped OPTIBEEF will improve the accuracy of current methods of abattoir carcass grading and create the first platform for integrating data from ‘calf to carcase’.
The system will use 3D imaging and fat sensing technology to provide a more accurate and detailed measurement of carcasses and their components when in the abattoir. On-farm technologies will be developed for ‘whole-life’ monitoring of individual animals, including advanced 3D cameras, novel fat sensing, automated weighing and feed intake recording.
The integration of the data gathered on-farm and in the abattoir is expected to shed more light on the factors influencing carcase yield and hopefully drive improvements in product quality and consistency. Using this information, farmers will in turn be able to make informed decisions to optimise nutrition, health and welfare, slaughter selections and genetic selections.
The scheme will be funded by £1.7m from UK Research and Innovation, through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, as part of a package to support ‘Productive and Sustainable Crop and Ruminant Agricultural Systems’.
Hallmark chairman David Peace said: “The established, manual method of classifying carcases relies entirely on human judgement. It is becoming increasingly challenging to recruit and train enough staff and that process can take a year. So, the development of automated classification technology, as a supplement to our current services, will allow us to maintain service levels to customers, with the objective if continual improvement. A dual approach embracing new technology will provide a robust way forward to meet industry challenges.
“The on-farm element of the project is about ensuring that livestock are arriving at the abattoir at the optimum point, reducing the number of animals which don’t, at the point of slaughter, meet processors’ specifications. This will in turn optimise returns for producers by helping them be more selective on-farm, leading to greater efficiencies through processing facilities.The project will also target the ability to predict yield of primal cuts; something the industry has wanted for a very long time.”