Past Project

Developing the Means to Use New Data to Help Ontario Beef Farmers Compete

Executive Summary

The objective of this project was to migrate from a closed to an open architecture with respect to animal identification in the BIO data base and genetic evaluation systems.  This change will greatly improve services to an expanding clientele at BIO, and will increase the efficiency and accuracy by which data from multiple sources are combined for the purpose of genetic evaluation.

The data base system has been expanded by adding a new and flexible way to store any number of ID types for a given animal.  With this change, programmers are no longer needed to add new ID types, or to expand the number of different IDs that are stored for a given animal.  Previously, the number of ID types was fixed and the system could not accommodate some important ID types being used by producers.  For example, with a single data base field to store an animal’s registration number there was no good way to record the animal’s different registration numbers in multiple registries.  Now there is no limit to the number of registrations that can be stored.  If an animal is registered separately by each of the Canadian Limousin, the American Limousin and the American Angus Associations, then all 3 registration numbers can be stored.  If any or all of these associations wants to combine their data with BIO to improve genetic evaluation services for their clients, it will now be possible to use the correct ID information to match animals among the respective data sets.   Similarly, new ID information that will be needed to match BIO animals to DNA and/or carcass data files can be entered into the BIO system ahead of time for matching with these data sets as soon as they arrive.

Additional changes are planned for the data base to eliminate the requirement of a BIO tattoo for every animal in the genetic evaluation system.  These changes will significantly improve the flexibility and efficiency of BIO services for an expanding clientele.  For example, RFID will be sufficient for slaughtered calves (e.g. from BIXS) in carcass trait genetic evaluations, while BIO tattoo will still be of interest for the sires of those calves.  Clients wishing to use information, including that collected across owners on the same animals, will use RFID to collect and manage information on things such as age-verification, health management and location/movement.

All types of IDs for all animals in the BIO data base are now available for regular use by the genetic evaluation system.  A pilot study is planned for this fall, to test the new evaluation system by combining Canadian data from BIO and Quebec, with U.S. data from a major co-operator herd, a Research Centre and a Breed Association in a single genetic evaluation run.  Parallel to this ID research project there has also been a major revamp of the genetic evaluation system to increase its flexibility for modeling different types of data, and to add features that capitalize on recent computing upgrades and modeling discoveries.  Some of these new features will be tested as part of the ID pilot study this fall.  The ID project has been very complementary with these other evaluation system improvements.  This project has also been foundational and complementary with work now underway to develop genetic evaluations for carcass traits.

Management of ID information in the data base has been opened up to BIO clients.  The web-based data entry system (bioTrack) is being updated to manage client profiles and allow more customization of client reports, including among other things the ability to specify “type of ID” preferences.  For example, clients might choose RFID, management tag number, Canadian or U.S. registration number or a value chain ID for their BIO reports, instead of having animals identified with a BIO tattoo.

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