Researchers from CQUniversity's Precision Livestock Management team are investigating how on-animal sensors (aka smart tags) can be used to improve traceability of livestock through the red meat value chain.
The project is funded through the Traceability Grants Program with the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture' Water and the Environment' with CQUniversity's research activities supported by Teys Australia's Biloela processing plant and Smart Paddock sensors.
Before year's end the research team' made up of Dr Cara Wilson and Associate Professor Mark Trotter' will deploy Smart Paddock Bluebell ear tags on 200 cattle located on Central Queensland properties.
The cattle will then be tracked in their normal environment and under normal management conditions until processing at Teys in Biloela.
The livestock health and meat quality data obtained at processing will be linked with the pre-farm gate on-animal sensor data.
The Smart Paddock Bluebell ear tags have GPS to measure location of the cattle and an accelerometer to measure animal behaviour through their movement patterns.
The technology is similar to that found in smart watches used by humans' and allows producers to measure' monitor and manage disease state' nutrition' temperament and handling of livestock.
Dr Wilson told 7News Central Queensland that the trial aimed to understand meat quality impacts' from paddock to plate.
"Traceability is the process of following the product from birth to consumer... the GPS measures location of the animal at any given time' and the accelerometer is much like your Apple Watch or FitBit ' where it's monitoring the behaviour of your animal through movement'" she said.
"For example' if (the animal) is not grazing like it should be' or not ruminating like it should be' these tags can send an alert to the producer."
The team is hoping to see how these smart tags can be used to detect and prevent livestock health and meat quality issues before processing' to both improve animal wellbeing and meat quality for consumers.
Additionally' they hope to determine how the data can be integrated with processing data to tell a more complete picture of the animals' life and where issues might have arisen so interventions can be implemented to improve the welfare and production of future animals coming through the value chain.
Livestock health and meat quality issues cost the beef industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The team hopes to provide new insights into how smart tags can be used to reduce this cost to industry by improving animal disease detection and prevention strategies.